In an earlier blog, I described how Amelia Freud referred to her son as her “golden Sigi.”
According to Sigmund Freud’s son, Martin, Amelia had a lively temper, was impatient, self-willed, sharp-witted and highly intelligent.
Freud’s niece, Judith Bernays Heller, wrote that Amelia was temperamental, energetic, strong-willed, got her own way in small matters and large, was vain about her looks, efficient, competent and egotistical.
The infant Sigmund Freud would not have been protected from these harder aspects of his mother. Living in poverty, there would have been many triggers for Amelia’s lively temper. Even if Amelia’s frustrations were not directed at him, Sigmund would have lost his adoring mother in those moments.
Sigmund Freud’s experience is not unique. Every baby lives with sudden changes in their mother’s disposition. Each has to develop ways to deal with their mother’s sudden changes from soft to hard, present to absent.
Some babies will pretend the loss has not happened and develop a sunny disposition which is forced and fragile. Others draw back into themselves and go very still. Some become angry and demanding.
There are the infants who go into their heads and try to make sense of what is happening, as much as a baby can. These people can then spend their lives trying to make sense of the world. I suspect Sigmund Freud was one of these people.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles capture what it might have been like for Sigmund Freud when his mother was lost in her frustrations and unavailable to him.