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Aronson, S. (2015). Keeper of the Flame: A review of Reading Anna Freud by Nick Midgley. London, England: Routledge, 2013. 234 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 51(2):355-365.
Keeper of the Flame: A review of Reading Anna Freud by Nick Midgley. London, England: Routledge, 2013. 234 pp.
Review by: Seth Aronson, Psy.D.
When I was 6, I was admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital overnight for a tonsillectomy. My sisters and I received pediatric care from two pediatricians—one, a tall, slim, soft-spoken, and elegant man, the other a schlump—frizzy hair flying wildly, shirt untucked beneath his potbelly. We joked how if we had to get shots, we fervently prayed it would be the first doctor, as he spoke to us kindly and promised to be gentle. An injection from the second was invariably rough, often preceded by “This won't hurt a bit.” (It did.)
But, the night before my tonsillectomy—and this remains a vivid memory—this second pediatrician met me at the hospital and literally walked me through the process, even taking me to an empty operating theater so I would know just where I would be taken. To this day, my mother claims I had a smooth and calm recovery because my pediatrician prepared me for what was to come; he took into account the anticipatory anxiety of a 6-year-old. The boy sharing my room, also about to have a tonsillectomy, screamed bloody murder throughout the night, clearly in anticipation of the surgery.
It was no accident that my pediatrician thought about the experience of a young boy in the hospital. In the early 1950s, Anna Freud had written about the experience of hospitalization from a child's perspective (and, as it happens, focusing in a number of talks and papers on tonsillectomies), eventually publishing Children in the Hospital (Bergmann & Freud, 1965). Before then, many of the principles we now take for granted in pediatric care were not in anyone's consciousness. She also began an extraordinarily fruitful and productive collaboration with Yale University, influencing the fields of psychology, psychiatry, pediatrics, social work, and, most notably, law. In fact, she was invited to give the commencement address at Yale Law School in 1968.
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