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Szalita, A.B. (2001). Some Thoughts on Empathy: The Eighteenth Annual Frieda Fromm-Reichmann Memorial Lecture. Contemp. Psychoanal., 37(1):95-111.

(2001). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 37(1):95-111

Some Thoughts on Empathy: The Eighteenth Annual Frieda Fromm-Reichmann Memorial Lecture

Alberta B. Szalita, M.D.

BEFORE embarking on the subject of this evening, I would like to share with you some memories of Frieda—memories of the late forties and early fifties, when I met her and worked with her at Chestnut Lodge.

She played a special role in my life. In 1947, as Medical Director of a social agency caring for the remnants of the Jewish population of Western Europe and North Africa, I came to the United States for the first time to study public health at Johns Hopkins on a fellowship from the American Joint Distribution Committee. Through a mutual acquaintance, I met Frieda in a Baltimore hotel on March 4, 1948. She encouraged me to talk about my work and studies. I believe I referred vaguely to my feeling that there were holes in my education. I spoke about the chaos and devastation of postwar Europe and the tragic experiences of displaced persons. Halfway through a conversation lasting less than half an hour, Frieda suddenly got up, picked up the telephone, and called Sarah Tower; I was then summoned to the phone to make an appointment with Dr. Tower. With Frieda thus serving as deus ex machina, I entered psychoanalysis two days later. I am still grateful to both of them—perhaps a sign of unresolved transference. This led me to my decision to change careers midstream and begin analytic training.

During my four years in Rockville, Maryland, my many encounters with Frieda Fromm-Reichmann were both professional and social in nature. She supervised me for a brief period. Later, our relationship deepened into friendship.

I have spoken to many persons who knew her professionally, whether as analyst, teacher, or consultant.

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