One hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud lived through a global pandemic.
This topical new exhibition explores the similarities between Freud’s experience of the Spanish Flu and 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on mental health and the response by psychoanalysts.
The global COVID-19 pandemic shares many similarities with the Spanish Flu that ravaged the world after the First World War. Here we explore how Freud reacted to that crisis and how modern psychoanalysis has responded in 2020.
The Spanish Flu pandemic struck the Freud family with tragic results. Sophie Halberstadt-Freud, Freud’s beloved daughter, died suddenly from influenza while pregnant with her third child. Freud and his wife Martha were devastated.
Although the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 are different strains of diseases, similar measures were taken by governments worldwide and by individuals. Schools, shops and restaurants closed, restrictions were placed on transportation and social distancing was encouraged.
In the midst of this turmoil and tragedy, Freud wrote Beyond the Pleasure Principle, attempting to answer a question at the very heart of psychoanalysis. This led to his last great speculative breakthrough, a new ‘dual instinct’ theory represented by the life drive and the death drive.
This exhibition at the Freud Museum London explores the ways Freud himself responded to the global and personal tragedy of the pandemic in 1918-20.
On display are rarely-seen letters written by Freud to friends and colleagues in the days after Sophie’s death, exposing personal reflections on death and loss. Alongside these historical reflections will be contemporary observations of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic by frontline workers in the newly-formed Coalition for Psychoanalysis in the NHS., in an original new film.
Artworks by Julia Lockheart, who has painted the dreams of frontline health workers as part of the DreamsID project, are also displayed. DreamsID was launched in 2020 as an art-science collaboration in which psychologist Mark Blagrove discussed the dream of an individual while artist Julia Lockheart painted it.
Isolation, online therapy and social upheaval have all impacted clinical theory and technique in 2020, which will have a lasting impact on the future of psychotherapy.
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