References:

Review of Lore Reich Rubin’s Memories of a Chaotic World. Growing Up as the Daughter of Annie and Wilhelm Reich (New York: International Psychoanalytic Books, 2021), ISBN 978-1-949093-96-4, $25.99. (Note: This work was first published in German in Giessen, Germany, in 2019, before being translated into English by Lilith-Isa Samer.)

Dr. Lore Reich Rubin’s autobiography focuses on her relationship with her father Wilhelm, mother Annie, and sister Eva, as well as with the women and men with whom she and her family interacted. Because both of her parents were already psychoanalysts in the late 1920s, she introduces the reader to some of the earliest members of this small community, first in Europe (Vienna, Berlin, and Prague) and later, to a lesser extent, in the U.S.

Lore had a difficult, if not abusive, childhood. But unlike Martin Miller, who never came to terms with his mother Alice Miller, Lore Reich Rubin and her mother found a way to understand each other once Lore recalled her mother’s love from childhood and also become an analyst like her. The same was not true for her father. Because of his mercurial personality, fluctuating successes in his career, and his demands for attention, her father ended up never wanting to see his daughter again, so he did not. As Reich Rubin writes, the problems with her mother and father originated in large part with both having to work constantly both before and after their divorce, neither making significant time for her.

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Lore’s relationship with her father underwent periods of intense happiness and abject disappointment as he “reverted” to one of his unpleasant and morose moods. He could also occasionally be aggressive and yell at both daughter and mother. Reich Rubin (2021) called it “the fluctuations between denial and anxiety” that were also reflected in his “work preoccupations” (p. 168). Although her father considered himself open to women being equal and may have been called a feminist when this term became common, he abused his male privileges in unique ways. For example, he insisted that both marriage partners contribute equally to the household’s finances, but because he earned more money, he always had more of it than his wife, who earned less. Thus, she and her daughters usually struggled near poverty. He was called verrückt (crazy) for his openness toward sex and other practical and theoretical innovations; Reich Rubin did not apply this term to him for his behavior toward family members, but others said he was.

So, who called whom verrückt? Apparently, Anna Freud pointedly objected to Lore’s father. At one point he had been a “favorite son” to her father, but Anna perceived herself as the “favorite daughter” (Reich Rubin, 2021, pp. 61-63). Others too apparently encountered this vengeance, such as Helene Deutsch, Karl Jung, and Alfred Adler, to name a few. This topic is important because being crazy meant that personae non gratae (people not welcome) could encounter significant professional and personal difficulties. The harmful part was that they created cliques and grouplets that excluded anyone whom they considered crazy. Thus her father was ostracized by people surrounding Anna Freud and forced to move several times. Her mother steered clear of conflicts; because she was a female analyst, her tenuous ability to establish clientele first in Vienna, then in Berlin, Prague, and ultimately in New York City, depended in large part on not antagonizing the Freudian camp.

Wilhelm Reich’s mercurial character was the center of one of several other difficulties of Lore’s uniquely troubled childhood; according to her, it even made it difficult for Lore to establish a “normal” relationship with her mother. Annie saw herself as a professional woman and rarely became engaged in her daughters’ upbringing or developmental struggles. Also, because she was under constant pressure to make a living even before the divorce, Annie chose to place Lore in summer camps and off and on with Grete Fried who ran a Pension for children. It was no more than a holding

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bin; Lore hated the woman and her cold treatment of her charges. In addition to her estrangement from her parents, she did not get along with her sister, Eva. Her sister often stayed with her father, but when she and Lore were together under the same roof, Eva usually teased her younger sister mercilessly, thus making her life miserable.

Feeling rejected and removed from her parents, Reich-Rubin was in constant search of others her age to whom she could attach herself; this search became even more intense after her mother and two daughters were helped to enter the U.S. in 1938. Ten years old at the time, Lore felt completely isolated. She perceived herself as being in the way as her mother struggled to establish herself. One issue was that she couldn’t speak English. I suspect that she transferred her sense of being unwelcome in her family to her sense of being unwelcome in the U.S. But after some ups and downs with groups, including the Socialist Workers Party, and in college, she adjusted to the U.S. and chose to become an analyst.

I recommend Lore Reich-Reuben’s Memories of a Chaotic World. It is a particularly important source for persons interested in the past of psychoanalysis, including the IPhA. The struggles and tussles of the early analysts with each other are an enduring theme and a rewarding aspect of this memoir. The book is also important for those who study transgenerational trauma and the efforts to overcome its effects. It is literally a case study of this sort of situation. Her father, an abused child, acted similarly toward Reich-Rubin, even as he became one of the first analysts to understand the importance of trauma in character traits. What is significant is that she, abused and neglected as a child, overcame her obstacles to emerge as a thriving psychoanalyst.

I am intrigued by the selection of photographs on the front cover of the book. Only one features the U.S; the other three show Europe. The American is the Statue of Liberty, an icon she does not mention, yet in the end, this country allowed her to overcome her trauma.

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Authors:

Peter W. Petschauer

Peter W. Petschauer, PhD, Dr hc, is Professor Emeritus of European History from Appalachian State University. He is also an author and a poet. Some of his most recent works include An Immigrant in the 1960s: Finding Hope and Success in New York City (2020) and Hopes and Fears: Past and Present (2019). The author may be reached at petschauerpw@appstate.edu or peterpetschauer.com.

How to Cite This:

Petschauer, P. W. (2022). Growing up as the daughter of Annie and Wilhelm Reich. Review of the book Memories of a Chaotic World. Growing Up as the Daughter of Annie and Wilhelm Reich, by Lore Reich Rubin. Clio’s Psyche, 29(1), 116-118.

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