Did Anna Freud's teaching help make Marilyn suicidal?

Claudia Joseph
Sunday 24 March 2002 01:00 GMT

Marilyn Monroe may have killed herself while under the influence of a protégé of the psychoanalyst Anna Freud.

While Anna Freud's pioneering work with disturbed children laid the foundations of child psychotherapy, a new critique of her ideas claims that some of their consequences may have been far more disturbing.

The daughter of Sigmund Freud, Anna fled to London with her father just before the war and, on his death in 1939, inherited his mantle as acknowledged leader of the world psychoanalytic movement.

A television documentary to be broadcast tonight argues that, while nobody is blaming her for Monroe's death, her theories certainly didn't help the troubled actress.

For her part, the Hollywood legend was a keen subscriber to Freud's teachings, and left a large part of her fortune to the Anna Freud Centre, based in north London, in her will. Her death came shortly after treatment by one of the psychoanalyst's strictest disciples, Los Angeles-based Ralph Greenson, who persuaded Monroe to move into a house near his own home, decorated in a similar style, and to have treated her like a member of his family.

The programme, the second of a four-part BBC2 series The Century of the Self, describes Sigmund Freud's belief that humans have dangerous and irrational fears and desires – and Anna's means of controlling them, by teaching people to repress those feelings.

It also suggests that Freud's theories contributed to the death of Tiffany heiress Mabbie Burlingham, the daughter of her close companion, Dorothy. She took an overdose in Freud's London home, after becoming one of his daughter's first guinea pigs.

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