An Elegy for Elizabeth Kardos – ‘A contribution to the theory of play’.

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In January 1955, the Hungarian born and trained psychoanalyst – and refugee -Andrew Peto, read a paper to the Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Psychoanalysts, in Adelaide, South Australia. Written by his late wife, the child analyst, Elizabeth Kardos, ‘A Contribution to the Theory of Play’ was the summation of her ideas developed over the previous decade’s work as a child analyst in Budapest. As Peto explained in his introduction, Elizabeth died shortly after the Nazis arrived in Budapest in 1944. She left  behind her daughter, Agnes, born in 1943. In 1945, Agnes, together with a woman, named only as ‘Mrs Andrew Peto’ was the subject of an application for admission to Australia. Andrew Peto, described as a psychoanalyst and physician, was the subject of a separate application. The Peto family, Andrew, his second wife, Hannah, and daughter finally made landfall in Australia, at Perth, on 28 April 1950. They travelled on in Melbourne where they stayed with Clara Geroe and her family. By 1951 the family had moved to Sydney.

Prior to the war, in early 1939, Andrew Peto and Elizabeth Kardos were part of a group of European analayts that applied for visas to New Zealand. But that government refused them – not doubt reflecting the advice of one Dr Stuart Moore who stated that psychoanalysis would not find much support in that country.

The group had to turn elsehwhere.   Encouraged by Ernest Jones, and perhaps by the information that the Australian Government, following an announcement by Minister, Stanley Bruce, would accept 30,000 refugees, the Geroe family applied, successfully, for a Visa to Australia. Kardos and Peto also applied, following the Geroes, to  Australia House in London.  But while the Geroe application, made in her husband’s name was being considered, Kardos and Peto were advised that a previous application, made directly to Australia, would be considered only in Australia.  On 13 January 1940 the Geroe family was advised their application was successful- not because Clara Geroe was a psychoanalyst nor, especially because she had a child. Vilmos Geroe, a qualified accountant with experience in a factory making fire-proof bricks provided the grounds for  acceptance.

It is unlikely that Peto and Kardos were ever  serious contenders for visas. None of the psychoanalysts who applied for Australian visas were successful. At the time, the Australian Branch of the British Medical Association was strongly campaigning against the admission of European qualified doctors. In the meantime, Mr Carrodus, head of the Department of Interior, and charged with the administration of refugee matters, cut the proposed intake to 15,000. The government preferred British migrants.

Peto did not stay long in Australia. He and his family departed for New York in October 1956, six and a half years after their arrival.  During his time in Australia Peto had worked with Geroe, Frank Graham and Roy Coupland Winn to establish the Australian Society of Psychoanalysts in 1953, drawing together the interests of the newly formed  Sydney Institute of Psychoanalysis (1951) and the Melbourne Institute. He conducted seminars, wrote papers, provided supervision and took on a trainee, Maida Hall. Janet Neild, a child analyst who had begun her training with Clara Geroe, moved from Melbourne to Sydney for further education and supervision.

The reason commonly given for Peto’s departure centres around the BMA’s reluctance to recognize Peto as a medical practitioner. But upon  considering the opening lines of his paper, it is to wonder about the trauma Peto carried with him. And the rejection of this new country in which he had chosen, and tried to settle.  What if… the Australian Department of Interior had been less locked into its preference for British migrants? And What if… the BMA had been more open? There are clearly more stories to tell.

Here is a link to the introduction to Kardos’ paper – Peto’s elegy to a brilliant woman. An original copy is in Geroe’s archive.

The end of the dream: Clara Lazar Geroe and the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1940- 1945

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On 17th August 1940 the Sydney based psychoanalyst Roy Coupland Winn wrote to Clara Geroe,the Hungarian trained psychoanalyst who had arrived in Australia on a refugee Visa five months earlier. ‘Considering the fact that there seems little likelihood of starting an institute in Melbourne, why not practise in Sydney? You, [Siegfried] Fink and I could commence a clinic’. Fink was a German born psychoanalyst, also refugee, who had arrived in 1938. Winn continued:  ‘It may be a mistaken idea but I think that three analysts would make more rapid progress than two, just as two than one; I am of the opinion that analysts tend to advertise and feed each other, partly because as the practice of each is necessarily small each has to send any overflow that arises to be done by others; thus each also receives advertisement from each other’.

It was a tempting offer.  Clara Geroe and her family had landed in Melbourne on the strength of a promise, a donation of five thousand pounds by a benefactor, Lorna Traill, for the commencement of an institute for psychotherapy.   The family was on its way to Sydney, she wrote later.  A place like Buda, with hills all around but close to the sea. But a Melbourne based psychiatrist Dr Paul Dane – a man with a dream – had  argued, successfully, that the Traill funds were to be used to establish an institute for psychoanalysis along the lines of the British one headed by Ernest Jones. In Melbourne.  Dane had written to Jones about it. Jones, in turn, always a supporter of psychoanalysis, particularly if it was a medical enterprise, encouraged its development. But the donation had not materialized. Traill had withdrawn her offer. Negotiations were continuing. Geroe had had to wait it out.

In her reply to Winn Geroe said that the Melbourne group had managed to retrieve a thousand pounds from Traill.  Another five hundred pounds was  promised if the Institute was opened on the benefactor’s birthday. It was barely a viable figure but Ernest Jones had given the project his blessing. Sydney though would be sidelined.  It would be only a Melbourne Institute for Psychoanalysis, Geroe continued. Not the Australian Institute originally envisaged. Geroe would have preferred to start small she wrote in her notebooks. She would have liked to have built up a following before launching such a complex project as an Institute. But Traill had made the condition  that an institute was founded with the funds. Geroe could do no more than shrug her shoulders and comply.

The Melbourne Institute for Psychoanalysis was duly opened on 11 October 1940, Lorna Traill’s birthday. Roy Winn made the long journey from Sydney to attend. Judge Foster from the Children’s Court led the proceedings. A coterie of psychiatrists – Reg Ellery, Norman Albiston, Albert Phillips among them, all attended along with  local educationalists, nurses and workers from the Children’s Court Clinic. In July 1941 Geroe was made a member of the British Institute of Psychoanalysis and appointed as a training analyst. Jones, one might say, had captured the Australian Dominion for his Empire.

All the while Geroe was bitter, sad, and upset about having to leave the intellectual, cafe culture of Budapest. She was trying to settle into Melbourne,  in a land on the other side of the world, far from the pastoral beauty to which she was accustomed. As far as she was concerned Melbourne was a back-water. If her husband’s decision to leave Hungary and Nazi Europe was prescient, Geroe was a trailing spouse. She was not accepted by the Australian government on the basis of the work as a psychoanalyst. In fact none of the six psychoanalysts with whom she had applied for a visa, first to New Zealand and when that was refused, to Australia, were considered eligible for entry. Her husband’s experience as an accounts manager in a factory making magnesium bricks was most probably the reason for the family’s acceptance. That, and his decision to seek the assistance of a local Sydney solicitor, Eric Jones who, somehow, managed to obtain visas for the family.  Their own application  made directly to the Australian government through Australia House in London had failed two weeks earlier. The Geroe family left Budapest on 20 January 1940.

On Friday  20 April 1945, about four years after the opening of the  Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis, three of the Board members met with Clara Geroe, at the office at 111 Collins Street, the rooms rented from the Union Bank of Australia by Dr Paul Dane.  Dane, the founder of the Institute, along with psychiatrists Guy Reynolds and Albert Phillips had called the meeting ‘to deal with the matter of the renewal of Dr Geroe’s agreement with the Institute’.

Geroe was employed by the Institute as its resident training analyst on  14 January 1941.  Her  second two year  contract expired on 14th January 1945.  By April 1945 it was clear that the Institute’s financial position was such that ‘it could not be renewed’.  At this stage it was agreed that Clara would continue at the Institute for a salary of four guineas a week. Of this she would pay three guineas a week a rent for the use of the rooms, telephone and so on. Five hours of her time would be devoted to the Institute’s Clinic, providing services on behalf of the Institute.

Matters did not improve. On 3rd August 1945, another meeting was held, this time to discuss Dr Paul Dane’s decision to resign as Chair of the Board. The Institute’s financial situation was more than  perilous: Dane, it appeared, had fallen behind in his rental payments – perhaps  a result of his absence through illness.  He owed forty five pounds to the Institute. But Clara and her husband, Vilmos,  a trained accountant, had compiled a financial statement and proposal showing that the Institute could continue  for a further thirteen months. ‘It was decided to carry on’, the psychiatrist Reg Ellery noted in the Minutes. He continued, ‘Dr Geroe proposed to continue her work for the Institute without a fee’. This, of course, ‘was willingly agreed to’.  Geroe took on Dane’s share of the rent and his rooms, with the proviso that he could return at any time. Frank Graham, Geroe’s first trainee was elected as a member of the Board.

On 23 September 1945 a third meeting was held between Geroe, Graham, Ellery and Guy Reynolds. Paul Dane had decided to take twelve months leave of absence on consenting to withdraw his resignation as Chairperson. An Acting Chairperson, Albert Phillips,  was appointed.  Clara Geroe was elected to the Board and, along with Dane and Graham,  approved as a subtenant of  111 Collins Street.

Most importantly Clara Geroe was recognized by the Board as ‘no longer an employee of the Institute but  ‘voluntarily agrees to give without any renumeration the same services [to the Institute’s Clinic]  as heretofore; and that her previous agreement with the Institute is null and void since 3rd August 1945’.

And so Clara Geroe’s psychoanalytic career, begun in Hungary in 1926, entered its longest phase.

 

References:

 

Roy Winn to Clara Geroe 17 August 1940

Clara Geroe – draft reply to Winn, c August 1940

Clara Geroe, notebooks in English language, c. 1940.

Minutes of the Board of the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis – No 20, 20 April, 1945;

No 21 undated; No 22, 3 August 1945; No 23, 28 September 1945.

Child Evacuation Planning: Clara Geroe’s suggestion – 1942.

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From 1939 as Japanese forces made their way south through China and the Asian peninsula towards Darwin, the Australian government became concerned about the  vulnerability of the coastal cities to Japanese bombing.The plans, overseen at a Federal level by the Minister for National Emergency Services, Mr Heffron, were delegated to each state government.  In New South Wales State Cabinet approved its plan on 31 December 1941. In Victoria, the southern most state on the mainland, planning was coordinated by the Department of Emergency Services. The plan was that in the event of a bombing raid on the coastal towns  via enemy ships offshore, children up to the age of  fifteen years would be evacuated from coastal towns to safety in the country.  There was to be no compulsion about these plans, the government was quick to assure people.  Parents could choose whether to have their children evacuated, or  remain with them.

In his letter to the Victorian Department of Emergency Services dated 11 December 1941, Dr Paul Dane, Chairman of the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis, offered assistance from Dr Clara Lazar Geroe. A Hungarian trained psychoanalyst, Geroe was appointed to Membership of the British Psychoanalytical Society and accredited as a training analyst in July 1941. She had brought her focus on childhood development and education from Hungary. And through her connection with Anna Freud, by then living in London, she had learned of the realities of the evacuation program in London. Despite the danger from the bombings many children had remained with their families, Geroe wrote. The problem was the resulting stress and exhaustion, not to mention the trauma, faced by these children. Anna Freud’s Hampstead ‘Rest Home’ for children had been a solution. Staffed by teachers, social workers,  child psychoanalysts  and psychologists, Freud had created a space for children to recover and heal. On the basis of this knowledge Geroe urged that a similar institute be developed in Melbourne.

Geroe was able to present her proposal to the Evacuation Committee – but in the end there was no invasion or bombing in the southern regions of Australia. But Dane’s letter, and Geroe’s notes, both found in Geroe’s correspondence highlight the peril in which Australians felt themselves to be enduring in the early 1940s.

 

 

 

Excavating the History of Psychoanalysis in Australia : Ivy Bennett’s Memoir.

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The Australasian Journal of Psychotherapy has just published my article about the history of psychoanalysis in Australia.

ajppsychotherapy.com/pdf/35_2/AJP-Vol35-2-Essay-Christine-Brett-Vickers.pdf

 

 

 

‘Psychoanalysis and the worship of Baal’. Dr Reg Ellery’s views on psychoanalysis and the Establishment: 1928.

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What did Australian medical pracitioners think of psychoanalysis in the 1920s? Dr Reg Ellery, one of the upcoming young turks of the profession chafed at the conservatism of his elders and, apparently, did not hesitate to call them on it. In 1928 he published an article in The Medical Journal of Australia on the subject.

Reg Ellery,  was born in Adelaide in 1897 completed his medical training at the University of Melbourne and in 1923 was appointed to the Victorian Lunacy Department as junior medical officer at Kew Hospital for the Insane. Next year, says his biographer, he was ’embroiled in public controversy. In retaliation against his hastily imposed reforms to their negligent routines, the general medical staff made a series of accusations against him. The affair culminated in a royal commission (1924) which found the allegations to be unfounded. For his part in stirring up trouble, the Lunacy Department authorities transferred Ellery to Sunbury Hospital for the Insane’. He also became interested in Freud’s work. It did not add to his popularity amongst the extremely conservative medical establishment…

Still, Ellery continued to speak his mind, seeking ways to provide better treatment for mentally distressed people other than the asylum. Freud’s theory and clinical practice he believed, could be practised in outpatient clinics. To his mind patients could recover from their psychological malaise through the talking cure. The opposition of older colleagues to such new ideas was Ellery’s major frustration. Ellery wrote:

Upon the dauntless head of Sigmund Freud, a man as full of wisdom as of years, whose nearest neighbour is now death, has fallen the manifold objurgations of many. But those who decry psychoanalysis , seem in mnay respects like the ancient Hebrew prophets who, when the children of Israel made molten images and worshipped in the house of Baal, the phallic god, rent thier garments and put ashes on their heads and sought out the idolators with their swords. Their cries were loud in the land and their zeal was hardly abated. And so it is with the modern traducers of Freud. For the Jewish doctor appears to have taken the place of the older deity and certain idolatrous physicians have become learned in his ways, substituting the consulting room for the ‘grove’ and using the ritual of ‘free association’. Their symbols are the symbols of sex. The libido is their lord. So our modern Elijahs and Jehus gird up their loins and light the torches of their indignation with fiery words and call down the ridicule and the wrath of outraged righteousness upon all who bow down before Baal-Freud.

Psychoanalysis, Ellery explains to those who survived the reading of his first paragraphs,  ‘is primarily a technique for the investigation of the human mind. It is a key to the boudoir of the subconscious, unlocking the door on desires which had ever been secret and on motives which have lain hidden in the innermost closets of the mind, the discovery of which are necessary for the development of the individual. it is thus the basis for the new philosophy and already has transformed the the moribund body of academic psychology into a freshs and living organism.  As Ferenczi puts it, “Psychiatry which whas formerly a museum of abnormalities nefore which we stood in uncomprehending amazement, has become through Freud’s discovery a fertile field of scientific research, susceptible of coherent comprehension”. It is secondarily a form of therapy’.

Not only has psychoanalysis reoriented our knowledge of psychiatry, Ellery continues, it can be used to treat  the milder psychoses as conduct and behaviour is explained on the basis of the unconscious. ‘Truth has never been acceptable in its nakedness’, Ellery continues. Darwin’s doctrine had a similar effect, challenging the idea of human proximity to the angels with the notions of simian ancestry. Freud has added further to our discomfort, Ellery adds. And indeed while he does not assert the truth of all of Freud’s doctrines, ‘his penetrating views on all the important questions of belief and behaviour have given us an insight into herd history and sociology, the value of which is scarcely realized….Each year the domains of psychiatry broaden, linking up with those of social hygiene, and education, and sociology’.

Psychoanalysis is here to stay – despite the catcalls of the brotherhood, Ellery concludes. ‘Though Freud’s followers be still regarded as the priests of Baal, the cat-calls of the callow minded clerics and all the shouts of tin-horn psychologists will not succeed in demolishing that which is primarily a technique for the investigation of the human mind, and with it that immense study in psycho-pathology which they so proudly call civilization”.

 

 

 

References:

Ellery, Reg  (1928), Psychoanalysis and the worship of Baal, The Medical Journal of Australia, September 8, 1928, pp. 303-304.

 

 

Distance Psychoanalysis: A Review

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In 2011 I published a review of Dr Carlino’s book, ‘Distance Psychoanalysis’  on this site. I am interested in the way developments in technology can help people who live a long way from metropolitan areas to have access to treatments they may need. Dr Carlino highlighted issues clinicians should consider. Unfortunately in the first version I described Dr Carlino as ‘Brazilian’. He is not. He was, he wrote to me, born in Argentina. I apologize for this error. I now republish the review with the correct information.

Christine

In his book, Distance Psychoanalysis, published in 2011 Argentinian Psychoanalyst Ricardo Carlino argues for the integration of communication technology into psychoanalytic method. Dr Carlino who qualified as a medical practitioner 54 years ago and as a psychoanalyst 45 years ago now resides in Mexico City where he is a professor of Psychoanalytic Technique at the Institute of Psychoanalytic Education of the Psychoanalytic Society of Mexico (SPM).

By now an entire generation has been brought up in a social milieu where digital technology is the norm.  Baby Boomers who thought they ruled the world are now ‘digital immigrants’. They hold in their minds a history of psychoanalytic practice based on close physical proximity between patient and analyst ( ie in the same room). Yet, like the current generation, they face the challenges and changes wrought by the internet, the world-wide web and electronic communication.  Psychoanalytic practitioners need to explore the way this will impact upon practice and to develop a framework within which they could practice. In the longer term, Carlino argues, communication technology will enable people living in remote regions to get access to this and other treatments.

It’s an interesting – and important – idea and one I will be exploring in more detail as I work my way through Carlino’s book. For the time being, though, I will leave you with this article from today’s online edition of the Australian daily, ‘The Age’, showing just how deeply modern communication technology has altered the world.

Ricardo Carlino, Distance Psychoanalysis: Theory and Practice of Using Communication Technology In The Clinic, London, Karnac Books, 2011.

Statement on marriage equality: Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association of Australia – September 2017

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Right now the Australian Government has decided that everyone who can vote will be sent a letter asking whether they approve of ‘marriage equality’. This means that we have tick a box, either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, on whether we think people who are in same sex relationships should, by law, be allowed to marry one another, thus enjoying the same legal rights as heterosexual couples who choose to marry. It has been challenged in the High Court, but alas, the vote is continuing. The debate that has emerged is bitterly divisive and distracts from real issues such as the government’s ability to govern,climate change and, in generally the going on being of the world.

Two colleagues from the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association in Australia have drawn up a statement which was released by the Association today – 19 September 2017.

                                             The right to marry is a basic human right.

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists support marriage equality 2017

Members of the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association of Australasia (the PPAA) are in a unique position to observe the impact of discrimination, in all its forms, and the contribution of such discrimination to a variety of mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidality. The PPAA respect the rights of allpeople— regardless of sexual orientation, religious belief, age, gender, ability, lifestylechoice, cultural background or economic circumstances – to live with dignity and safety,and to enjoy healthy relationships in all their diversity. This position is, of course, consistent with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/edumat/hreduseries/hereandnow/Part-5/8_udhrabbr.htm Therefore, we support marriage equality as a step toward the reduction of discrimination based on sexual orientation in Australia. PPAA Position The Council of the PPAA:  supports initiatives to remove legislative discrimination against people based on their sex, sexuality or gender identity  supports the right to marry as a basic human right  recognises the right of all LGBTIQ clients, employees, volunteers, families and communities to be free of prejudice and discrimination and to have the same rights under Australian law  believes that social inclusion is an integral aspect of a healthy society, while exclusion and discrimination contribute to increased mental health problems and unnecessary suffering  recognises that enshrining human rights in law and addressing discrimination and prejudice are essential to promoting positive mental health for all Australians
On this basis, the Council of the PPAA, on behalf of its members, supports marriage equality – the right of all Australians to access marriage with their partner of choice, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.

Background

It has long been known, both in Australia and elsewhere, that risk of serious anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidality is significantly increased for the LGBTIQ communities. In part, this is related to the frequently reported experience of explicit discrimination from being part of a minority group. However, both research and clinical observations indicate that the impact of institutional discrimination, wherein LGBTIQ people are excluded from participation in mainstream groups, activities and customs, plays a significant and damaging role. PPAA support marriage equality as a step toward redressing the institutional discrimination implicit in the historical exclusion from access to marriage of LGBTIQ people.

The Importance of Recognition

The PPAA recognises that discrimination in all its forms is damaging. Members of our associations in all states and New Zealand encounter the impact of discrimination against LGBTIQ individuals and communities in their daily work with patients. While it is our view that it will take generations to completely redress this deeply embedded, and often unconscious discrimination, we support any actions to remove institutional discrimination based on sexual orientation. It has long been recognised that members of LGBTIQ communities suffer an increased risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide. (1,2,3) Stonewall, a UK organisation which promotes equality for people of diverse sexual orientations, reports that “lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely to have experienced depression or anxiety, attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts, and self-harmed than men and women in general” (4). For example, gay and bisexual men report moderate to severe levels of depression and anxiety at double the rate of men in general, with even higher rates of reported depression (49%) among lesbian and bisexual girls. They further report (5) that in 2012, 3% of gay men had attempted to take their own life, compared to 0.4% per cent of all men during the same period. Research from Australia (6) and elsewhere in the western world (7) is consistent with these findings. Unsurprisingly, experiences of bullying are disturbingly common in the lives of LGBTIQ members of our communities. Stonewall reported (8) that 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools. Of significance, they report a noteworthy proportion (35%) of gay young people who are not bullied still suffer high levels of depression, compared to 5% of young people generally. There is a growing body of research and clinical experience which suggests that a significant contribution to the adverse mental health impact of belonging to the LGBTIQ communities occurs via exclusion and alienation. In the research literature, this has been referred to as “minority stress” (9) a model which postulates that members of sexual and other minorities are at greater risk for health problems,
because they face greater exposure to social stress related to prejudice and stigma (10,11). Stigma-related experiences can include verbal and physical assault, social and employment discrimination, and the expectation of discrimination regardless of actual discriminatory circumstances (12,13,14). In Australia, the existence of institutional discrimination contributes to this alienation and minority stress, and we would argue, as our colleagues have done elsewhere in the world (15,16,17), that the removal of discrimination in relation to access to marriage is a crucial step to reducing the adverse impact of institutional discrimination. Implications and effects of the voluntary non-binding postal poll and the associated campaign on LGBTIQ people and their families.
We hold serious concerns about how this issue of marriage equality has been raised via a public campaign and a non-binding postal vote which unnecessarily exposes already vulnerable people to divisiveness, derision of their personal and intimate relationships with consequent emotional stress, where the deleterious effects on the mental health of many such individuals is well known.

We cannot presume to speak on behalf of all our members, but we can say that our members are concerned with the hostility, negative publicity and misleading advertising material which has arisen around the issue of marriage equality. We understand this to be damaging to people who identify as LGBTQI and their families, leaving them more vulnerable to further denigration, invalidation and ‘othering’ that they are already exposed to. With this in mind we can also say that our members are concerned to protect and nurture the well-being of children and couples of same sex unions.

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association of Australasia (the PPAA) PO Box 4098, Homebush South, NSW 2140 theppaa.com

The PPAA is a federated body member associations in most Australian States and New Zealand. Its members come primarily from professional backgrounds in psychology, medicine, psychiatry and social work

                  ****************************************************************

The Member Associations of the PPAA are a resource for mental health support for those suffering discrimination:

New South Wales Institute of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: nswipp.org Victorian Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists: vapp.asn.au Association for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy of Western Australia: appwa.org.au Queensland Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association: qppa.com.au

New Zealand Institute of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: psychotherapy.co.nz

References

1. Rosenstreich, G. (2013) LGBTI People Mental Health and Suicide. Revised 2nd Edition. National LGBTI Health Alliance. Sydney

2. Mereish EH, O’Cleirigh C, Bradford JB. Interrelationships between LGBT-based victimization, suicide, and substance use problems in a diverse sample of sexual and gender minorities. Psychol Health Med. 2014;19:1–13.

3. Mays, V. M., & Cochran, S. D. (2001). Mental health correlates of perceived discrimination among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1869 – 1876.

4. Stonewall Health Briefing: Mental Heath (2012) http://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/Mental_Health_Stonewall_Health_Briefing__2012_.pdf

5. Stonewall Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey (2013) http://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/Gay_and_Bisexual_Men_s_Health_Survey__2013_.pdf

6. Rosenstreich, G. (2013) LGBTI People Mental Health and Suicide. Revised 2nd Edition. National LGBTI Health Alliance. Sydney.

7. Branstrom, R, (2017) Minority stress factors as mediators of sexual orientation disparities in mental health treatment: a longitudinal population-based study. J.Epidemiol. Community Health. (Published Online 2 January 2017)

8. Stonewall School Report: The experiences of gay young people in Britain’s schools in 2012. (2012). http://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/The_School_Report 2012_.pdf

9. Meyer IH. (2003) Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psych Bull. 2003; 129: 674–697.

10. Sattler FA, Wagner U, Christiansen H. (2016) Effects of minority stress, group-level coping, and social support on mental health of German gay men. PLoS ONE 11.

11. Branstrom, R, (2017) Minority stress factors as mediators of sexual orientation disparities in mental health treatment: a longitudinal population-based study. J.Epidemiol. Community Health. (Published Online 2 January 2017)

12. Akhtar, S. (2014): The mental pain of minorities, British Journal of Psychoanalysis 30:2, 136-153 14. Domenici, T., and Lesser, R. C.,

13. Domenici, T., and Lesser, R. C., 1995. Disorienting Sexuality: Psychoanalytic Reappraisals of Sexual Identities. New York: Routledge.

14. Hatzenbuehler ML, McLaughlin KA, Keyes KM, Hasin DS. (2010) The impact of institutional discrimination on psychiatric disorders in lesbian, gay, abisexual populations: A prospective study.” Am J Public Health. 100: 452– 459.

15. Buffie W C. (2011) Public Health Implications of Same-Sex Marriage. Am J Public Health.101: 986– 990.

16. Perone AK (2015) Health implications of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs. Hodges marriage equality decision. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health 2, 196–199.

17. Meyer, I. (2016), The Elusive Promise of LGBT Equality. Am J Public Health. Vol 106, No. 8 Beyond Blue, 2013. LGBT People: Mental Health & Suicide. Available from: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/defaultdocument-library/bw0258-lgbti-mental-health-andsuicide-2013-2ndedition.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Australian Federal Parliament, 2004. Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004. Available from: https://www.aph.gov.au/binaries/library/pubs/bd/2003-04/04bd155.pdf

Relationships Australia, https://www.relationships.org.au/national/submissions…/marriage-equality-statement

 

The Freud Conference, Melbourne 2017 – some reflections and a celebration

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Every year during the 80s, around the Easter long weekend, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and anyone else with an interest in the psychoanalytic ideas would schlepp from Melbourne to the Victorian coastal town, Lorne, for the annual Freud Conference. They  stayed at Cumberland House, an old, elegant guesthouse within walking distance of the township and  close enough to the beach for morning and evening strolls. Some people had honeymooned there.   By day everyone attended lectures on Freud and Co. in the assembly hall. On Saturday night  the entire conference, divided into groups of various sizes and affiliation, converged on the township for dinner.The guest speaker was usually someone  internationally known for their work in applied psychoanalysis. Among them was Juliet Mitchell whose 1974 book ‘Psychoanalysis and Feminisim’ remains a seminal work, the political activist and psychoanalyst Joel Kovel, and British psychoanalytic historian John Forrester. By the end of the 80s The Freud Conference was ‘a must’ on the psychoanalytic community’s yearly calender of conferences, seminars and meetings.

There was always a sense of summer just finished. Sometimes daylight saving had not ended, giving everyone an extra hour of warmth and sunlight. When Easter occurred in  late April, chilly Antarctic winds and rain warned that winter was drawing near. Lorne though always reminded people that it is a town made for summer. Walks on the beach might give way to indoor conversations by late autumn. But the racks of tired looking beach clothing and gift shops that threaded along the shopping strip nearby never changed. For Conference members it was de riguer to spend lunchtime in a cafe contemplating one lecture or another and, of course, there was always ‘The Transference’ and various dual relationships to navigate. Melbourne’s psychoanalytic community is a small one. Lorne, luckily, had enough restaurants to accommodate everyone.

The first Freud Conference, held in 1977, emerged from the work of political science professor Alan (Foo) Davies at the University of Melbourne. Davies had begun the Melbourne Psychosocial Group comprised of psychoanalysts, academics and students. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Melbourne Group’, its members sought to explore the intersection between political processes and leadership with  psychoanalysis anthropology and sociology. Two of Davies’ discussion group, Douglas Kirsner and Ron Gilbert organised the Freud conference as a kind of spontaneous ‘lets go to the beach and talk about psychoanalysis and politics’ event. It was intended to be slow, with time for reflection discussion and socialising between lectures. It brought together members of all disciplines interested in psychosocial issues. As with the Melbourne psychosocial  group’s monthly Monday meetings, the conference was open to anyone who was interested in exploring the relationship between psychoanalysis and society.

Twenty-two years later, after Douglas Kirsner and Ron Gilbert decided they no longer wished to organise the conference, Christine Hill took up the challenge. She brought together member representatives of the main psychoanalytic bodies to form a small committee. The conference which had long since moved from Lorne to Melbourne found a regular venue at the Treacy Centre in Parkville. During the last five years the conference has moved to a new venue: The University of Melbourne’s Brain Centre which also houses the Cunningham Dax museum. And rather than filling the entire weekend the conference is held on the third Saturday in May. It’s webpage can be found here.

2017 marks the Freud Conference’s fortieth year and there will be a bit of a celebration. Hopefully there will be a gathering of the old hands, and, more than likely, a speech or three. But the business of the Conference will be its theme:

‘Psychoanalysis in the Technoculture Age: The Challenges of the Black Mirror ‘.

Speakers will be Allessandra Lemma who will be speaking from London and Dr Heather Wood. Here is some more detail.

“Two internationally renowned psychoanalysts will explore the impact of virtual reality on adolescent development and sense of body; the allure  of internet sex and compulsive usage; and the increase in paedophilic sexual interests via the internet. From the broader to more specific view, psychoanalytic and socio-culturalissues over 40 years will be linked”.  An initial mailout will occur in January.

Saturday, 20th May
Conference Program
Melbourne Brain Centre,
Royal Parade, Melbourne.
Sunday 21st May
Anniversary celebration lunch,
The Boulevard Restaurant,
121 Studley Park Rd, Kew.
Further information:

A refugee is seeking a new home: Ilse Hellmann’s appeal, 10 June 1939.

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I would be very grateful to you if you would be kind enough to give me some idea of the possible chances for me to find work..either in connection with a children’s clinic, or in a child welfare centre, training college, nusery school etc (Ilse Hermann to Christine Heinig, 10 June 1939).

On 10 June 1939 the Viennese child psychologist Ilse Hellmann wrote  to an American colleague Christine Heinig, appealing for help to emigrate to Australia. Eighteen months earlier Heinig had taken up the post Principal of the Melbourne Kindergarten Training College. Hellmann, aged 30, an Austrian Jew from Vienna was  working  in London as  the co-director at Charlotte Buhler’s Parents’Institute of Psychology for Subnormal Children in Rowland Gardens, in Kensington.

Hellmann was on her own. Buhler had first fled Austria for London after the Anchluss  in March 1938. She subsquently immigrated to the United States after her husband, imprisoned in Oslo for his anti Nazi stand, was released in October 1938. Nor could she return to Austria. After Kristallnacht on 11 November 1938  the Nazis  had  decreed that Jews could to leave Germany for any country for which they had an entry visa. But Britain  closed its borders to European Jewish males. Women and children were accepted provided the women took up employment in service. Hellmann was one of the luckier ones. Already working in London it was, for her, a matter of finding another place to go should she not be able to remain.

At the time she wrote to Heinig  Members of Hellmann`s family were immigrating to Australia. Records from the National Archives of Australia show that Ernst Richard Hellmann together with his wife, Anne Marie and daughter Christine Ilse, had been issued with a passport from the German Embassy in London and were awaiting an entry visa for Australia. Ernst Richard Hellmann had found sponsorship from a grazier Douglas Caird Campbell in Gunnedah, New South Wales. He would be working on 4000 acres property.

Hellmann’s letter was passed on to fellow American, psychiatrist Dr Anita Muhl who had arrived in Melbourne for a two year consultancy in child and adult psychology less than nine months before. Sponsored by philanthropist Una Cato, Muhl had had to find her way into local medical, psychiatric and psychology circles, building trust well enough for her expertise to be sought.  She fowarded Hellmann`s letter to a State government body, the Victorian Council for Mental Hygiene writing,

 

I think the only thing I can do is ask certain members of the Council…to say what you think her chances are of finding work here… You will see that her letter is dated 10th June 1939, but Miss Heinig tells me that the outbreak of war has only made Miss Hellmann more anxious to come to Australia.

The reply, dated 6 November 1939, was kindly if not entirely encouraging. There was room and need for the sort of person you are mentioning. Indeed we have another fine Viennese here at present, Mrs Lacerta Finton who has spendid training and experience.*

If there was any suggestion or reply to Hellmann this has not been found.

At the moment Anita Muhl received Hellmann’s letter the  Australian government was  organizing its response to the refugee crisis. Of the Dominions New Zealand did not accept any refugees; Canada and South Africa both accepted a limited number. In Australia after the  former Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, then  High Commissioner in London,  recommended that Australia take 30,000 refugees. The government halved the number advising the High Commissioner on 1st December 1939 that Australia would accept 15,000. We do not know whether Hellman’s request reached the Department of Interior.

In the end Hellmann did not immigrate to Australia. She commenced training as a psychoanalyst in 1942,  became an associate member of the British Pychoanalytical Society in 1945 and a full member in 1952. From 1955 she was a leading figure in the Anna Freudian Group. Her letter to her colleague in Australia reflects the desperation of the thousands if not millions of dispossessed people seeking sancturary from the terrors of Nazism.

 

*Maria Lacerta Finton, also Austrian,  had arrived in Melbourne on the 25th September 1939. She subsequently worked as a nurse at the Royal Women’s Hospital and, from 1958 to 1968 at the Victoria’s Social Welfare Department.

References:

Letter from Ilse Hellmann to Christine Heinig, 10 June 1939;Reply from Director, Victorian Council for Mental Hygiene, 6 November 1939; Dr Anita Muhl, Correspondence, 1939-1941,  Box 1766/2, State Library of Victoria, Australia.

Louise London (2000), Whitehall and the Jews, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Hellmann, Ernst Richard, NAA: A12508/21/1849, National Archives of Australia, http://www.naa.gov.au

 

Review: ‘Ink in her veins: The troubled life of Aileen Palmer’.

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Sylvia Martin, Ink In her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer, University of Western Australia Press, 2016.

 

It is difficult to not turn away when someone’s life is not working out well. It’s easier to shun. Work colleagues, unable to cope with difficult behaviours, might ease the person from their midst. A family might  banish that brother, sister, son or daughter to a silent place. When respectability is everything  mental distress can shake  to the core.

Sylvia Martin takes us into these shadowy silences in her biography of Aileen Palmer, a translator and talented poet and novelist. Plagued by mental illness  during the second half of her life- or was it, in part, the mental distress of wartime trauma? – Palmer never truly flourished as a writer despite the talent of her youth. Instead  she remained within the protective cowl of her family: her parents, the writers Vance and Nettie Palmer and her sister, Helen Palmer. Regarded on a par with royalty in the Australian literary world from the 1930s the Palmers  moved with socialistic, communistic elite. They held a central place in Melbourne’s literary circles which included Clem Christesen, the founder editor of the journal Meanjin, his wife, Russian born, Nina Maximov Christesen who launched the study of Russion and Slavonic Studies at the University of Melbourne and the historian Brian Fitzpatrick . Nettie Palmer’s biography of the writer, Henry Handel Richardson certainly underlined Richardson’s importance as an Australian author who centred her work  on the colonial experience and the vexed question of identity. The author Katherine Susannah Pritchard was  a presence in Palmer family life – and a mentor to Aileen.   Vance Palmer’s books: The Passage published in 1930 and The Rainbow-Bird and Other Stories, published in 1957 sold more than 50,000 copies each between 1959 and 1974. The Passage found its way onto high school reading lists.  Helen Palmer, an educationalist, sometimes poet and, along with her sister,  a member of the Communist Party , also has a place in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, in a biographical written by fellow Communist Party member, Robin Gollan a historian of the Australian left. Aileen, it seems, was put away. Until Sylvia Martin found her.

Aileen Palmer was born in 1915, Helen in 1917. At the time her parents were struggling to make their living from writing. Neither had an independent income: both came from middle class families.  Nettie’s own background centred upon the Baptist Church where good deeds were prized over monetary gain.  Vance’s family valued respectability and decency.  Rebellion, if that was what it was, did not venture much beyond these bounds despite the couple’s professsed political radicalism. Neither entirely came to terms with Aileen’s choices including her sexuality. Both sisters appear to have struggled against the strictures of their parents’ iron grip. Aileen was the one who did not get away.

When Aileen was a small child the family moved to Queensland  so Vance and Nettie could afford to live on their writing. During her teens  she attended Presbyterian Ladies College in Kew, Melbourne,  and went on to the University of Melbourne to study French literature along with German, Spanish and Russian. She graduated with a first class honors degree in French in 1935. All the while she wrote. Her semi autobiographical novel, ‘Poor Child’, was written during her late teens, explored her passion for a beautiful teacher – part of a rite of passage as she grew into adulthood. At university she was part of a friendship group of women whose political and literary views, if not their sexuality, appealed to her. Aileen was a young woman in formation – using the space that university life provided to explore ideas and identity.

After her graduation the Palmer family  went first to England where Aileen immersed herself in the local politics. She travelled alone to Vienna working as a translator at the while Hitler’s fascism asserted its power. She rejoined her family in Barcelona at the time of the July 1936 insurrection. After her parents departure Aileen volunteered  for the Communist led International Brigade and worked as an interpreter at the English Hospital at Granén on the Aragon Front. She returned to London, and drove ambulances during the Blitz. She appears to have had a serious love affair with ‘B’, who while never identified, appears to have been a woman. Nettie Palmer, her mother, may not have known about this even though, Martin notes, Aileen’s preference for women was clear.

Aileen’s years in Spain and London were the time of her life. It ended in 1945 when she returned, reluctantly, to Australia at her sister’s request after her mother suffered a mild stroke. Helen promptly moved to Sydney leaving Aileen with their parents in Melbourne – subject to their ways that stifled Aileen’s creativity and sexuality. Nor did the milieu in which she lived help.  Aileen’s life was built upon the conventions, constraints and assumptions of elder daughterly duty. Unable to reconcile herself with unconscious strictures  within her family’s life, Aileen broke down. She became an alcoholic; her mind snapped, and for the rest of her life she was admitted to hospital for long periods where she  was treated with new and experimental forms of psychiatry. She attempted psychoanalysis and tried to write.

But this writing, unlike her juvenilia, was often designated the product of a mentally ill person with signs of manic behaviour (p. 276)  and was not taken seriously. Martin does not agree with this view. Nor, eventually, did her sister who began to see the beauty in Aileen’s poetry, and the rhythms and cadences of her writing ( p. 276). Aileen was able to put her emotional experience into words, Martin says. Is it that the clumsiness of psychiatric treatment of the day has obscured talent? This is not to say that the treating psychiatrists were ignorant of such qualities in their patients. But  good work has been lost even if talent has not been undermined. I have heard of paintings, given to carers in gratitude by such talented people, destroyed because they were  thought of as ‘mad art’. Fortunately someone was wise enough to keep Aileen’s work and donate it to a library.

Martin’s  archival mining has produced a number of Aileen’s poems including this one: ‘The dead have no regrets‘ read at the 2016 commemoration of the British and Irish volunteers who went to Spain from 1936 to 1939.

 

Maybe Aileen Palmer absorbed her mother’s ambivalence  about the entire literary enterprise. Palmer had put aside her poetry Aileen was born. She hoped, too, that her daughter would not have ‘ink in her veins’ suggesting that her experience as an author had led her to conclude that a writer’s life was not a desirable one. Palmer continued to write and promote other authors, helping describe Australian literature to the rest of the world and Australia itself.

Aileen may not have known, consciously, of her mother’s doubt, but absorbed it, as if by osmosis.  She wanted more than anything to be remembered as a poet, Martin writes. But  her mother’s injunction, internalised from the the cradle, confused her.  Her more emotionally robust younger sister was not as encumbered. Nor did she suffer, as Aileen did, the mental illnesses that also plagued their uncle, ‘Wob’, Vance Palmer’s brother.  When Aileen finally published her book of poetry, World Without Strangers, it almost co-incided with her mother’s death in 1964. As if by then, Martin writes ‘she could cast off her mother’s shadow’. ( p. 265).

While Martin’s portrait of Aileen takes us into the Spanish Civil War and to the London Blitz, her writing about  1940s and 1950s Melbourne intellectual circles adds much to the historical record. In 1940, true to form for she was always in the front line when it came to doing good,  Nettie Palmer volunteered to assist with the Victorian International Refugee Committee and began teaching English to newly arrived Europeans refugees – among them doctors and architects. One of them was Melbourne psychoanalyst, Hungarian doctor Clara Lazar Geroe who had arrived in Australia in March 1940 with her husband and son after intense lobbying  by a group of doctors and their supporters. These included   Sydney psychoanalyst Roy Coupland Winn and in Melbourne, Paul Dane, Norman Albiston, Reg Ellery and Guy Reynolds. These were Melbourne’s leading psychiatrists working at a time when new ideas and treatments were developing: electroconvulsive therapy, insulin treatment and other medications. Such methods were revolutionising psychiatric treatment – particularly for those suffering psychotic illnesses. Ostensibly  this new medication relieved symptoms enough for people to be treated on an outpatient basis, rather than incarceration. But not without severe side effect and wild experimentation such as the sleeping cure; with lithium where learning about side effects was part of the process. Patients still had long spells in hospital: but months rather than years. At times treatment must have felt worse than the illness. And if Aileen told her story about her life in Spain and England it appears that her carers regarded this as part of her delusional system. Martin relates these events without judgement. Rancour is left to the reader.

Even more so upon reading Martin’s account of Aileen’s psychoanalysis with Clara Geroe. Nettie Palmer had taught  English to Geroe – well enough for her to begin practising psychoanalysis in 1941. At this time Nettie recorded conversations with Geroe: about her frustration about her refugee life; her inability to move about the community without a permit and the prejudicial behaviour she had experienced at the hands of a police officer.  ” You say your’re a doctor! Can’t you read the rules? Says it’splain hatred of the intellectual”. ( p. 237).  Geroe’s dissatisfaction with her emigration and loss of her intellectual world is apparent.

Aileen was to remark that her treatment with Geroe did not help. In fact it made her more depressed, she said.  Geroe did her own bit of undermining. She employed Helen Palmer as a typist requesting that Aileen not be told. She seems to have wanted to be part of the Palmer’s lives. One wonders whether such fragments, recorded in Nettie’s diary, are clues to another story about Geroe’s longing to connect with the world she had lost. Was it that Geroe wanted to recover the place she had left behind in Budapest more than she wanted to practice as a psychoanalyst? Or was it that her ideas about psychoanalysis and how it is practiced are no longer in favour – if they ever were? Geroe was a long way from the land of her birth, training and the accountabilities these implied. Aileen, shocked by her Spanish and English experiences, and by her subsequent emotional collapse, appears not to have found the treatment she needed.

There is much to learn from this biography about a very troubled person who tried so hard. Martin’s accumulation of evidence, carefully collated, is written without judgment but all the while building a portrait of a woman interacting with her world, conscious and unconscious. I walked the streets Aileen. I rode beside her on the battle fields and stood watching, shocked while she pulled bodies from the rubble in London. And then there was the downhill slide…

I finished this book with sadness for a life and talent not realised. I wanted more for Aileen Palmer.  A biographer cannot do better.

 

 

Reference:

Deborah Jordan (2013), ‘In defence of Vance and Nettie’, Overland, No. 10, October 2013.