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 child psychologist refugee: Ilse Hellmann’s appeal to settle in Australia, 10 June 1939.

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On 1o June 1939 the Viennese child psychologist Ilse Hellmann appealed  to an American colleague, Christine Heinig, who had taken up the post Principal of the Melbourne Kindergarten Training College in Australia some eighteen months before. Of the Jewish Faith, Ilse Hellman, then 30 years old, was living and working  in London. A  former student of the developmental psychologist, Dr Charlotte Buhler she was the co-director at Buhler’s Parents’Institute of Psychology for Normal Children in Rowland Gardens, in Kensington. Ilse Hellmann hoped to immigrate to Australia. She was unlikely to find her way back to her homeland. Hitler’s forces had occupied Austria, in March 1938. Buhler had fled,  immigrating to the United States after husband, imprisoned for his anti Nazi stand, was released in Oslo in October 1938.  After Kristallnacht on 11 November 1938  German Jews were allowed to leave Germany and go any country that would take them. In response Britain had closed its borders to males and was accepting women and children under certain conditions. If German Jews had thought to find refuge and succour from the Jewish community in London, they were disappointed.There was no home for them.

Perhaps Hellman’s letter reflected her impending loss. at the time she wrote to Heinig one of her family,  Ernst Richard Hellmann,  had been issued with a passport from the German Embassy in London  was awaiting an entry visa for Australia.  Sponsored by a grazier  Douglas Caird Campbell from Gunnedah, New South Wales, Ernst was heading for a job as a farm worker together with his wife Anne Marie and nine years olf daughter, Christine. Maybe Hermann thought Heinig could direct her to a potential sponsor.

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

Hellman’s credentials were impeccable. After leaving school Hermann had trained as a nursey school teacher before going on to the University of Vienna to study psychology and social science. From 1932 to 1935 she worked with delinquent children at the Children’s Tribunal in Paris before accepting her appointment with Buhler in 1936. Student and teacher had developed  tests for children up to the age of 16. The results  formed the basis of the work with child patients . Hellmann’s  duties included the supervision of teaching and play therapy. She taught and supervised parenting classes at the Institute. She acted as a psychological advisor to a number of London schools, nursery schools and mothercraft centres in South West London.

.Possibly Heinig, unfamiliar with Australian governance, was uncertain about what to do with Hellmann’s letter. She passed it 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 medical, psychiatric and psychology circles and build 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 themoment 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. On 1st December 1939 it  advised that Australia would accept 15,000 European refugees. Hellmann might have found a sympathetic response from the  Commonwealth Government`s  Department of Interior in Canberra.

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.

What is psychoanalysis? Explained.

My piece about psychoanalysis for the Australian edition of the online daily, The Conversation was published last Friday. It has had a good reception, I think. I will leave it to you to decide.

Here is the link.

”The Conversation’, by the way,  draws its authorship from academia. With the assistance of an excellent editorial team who tolerate the vagaries of non journalists writing journalism, it covers a broad range of issues with intelligence and depth.

 

Wrongful Committal: The Psychoanalyst, his wife, the Judge and the Asylum – Melbourne 1954

A serious, sad scandal…

In the course of a lifetime things happen that some would rather not remember. If they reach the public domain where one is the object of scandal and controversy and each prurient detail of life at the moment is published in the mainstream press, there is comfort in the idea that, in time, people will forget. Life will move on and memory will disappear into the archives.

Until recently.

Since 2010 the National Library of Australia has been digitizing its entire newspaper collection. A search engine has been developed and as a result the past is at our fingertips. Time is collapsed. So too is distance as we learn that newsmakers in one state were also celebrated in others. It is possible to see what made news sixty years ago. And despite uneasy questions about privacy, intrusion and boundaries, particularly when the subject matter concerns a well-known identity in the professional or social world, such events are all in the public domain. For historians, such as me, searching in this case for information about the psychoanalyst Clara Geroe, the possibility of stumbling upon something else of interest is increased. The question? Why is it important? Or is it all merely salacious gossip? Does writing about such matters some sixty years after the event increase understanding of the development of psychoanalysis in Australia? Certainly it is a glimpse into the culture of the day and, I suggest, into changing ideas about women, their place in the community and in marriage. And probably it also points to changing ideas and anxieties about mental illness, psychoanalysis and psychology and the power of psychiatry. For if a doctor could certify his wife, what did this mean for the rest of us?

The publicity surrounding the marital breakup of Frank and Nell Graham was the stuff of Hollywood legend where the marriages of movie stars featured on the front covers of magazines and, often enough, their divorces too. It had all the glamour of Melbourne’s elite. A handsome profile of Frank himself was published in the newspapers. It was reported in the interstate press and made it into some of the regional papers. The year was 1954. Frank Graham was a respected psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Nell, as was the custom of the day, had listed herself on the electoral roll as undertaking ‘Home Duties’. The couple had one son aged about seven. If the papers are to be believed, Nell’s version was that the marriage breakup was due to Frank’s obsession with psychoanalysis – a subject on which, she told reporters, they vehemently disagreed. Frank’s response was that he wanted to help his wife whom he genuinely considered to be mentally ill. Nell Graham did not agree with that either. Neither did her family nor it seems did Joan Rosenove, the first woman Barrister in Victoria who represented Nell Pro Bono in the ensuing court case along with Mr D M Campbell QC. It may be that Dr Richard Ramsay Webb, the Superintendent of Royal Park Hospital, where Nell Graham was admitted, and Justice Martin, the judge who heard the case, also did not agree with Dr Graham’s assessment.

At the time Frank and Nell Graham had been married for thirteen years and had had a son together.They had moved to Victoria from Sydney shortly after their marriage in 1940. Frank, a newly graduated doctor had sought psychoanalysis from Roy Coupland Winn from whom he had heard about the arrival of the Hungarian psychoanalyst Dr Clara Lazar Geroe and, in 1941, her appointment as a training analyst for the British Psychoanalytical Society. He found a job at Melbourne’s Royal Park Hospital, and asylum for the mentally ill.  The job also provided accommodation for medical staff in the  hospital grounds. In this way Frank commenced analytic training: – sessions of analysis, supervisions and seminars with Geroe. Nell was a trained nurse. But, as was the path of women of the day, she stayed at home to look after the house and, eventually, to care for their son. It is also relevant for readers to be aware that Frank Graham, who had suffered from Polio as a child, walked with the support of a stick.

By 1946 Graham had commenced practice at 110 Collins Street in Melbourne – the same address as Geroe. In 1951 Graham was an Associate Member of the British Psychoanalytical Society. He had published papers on group analysis in the Australian Medical Journal, was active as secretary of the Melbourne Institute for Psychoanalysis and the newly formed Psychoanalytical Society of Australia.

What follows next can be deduced from the newspapers which, for the benefit of readers, reported every skerrick about a marriage in trouble. Nell had been unwell for some time during 1950. Frank believed this was psychosomatic and wanted her to consult “Madame Geroe”. She declined. On one occasion, after she asked her husband to find a masseur he had, she said, engaged Madame Geroe who visited their home, given her a massage with the result that Nell had begun to feel better. There were arguments over Frank’s obsession with psychoanalysis, a practice Nell disliked and with which she disagreed and thought to be ‘a fad and a fetish’. Nell did not like the fact that her husband consulted with women, and in an affidavit said she “believed her husband had had improper relations with his women patients as she I had seen him at his professional rooms with lipstick all over his face”. Frank Graham had become angry with his wife’s opposition; he had threatened her with his walking stick, roared at her that he wanted to cut her throat from ear to ear and called her a witch. It appears that the couple had separated by the beginning of 1954. Nell said she believed he had ‘found a new girlfriend’, a psychologist who was also undergoing psychoanalysis. Frank, Nell said, had told her of his hope they would have the ‘perfect child’.

Matters came to a head on 27 April 1954 when, it was reported in the press, a taxi pulled up outside Nell’s home, close to the back-yard.  A woman emerged from the vehicle and went to the back door. Nell tried to flee through the front door of the house but was grabbed by the woman, forced into a taxi and taken to Royal Park Hospital. She was certified by two of her husband’s colleagues. Nell said she believed this had been instigated by her husband.

 After eight hours in the admissions unit, the superintendent moved Nell to an open ward. She was not longer a certified patient. She was able to contact her brother and also her lawyers.

A writ of Habeus Corpus was issued, requiring Nell to be brought before the court especially to secure her release unless lawful grounds were shown for her detention. In her affidavit Nell declared she was perfectly sane and had been wrongfully committed by colleagues of her husband without a proper examination. She alleged they had been sent by her husband with whom she was in dispute about the custody of their child. Evidence was given by Dr Janet Pierson Cooper. She had examined Nell in June and December 1953 and during Nell’s admission to Royal Park. She could find no evidence that she was mentally ill. The question for the judge to decide was whether Nell Graham should remain in hospital.

After an initial hearing in his Chambers, Justice Smith referred the matter to Justice Martin whose careful consideration of the events set aside the emotional war raging between the couple. His question was whether the requirements under the Mental Hygiene Act had been followed.

He deduced the following: Nell been admitted to Royal Park, and as was the procedure for certified patients, placed in the reception unit gazetted for such purposes.  She remained there for eight hours. She was then removed, on the instructions of the Superintendent of Royal Park, Dr Ramsay Webb, to another part of the hospital which, ‘it so happened, was not gazetted under the act’. Was she still under certificate? Did she have to remain in hospital?  Rosenove  and Campbell argued that she was not. The Superintendent left it to the court to decide.

Counsel for Dr Graham argued that there had been little or no opportunity for his client to reply. Allegations had been made which were not true, he said.  There was also the question about whether Nell should be required to remain in hospital for a month pending further examination. Justice Martin declined. The matter before the court was whether Nell Graham was ‘improperly detained or not’. After more argument from Dr Graham’s Counsel, that she should be retained in hospital because it was believed she was mentally disturbed, Justice Martin found that as Nell had not been kept in the receiving house at Royal Park the entire basis of her being kept in hospital ‘had fallen to the ground’. By moving her from the receiving house the Superintendent had nullified her certification under the Act. Nell was released.

Nell Graham was far from mad, I think.  She was certainly distressed. And so was her husband whose belief and commitment to psychoanalysis his wife bitterly resented. They were a couple at war whose battles, momentarily, had reached the front pages. The fact that Frank Graham was a doctor who had tried to certify his wife was part of the interest.

After the court case was over the press, Hollywood style, waited for a statement from Frank Graham. It was finally released on 5th April, 1954. He tried to make light of the events. After all he loved his wife and Nell had always been ‘only girl for me’, he said. But he remained true to his belief in his diagnosis which was recorded in affidavits that would not be released to the press. There was the matter of their son’s custody to consider and, quite sensibly, he declared the matter closed.

By the end of 1954 Nell Graham took her husband to court again. Her complaint was that he had not provided sufficient means of support. It is was decided between the pair, with the assistance of legal representatives, that Nell would be paid 13 pounds a week. Graham was ordered to pay costs.

So why is this very sad and tragic tale of a marital breakup important?

First there is the sensationalism of the reportage. From 1940 Frank Graham had pursued a new professional identity as the first Australian trained psychoanalyst under the new arrangement with the British Psychoanalytical Society. Together with Clara Lazar Geroe and several other colleagues he was involved in the dissemination of new ideas about the mind – involved in holding psychoanalytic conferences and lectures and seeing patients. This might have created uneasiness in the broader community. Perhaps Nell Graham reflected this unease. For most people, maybe, psychoanalysis was for Hollywood movie stars; about Freud, the Oedipus complex and dream interpretation – if it was thought about at all.

Secondly there was the sober and serious question about the rights of patients and the power of doctors to decide whether a person was insane or not. Justice Martin’s concern was whether Nell was being wrongfully treated when she arrived at Royal Park. The Superintendent, Dr Ramsay Webb, appeared to have concluded that there was no reason for Nell to remain in the gazetted unit after eight hours. Was he also signalling that he did not agree with his colleague’s certification of her?  It seemed that Dr Graham had certified his wife because he thought she was ill. Was she not protesting about her treatment from him in the only way she could? She thought him to be violent at this stage. She had been spurned and faced losing custody of her child. There was little support for single parents let alone women stigmatized by divorce in those days. But in the intensity of a marital dispute, if not breakup, emotions run high and words uttered that should not be. The matter needs more investigation.

Then there is the question of the woman’s place in marriage. One interpretation is that Nell was failing to support her husband in his chosen work. By not remaining silent she was bringing him and his profession into disrepute. But she was also challenging his assumed power over her. By speaking up against the accusation she was insane, gaining the support of two respected legal professionasl and also perhaps, through the act of removing her from the locked ward at Royal Park the judgement thrust upon her by her husband, the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, was in dispute.

Nell Graham had refused to co operate.

Finally there is the story of psychoanalytic training in Australia. It was still new, a little more than thirteen years since its commencement in Melbourne. A new branch had begun in Sydney in 1951 and they were working together to form an Australian group. When the Graham’s marital brawl reached the front pages the consulting room door was opened and humanity appeared at its most raw. It was packed away quickly when Graham made the statement that there would be no statment. But in the longer term?

References:

Release from mental home sought ‘I was grabbed, forced in taxi’ (1954, March 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 3. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26600200

WIFE’S CHARGES AGAINST DOCTOR HUSBAND (1954, March 31). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), , p. 3. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205701697

Now in mental home Doctor’s wife asks court: ‘Set me free’ (1954, March 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 1. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26600132

Charge Against Doctor (1954, March 31). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), , p. 1. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205701569

BASIS Or HOMES HOLD FALLS TO GROUND—JUDGE Royal Park told to let doctor s wife go (1954, April 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 5. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26601016

COURT ORDERS RELEASE OF MRS. GRAHAM (1954, April 3). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), , p. 4. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205712093

Dr. Graham releases his statement (1954, April 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 5. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26601204

Judge Ends Order on Mrs. Graham (1954, April 6). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), , p. 3. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205701464

He wants his son (1954, May 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 3. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23422437

Doctor Seeks Son’s Custody (1954, May 29). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), , p. 3. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205390299

Doctor to Pay Wife’s Maintenance (1954, December 10). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), , p. 10. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205732277

Matilda’s Therapy – London, 1944

Session III : Thursday 18 May 1944

Matilda is living near Belsize Park Road, part of a community of German-Jewish refugees who had fled Hitler in the early years of the war. After a period working as a fire watcher during the Blitz she was employed as a clerk in an organisation assisting refugees.

Recently she has been romantically involved with  two men – Robert whom she met several months ago and Monty, with whom she has been going out with for a long time. Both are serving in the military forces in some way. It means they are away, overseas, for long periods.  There are long gaps between meetings.

She has been puzzled about her response to Robert with whom she had felt, upon meeting, that there was much to bind them together. Potentially. She had felt herself to be in love, but doubted her capacity for this. But then? She is writing in her second language, or her third. It is difficult to decipher meaning as a result. Her thoughts seem disjointed, her tenses are all over the place. She might be unable to write down her thoughts. The intense feelings are too much, maybe.  The mind, I think, is not an orderly space. She writes,

I have some of that feeling of panic and emptiness.  I vaguely feel that something is wrong with Robert and wonder at the same time whether this is not a projection on to him of my own vacillating emotions?  With Monty I feel warm and comforted in that warm and paternal presence, although I often come across traits that  disturb me: sentimental, self dramatising, petit-bourgeois. But there is a kernel which is good and comforting. It is not for me a feeling of ‘This is what I have been dreaming of long ago’, as it was when I met Robert, but it is positive nevertheless.

My thoughts and feelings got curiously merged; I did not know to whom my tenderness and my desire went… I was surprised how small and far away Robert became, and then again when I talked to Mother at Guildford there was only Robert. Now he is far away again. And I feel alone.

Yet I don’t want to break the physical aloneness. Why? Seriousness perhaps? Or [am I, to be honest,] merely husband hunting? I feel I must tread softly with Monty and feelings may develop. But in almost everything he does I compare him with Robert…

28th December 1943

Suddenly it seemed a terrific problem. Monty is intense and – I still cannot help feeling –  his somewhat self dramatizing letters which sweep me away on waves of emotion… leave me somewhat high and dry. And then again the knowledge that I don’t want him profoundly. That I am longing for Robert and yet might perhaps just as well give him up.

I feel I ought to marry but I don’t know why; that a lover seems preferable to a husband but at the same time needs more sefl confidence in me. That I wnat children but don’t want them now and am loth to accept the responsibilities…

Matilda’s journeys into inner London, to Harley Street to see Dr W, become central to her. She needs to explore these  quandaries – about men, lovers, marriage and, through her dreams, her experiences as a German Jewish woman, a refugee, in London. This is her third session with Dr W.

I tell him about my fainting fits.

W: The easiest way to escape facing a situation. There must have been an unconscious emotional crisis.

She then tells him about a dream about Robert, and her wish that W solve this problem for her. After all, H,  an old  friend, or perhaps another therapist,  was somebody who solved my problems for me.  W. wont.  

W:  We move round and around the same problem until we outgrow it. -We have found that Mother is a very great influence.

M : Why?  Because I open the door for her. Why do I?

Matilda does not seem to like the thought that her mother is so central to her.

Session IV: Tuesday 23 May 1944

Matilda tells Dr W about her reflections between the sessions…

Matilda: On the one hand I ask Mother about things I don’t really think her competent to

. I ask her about small things and put the full responsibility upon her if things go wrong. On the other hand I don’t tell her anything at all and resent all… interference.

W: Both are symptoms of immaturity.

This comment stays with her long enough for Matilda to record. We do not know what transpired next. We are working with the gap between event and memory. What has been suppressed?

Matilda: I felt completely lost last Monday after leaving Robert.

W: That feeling can not be got rid of so quickly.

Matilda: Query: Was it sexual because of F.l?

I wonder whether she is referring to ‘Father Love’ here.  Is she beginning to doubt the reality of her connection with Robert, seeing it as a enactment of her internal life?

W: No.

Matilda: Dreams. Element of conflict. Mother on one side,  [her father?] on the other. Neither is myself….

Matilda’s diary is hard to follow. Like the analyst we must follow these residues of  her thought and find a pattern.  She seems to be freely associating as she converses with herself about herself and about her experience of Dr W.

She begins with two dreams – about a man on a bike and an association: Unsolved question: Who is the man I feel is interfering?

Dream about railway station: Conflict of wanting to make contact with Robert but not quite daring. There is a dream about a flower, her feelings; an element of the emotional  connection she is making with Robert.

W: I am not interfering in your relationship with Robert in any direction.

Matilda: I feel better about it since now I don’t feel I ought to marry,  and can carry on for the time being. There is probably a lot of egoism in it in that I want to keep him, (Robert) until I  can do without…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The doctor -patient relationship – 19th century writings

This is a guest blog by Alison Moulds, second-year DPhil student at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford. Her thesis examines the construction of the doctor-patient relationship, and the formation of a professional identity, in nineteenth-century medical writing and fiction … Continue reading →

via Representing emotion in the doctor-patient encounter in Victorian medical writing — The History of Emotions Blog

A diary of an analysis 1: Meeting ‘Dr W’.

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The patient, a woman aged 25 when the analysis begins, is a Londoner. I shall call her ‘Matilda’. Her diary begins in May 1944 and continues until the end of the war.

I met Matilda for the first time when she was in her eighties during one of her visits to Australia. Perhaps her awareness that I work as a psychotherapist prompted her to speak about her own experiences in analysis. He was a Jungian, she said. She recollected seeing him in the early 1940s, several years after her arrival as a refugee from Nazi Europe.

This is her first session. I will use italics for her actual written words.

London: Wednesday 10 5 1944

No couch – relieved. Comfortable chair. Fatherly, not very interesting man, looks more business than doctor.

Dr W’  asks for her name, age and about her parents whether they are living or dead. She has a brother and sister? and her work? Does she like it? and does she have a boyfriend? He asks her about her school and leaving Germany.

To her surprise he asks about my scar; thinks this is an important incident ( I had not mentioned it all, never thought of it). Asks whether boyfriend is ‘first and only’…what interests? Is graphology a deep interest?

Conclusion: No firmness, psychologically non-existent, swimming about. Thus no firm relationship is possible. Must become… ?  and develop firm feelings. It will take a little time.

I say I have no patience.

You must learn it, he says. It is like the growth of a plant. It cannot be rushed. One can work if one knows what for.

Dr W advises her not to talk to anybody about her analysis. He warns her that it disturbs the progress if a third person takes part. It is to be between the two of them. Matilda continues her reflection.

On the conscious level I seem all right. [The] problem lies somewhere else.  I have to find and keep… [the] secret of myself.

Matilda attends a week later. She full of dreams, ideas and associations. I do not know whether she has read Freud’s work? But here she is curious… it is as if she has begun the work.

Dreams  – underlying factors – She feels there is no basis, the diary records. She is running about in a terrrific inner muddle. Floating from one thing and one person to another.  She has put her bag on a chair – in a dream or in the consulting room? It indicates that I want to occupy a place somebody else has.

Dr W asks Matilda about her mother. She was distant and aloof when I was small and needed her. It made me suspicious of love and unable to accept it. He explains that there is the parallel with a  dog  who after being shut in a dark room, starved and beaten is coaxed by the same and other persons. He will be perplexed and run away. 

How frightened Matilda must have been when she was a little girl. She continues,

I mention the element of cheating that goes through my dreams. Dr W replies.. if I do not know who and what I am I cannot face [matters] and am bound to cheat.

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Who, I wonder, is Dr W?  Matilda described him as a Jungian. If this is so, then  Dr Ambrose Cyril Wilson is a possibility. I find an obituary for him written by D W Winnicott in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol 29, 1958, page 617. I have made inquiries and excluded Winnicott himself.

Wilson  was the son of Ambrose Wilson, headmaster of Melbourne Boys Grammar School in the 1890s. The family had travelled from London, to Cape Town then Australia before returning permanently to London where Cyril matriculated and decided to study medicine.

Cyril Wilson qualified in medicine at Barts in 1908. He served in the Army during WW1 and then had a stint as an actor. He was an early member of the British Society of Psychoanalysis from 1924.   He began analysis with a Jungian, Robert Young.  After two years he had transferred to Ernest Jones and thence to membership of the British Society after qualifying. After a period of financial strain during which he looked into analysis with James Glover, Winnicott continues,  Wilson was in  analysis with Melanie Klein for seven years. He was on the staff at the Society’s clinic, the London Clinic of Psychoanalysis until 1945.

The dates add up and the little bit of information Matilda provided about her analyst’s identity points to Wilson. As a refugee Matilda would have had some financial constraints upon her… it is not impossible that the London Clinic was her preferred option when she decided to seek analytic help.

Winnicott seems to have respected Wilson’s ability. He wrote of him:

Although Wilson never contributed significantly to psychoanalytic theory he did a good deal of original work on the paternal aspects of the superego. This he never assembled in written form nor could he be persuaded to write up his findings after his appointment by the Home Office to study homicide cases at the Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum.

Wilson had a fighting sense of rectitude, Winnicott continues. He gave himself almost solely to his patients, and was militantly independent and in the Society eschewed politics.  He was particularly interested in the treatment of offenders and was an early member of the Institute for  Study and Treatment of Delinquency and in the final stages of his career a consultant to the Portman Clinic in London.

I am intending to follow Matilda’s progress session by session, placing it alongside  historical material that could help contextualise her experience. It is a glimpse into the world of British psychoanalysis in the last years of the war … It will be interesting to see what happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Kenny’s Essay: ‘Freud, Jung and Boas: the psychoanalytic engagement with anthropology’. revisited,

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Robert Kenny, an Australian scholar, poet and writer, has a paper entitled, ‘Freud, Jung and Boas: the psychoanalytic engagement with anthropology revisited’, in the June 2015 edition of the journal Notes and Records: The Royal Society of the History of Science.  It is a cogently and carefully written piece challenging accepted interpretations, if not wisdom, about Freud’s development of his social theories in the 1910s. The essay is part of a larger project Kenny has been working on since, at least, the publication of his book, The Lamb enters the Dreaming: Nathanael Pepper and the ruptured world in 2007.

Kenny’s argument centres upon Freud’s and Jung’s visit to the United States in 1909 to attend and lecture at a Congress at Cark University.  It is no co-incidence, Kenny argues, that their encounter with  the personage and the anthropological  work of Franz Boas, who also lectured at the  Congress, that there was a shift of focus to anthropological interests in the months and years immediately afterwards. In his lecture, Kenny writes, Boas challenged social darwinist ideas placing humanity of a scale of development from savage to civilised, arguing that culture was a response to environment and, essentially, throwing Spencerian theory out of the window. This culminated, in Freud’s case, the publication of Totem and Taboo and in Jung’s his book, Transformations. Kenny’s abstract reads:

Sigmund Freud’s and C. G. Jung’s turn to evolutionist anthropological material after 1909 is usually seen as a logical progression of their long-term interest in such material. It is also seen that they used this material ignorant of the significant challenges to the evolutionist paradigm underpinning such material, in particular the challenges led by Franz Boas. This paper argues otherwise: that both psychologists’ turnings to such material was a new development, that neither had shown great interest in such material before 1909, and that their turnings to such material, far from being taken in ignorance of the challenges to evolutionist anthropology, were engagements with those challenges, because the evolutionist paradigm lay at the base of psychoanalysis. It argues that it is no coincidence that this engagement occurred after their return from America in 1909, where they had come into first-hand contact with the challenges of Franz Boas. 

Analysis of cultural subjectivity is central to Kenny’s historical writing. Very much influenced by the ethnohistorians, Greg Dening, Rhys Isaac and Inga Clendinnen, Kenny’s 2007 book, The Lamb Enters the Dreaming, traced the life of  Nathanael Pepper of the Wotjobaluk people, who was born as the first white pastoralists were driving cattle and sheep into Victoria’s Wimmera region. The book opens one’s mind to the ways these pastoralists and the Wotjobaluk people thought about and responded to one another. Following Dening’s analysis of the encounter with cultural specificities across time and place Kenny argues for recognition of the respective, and unconsciously held, subjectivities of the pastoralistd and Wotjobaluk. If the social unconscious is framed by those unconsciously held constraints and restraints that shape action and response: if neither pastoralist or Wotjobaluk were able to find in the other affirmation of preconceptions shaped and held from birth, then it would have been difficult for either side to recognize, let alone think about the other, other than in their own terms.

Kenny’s latest essay opens further the question of how  unconsciously held European subjectivity – particularly the formation of darwinist theory – influenced the way the development of the mind and the social was understood. Boas provided the inspiration and impetus to look at accepted ideas more closely, if not to see them in the first place.  And in that sense Kenny’s essay also adds to a growing body of writing – Rudnytsky comes to mind – recovering the voices and writers that ultimately, and also found expression in Freud’s work.

 

References

Greg Dening ( 1980), Islands and Beaches: Discources on a silent land: Marquesas 1774-1880, Honolulu, Hawaii, The University Press of Hawaii.

Robert Kenny (2007), The Lamb Enters The Dreaming: Nathanael Pepper and the Ruptured World, Melbourne, Scribe Publications.

Robert Kenny (2015), Freud, Jung and Boas: the psychoanalytic engagement with anthrpology revisited, Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science, Vol. 69, Issue 2.

Peter Rudnytsky (2011), Rescuing psychoanalysis from Freud and other essays in re-vision,  London, Karnac.