Further to my previous post about psychiatric treatment of shell-shocked soldiers in Australia after the end of the Great War I notice that an exhibition about this has been opened in Melbourne.The AGE announced it today under the heading: “Family Tells of WW1 War Hero’s 35 Years as a Mental Patient in Bundoora Hospital”. A life wasted….You can read about it here….
Marina Larsson, Shattered Anzacs: Living with the Scars of War, Kensington, NSW, UNSW Press, 2009.
In what way, I wonder, will the psychoanalytic fraternity in Australia acknowledge the the Great War a century ago, the emergence of psychoanalytic treatment amongst the medical profession? For Australians next year marks the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli on 25th January 1915. Although psychoanalysis in Australia had its origins in these wartime hospitals and in the treatment of shell-shocked soldiers as historian, Joy Damousi also points out, I am slightly surprised to find this has been somewhat overlooked by the professional community – and others. I could be wrong here and am certainly open to correction.In 1919 three psychiatrists – or were they called ‘neurologists’ in those days?- returned to Australia from the Military Hospitals where they had worked alongside British colleagues, including, perhaps, W.H.R. Rivers whose work with shell-shock victims is recorded in Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy published from 1991. They had discovered Freud’s ideas of the ‘talking cure’ in the treatment of shell shock- Paul Dane, John Springthorpe and Roy Coupland Winn among them. On the other side of the fence at the fifth Psychoanalytic Congress at Budapest in 1918 Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi had presented his findings on War Neurosis. Ferenczi was subsequently elected President of the International Psychoanalytical Association – before the war turned and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was defeated.
During the 1920s Both Dane and Winn returned to England for further psychoanalytic training. Melbourne based Dane was analysed by Joan Riviere and, in 1939, sent his daughter to England for treatment with Anna Freud. Winn who lived in Sydney was was a patient of Dr Noble. In 1931 he set up the first private practice as a psychoanalyst in Australia. On the eve of the Second World War both liaised with the Australian Government and with Ernest Jones for the resettlement of European psychoanalysts displaced by war in Australia.
In the immediate post war period, when it was becoming clearer that soldiers were returning suffering from shell shock as well as other severe medical conditions, a third doctor, Melbourne based John Springthorpe, set about trying to ameliorate the situation – or at the very least establish a method of treatment for them. Before the war Springthorpe was one of the most senior medical practitioners in the neurological field with considerable experience in treatment of the insane. In February 1919 Springthorpe was appointed as the Commonwealth Medical Referee for Neurological cases. By mid 1920 his services were terminated.
On 14 July 1920 he wrote to the Commonwealth Repatriation Commission to express his views about the way ‘neurological cases’ in the cohort of returned soldiers were being managed. His letter, discovered in the National Archives of Australia is sharply critical of the attitude of local medical practitioners who had no experience of war conditions. People who suffered from war trauma were far more numerous and complex than his other concern, the cardiac cases but, as Springthorpe wrote, ‘ the local Medical Boards ( without any experience at the front) had discharged many as malingerers and without any pension. They have been coming back ever since. Later on they were quite wrongly treated with isolation and restraint’. At ‘Mcleod’, a Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne to which he was placed in charge in February 1919, Springthorpe discovered that ‘cases were then all over the hospital and elsewhere, without any differential diagnosis and with but very little treatment’. He continued:
‘I separated, classified, and treated them…By August I had treated 111 shell-shock and hysteroid and 132 neurasthenic, with 51 complicated by gas poisoning, a number also cardiac and 26 confusional or mental. The treatment occupational, Home or other Leave, physical and psychotherapy drugs etc is summarized in a report to the DGMS ( Director General Medical Services) in November’ 1919.
Springthorpe was relieved of his duties in August 1919, even though, he noted, he was ‘well on the way to the establishment of a satisfactory scheme’ but there was no provision for follow up after discharge from hospital’. Why this was so is not clear from the records I have looked at so far… perhaps he was a thorn in the side of the Commissioners. Springthorpe wrote:
Feeling that not all was being done for neurological cases (many were under no treatment and wandering about dissatisfied) I brought the matter under the notice of the Repatriation Department and also before the DGMS who, at my suggestion gave me an outpatient clinic one afternoon a week at the Base Hospital. I found, however, that another clinic was in prior operation, practising simply by hypnotism ( the use of which is now limited by experts to cases of amnesia and terrifying dreams and so out of place at this stage for outpatient treatment) and that there was no publicity whereby cases requiring treatment could learn of our existence and no official attempt to extend our influence’.
Despite his efforts the Repatriation Commission had decided not to ‘utilise my services’ despite support for him from the Minister and from the Returned Soldiers League. Be that as it may Springthorpe continued, ‘the obligation to action remains and all concerned to look to it to restore these most distressing of cases’.
In its response to Springthorpe’s letter the Repatriation Commission was having none of it. It rejected Springthorpe’s views on treatment and defended its authority and the knowledge if the doctors it had appointed – all senior, experienced, and recognised leaders in their fields.
‘All neurological cases were treated by physicians who are experienced and well qualified to do so’, an officer, Dr J F Agnew, opined in Minute Paper to the Commission’s Chairman. None had been treated with restraint and isolation other than ‘definite mentals who have been certified insane by Lt Col Jones Inspector General of Mental Hospitals* and Major Hollow, Mental Specialist and Superintendent at Mont Park Asylum’, he continued. Indeed the whole matter had been discussed by senior officials at the Medical Advisory Board. Agnew named these distinguished personages: Sir Henry Maudsley, Lt Col. R R Stawell, Col Geoff. Syme and Lt Col. James Ramsay Webb – ‘all of whom are specialists with war service and experience’.
The Commission’s position is summed up in para 12 of the Minute:
Expert opinion is definite as to the best method to be adopted in the treatment of neurological cases as to the best method to be adopted in the treatment of neurological cases, and it is clearly laid down that the concentration of these men in a clinic is productive of more evil than good and in the best interests of the men they should be placed in suitable employment as the best and readiest means of their final rehabilitation… When these men are kept for unlimited periods in Hospital in such clinics as Dr Springthorpe suggests they suffer from “Hospitalitis” and very often in the course of such treatment develop new symptoms owning to their proclivities to imitate the symptoms of their fellow patients.
It appears that Springthorpe, drawing on his experience in the field hospitals, recognized the degree of suffering caused by shell shock as something little known until the Great War and which affected all classes. The Commissioners on the other hand appear to have maintained a belief in a class distinction between themselves and, apparently, the ‘lower classes’ that were the patients.
In August and September this year the Australian Broadcasting Corporation finished televising a 4 part series, ‘The War That Made Us’, tracing through the diaries of those who were there – a nurse, Kit McNaughton, an Officer, ‘Pompey Elliott’ and a trooper, Archie Barwick, their impressions and the psychological changes occurring within them as a result of their experiences at the Front. Elliott, we were told, did not recover from the war: he suicided in 1931. Kit McNaughton had her own suffering, too. Although she returned to her home at Little River south of Melbourne and married her long time beau, she remained torn between the life she had left behind on the fields of war and the conventions to which she returned. I have reviewed Janet Butler’s elegant biography of Mc Naughton ‘Kitty’s War’ here.
One of the historians featured on the program, albeit briefly, was Marina Larsson whose book, Shattered Anzacs: Living With the Scars of War published in 2009, takes up the problem of post war suffering.
Death did not occur only on the battlefields, she points out, but often many years later as a result of wounds and illness. Death also occurred through suicide as a result of mental distress and trauma – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Larsson also points to the cost to families when a loved one returns home and slowly reveals their depth of scarring. The insidious onset of alcoholism, heavy smoking and domestic violence are all responses to unbearable pain and terror. The casualties of war are far reaching across time. They may be held for generations within the family’s unconscious.
What became of Springthorpe and of the men who returned from war with such shocking psychological injuries is something to look at further. Marina Larsson has made a very good start.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation ( 2014) ‘The War That Changed Us’ Television Series, televised August-September 2014.
Pat Barker,(1991) Regeneration, Sydney, Penguin Books.
Janet Butler (2013), Kitty’s War:The Remarkable Wartime Experiences of Kit McNaughton, St Lucia, University of Queensland Press.
Joy Damousi (2005), Freud in the Antipodes: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in Australia, Kensington, UNSW Press.
Marina Larsson ( 2009), Shattered Anzacs: Living With The Scars of War, Kensington, NSW, UNSW Press.
Dr John Springthorpe’s Memo on treatment of Cardiac and War Neurosis, 14 July 1920. Series No A2489, Control Symbol 1920/ 4166, Barcode, 4794937, Canberra, National Archives of Australia.http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp?B=4794937, accessed 25 September 2014
Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Repatriation, Minute Paper, re Dr Springthorpe’s memo. on Treatment of Cardiac and war Neurosis, dated 23 July 1920, Series No A2489, Control Symbol 1920/ 4166, Barcode, 4794937, Canberra, National Archives of Australia.http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp?B=4794937, accessed 25 September 2014.
* W. Ernest Jones, Inspector General of the Insane was given an honorary post in the Army.
The Australian Association of Group Psychotherapists is presenting a morning seminar on 8 November 2014 at 18 Erin Street, Richmond from 9.00 until 1.00pm. The Seminar is for people interested in the History of Psychoanalysis and in the Politics of Discourse.
In their recent biography of Trigant Burrow the editors Edi and Giorgio Pertagato refer to him as an “AN ILLUSTRIOUS UNKNOWN MAN”. Their work, a reclamation of Burrow and his work as a psychoanalytic theorist, shows his thinking about group analysis predicted the work of Foulkes. Conceptually Burrows pioneered a clear theoretical shift from drives to relationship and relatedness which made him unpopular with Freud. He began working psychoanalytically with groups in the early 1900’s, and coined the group analytic terms “matrix”, “group analysis” and “social unconscious”.Burrows’ name and creativity has almost completely disappeared from the history of Psychoanalysis and Group Analysis. S.H.Foulkes, acknowledged as the father of Group Analysis, mentioned him but, the Pertagatos argue, did not acknowledge Burrows’ contribution sufficiently.
Burrow was an analyst who trained with Freud, was analysed by Jung. In 1911 he founded the American Psychoanalytic Association with Ernest Jones and others, and was the first co-president of the American Psychoanalytic Society.
Dr Paul Coombe and Dr Peter Hengstberger will both present papers based upon their reading of Burrows’ work.
Paul Coombe’s Paper: ”FREEDOM, CREATIVE THINKING, PSYCHOANALYTIC DISCOURSE AND POWER’, will explore some of these ideas and look at how creative and paradigmatic breakthroughs are not enough. They they need a receptive place to grow. Entrenched, privileged and organised power cliques can dominate and squeeze out divergent streams of thought.
Dr Peter Hengstberger, in his paper: ”SOME THOUGHTS ON THE WORK OF TRIGANT BURROW AND HOMOPHOBIA’, will focus more directly on particular aspects of Burrow’s work which are also related to the dominant and entrenched views of the time and culture.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Dr Paul Coombe is a psychiatrist and individual and group psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice in Melbourne. He was formerly Consultant Child Psychiatrist at the Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne and Overseas Senior Registrar in Psychotherapy at the Cassel Hospital,London from 1990 to I993. He is the immediate past president of the AAGP and a member of the Victorian Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists. He has published widely in local and international journals including in areas of family therapy, psychoanalytic aspects of eating disorders, small and large analytic groups, Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy and the works of William Shakespeare.
Dr Peter Hengstberger is a psychiatrist and individual and group psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice in Brisbane. He is the current President of the Australian Association of Group Psychotherapists and a member of the Queensland Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association.
Cost for non-members of AAGP $60.00
For catering purposes please register by email to Dr Frances Minson
frances.minson[at]gmail dot com
You are very welcome to stay to lunch.
AAGP website : http://www.groupanalysis.net.au
childhood, children, contributions of emigres to Australian Culture, New Education, Psychoanalysis in Education and Theatre, refugees, Rosemarie Benjamin, Susan Isaacs, Sydney Children's Theatre, Theatre in education, what have we found here?
I am delighted to introduce my first guest posting. Dr John McIntyre, a Canberra based education research and policy consultant and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Canberra has kindly accepted my invitation to write a post for this blog. His subject is Rosemary Benjamin and influence of Susan Isaacs in Sydney’s Theatre for Children during the 1930s.
A brief exploration through Google shows that John McIntyre has worked for over 25 years in the professional preparation of adult and vocational educators at the University of Technology Sydney where he was a senior researcher and Director in the UTS Research Centre for Vocational Education and Training. His research has focused on outcomes and participation in ACE in Australia, much of it commissioned by government. He has also published work on early school leavers and equity strategies of VET providers, research methodology and policy and research relationships in adult education.His recent work includes ‘Client engagement in a learner-centred system’ and a feasibility study on a national internet portal for adult learners. In 2007 he evaluated the Victorian ACE Research Circles for the Adult, Community and Further Education Board, Engagement, Knowledge and Capability:Connecting Research and Policy to Practice. These and other publications can be found on his website.
John McIntyre is also deeply interested in theatre and the arts. After reading my posts about Susan Isaacs’ Australian tour in 1937 here and here, John contacted me with information about Rosemary Benjamin and the influence of Susan Isaacs’ thinking in the the Children’s Theatre Benjamin created in Sydney during the 1930s. You can find some more about Benjamin at this lovely site: http://www.artpages.com.au
Here is John McIntyre’s post….
Recently I have been exploring the history of the Theatre for Children, Sydney, that was founded and directed for one twenty years by an Englishwoman of Jewish background, Rosemary Benjamin (1901-1957).
Arriving in Sydney in late 1936, Benjamin soon made friends with Jewish emigrés from Europe including the Finkes, the psychoanalysts whose daughter Ruth acted in the theatre, Gertrud Bodenwieser, the leading exponent of expressionist dance and composer and musician Sydney John Kaye (Kurt Kaiser). Rosemarie Benjamin is another link in the story of ‘Freud in Oceania’.
By the time she began her Sydney work, Rosemarie Benjamin had developed her ideas about appropriate theatrical performance for children, ideas formed by early twentieth century progressive education and profoundly influenced by Freudian thinking in London of the 1930s. For Benjamin’s generation, Freud’s discovery of the unconscious enriched new ideas of play, creativity and development and contributed to the ferment of the ’new education’ in a way that is now hard to appreciate.
Benjamin believed that children’s theatre should be authentic, performed as serious theatre by adult actors in plays and draw deeply upon myth and fairy-tale. Through such theatre, children could encounter their inner conflicts in symbolic terms, identifying with characters expressing ‘difficult’ emotions of guilt, fear, anxiety and horror. Allegorical figures drawn from myth could act as intermediaries in this cathartic process. Authentic theatre understood in this way could serve the expressive needs of children and ‘child development’. These ideas are outlined fully in Benjamin’s ‘Story of the Theatre for Children’ (available on-line at the State Library of Victoria).
In the years 1925-1936 Benjamin as a young woman was working as a play organiser for the London County Council, a new kind of educational work, while seriously pursuing a career in drama, twin strands that eventually merged in children’s theatre. Benjamin’s narrative always highlights her 1930s visit to Soviet Russia to study children’s theatre as a life-changing experience, though her explanations of children’s theatre are wholly Freudian.
Who influenced this Freudian strand in Benjamin’s thinking? In 1930s London, Benjamin must have come in contact with the leading edge of Freudian thought as it was being absorbed in progressive education, when Susan Isaacs was coming to prominence. Though direct evidence in Benjamin’s papers is lacking, I think there are three clear indications of Isaacs’ influence:
- Benjamin emphasises emotions, especially difficult emotions (fear, guilt, anxiety, aggression) and the way these can be called forth in expressive play. Theatre employing plays based on myths and fairy tales permits children to encounter and deal symbolically with such forces. A broad understanding of phantasy (as it was later outlined by Isaacs in her famous 1948 article) appears to be assumed.
- Isaacs discovered that ‘new education’ rather than being wholly permissive, children need to have a structured context to help them manage the expression of difficult emotions. Benjamin is insistent that theatre performances need to be structured with devices that help the child to respond to reactions aroused by the play. Such devices include allegorical figures like ‘Jester’ that ‘come in front of the curtain’ act as intermediaries between the real world and the fantastic world of the play.
- There is a commitment to systematic observational of children’s experiences as a way of testing and informing theoretical understandings. Benjamin encouraged audience participation and practised the serious study of children’s responses to characters to inform the crafting of performance. Underlying this is a strong conviction about the developmental value of children’s theatre.
It may also be that Susan Isaacs (as a columnist and educator) gave Benjamin the inspiration to promote new ideas to the wider audience, for Benjamin was a tireless advocate of her cause, and quite possibly a better publicist than producer.
At the end of 1936, Benjamin left London for a Sydney holiday. By then, Isaacs was leading the new department of child development at University of London and had published two defining works in the field. She was a leading figure in the New Education Fellowship which the next year held its World Congress in Australian cities, with Isaacs as a key member.
In Sydney, Benjamin no doubt participated in the Congress, and she was on the NSW committee of the NEF until the war years. This World Congress contributed much to enthusiasm for new educational thinking in Australia, and this took place alongside other streams of cultural modernism permeating the Antipodes. Benjamin must found among her Jewish emigré friends a congenial milieu in which her own novel enterprise might prosper. She returned briefly to Europe after the war for a study tour, but after resuming her work in Sydney suffered a long illness before she died in London in 1957.
Enquiries: John McIntyre, email@example.com
Benjamin (c1949) ‘The Story of the Theatre for Children’. FilmStrip NSW. On-line at
Free Education. Profile of Susan Isaacs. http://free-educations.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/educator-profile-susan-isaacs-18851948.html
McIntyre, J. (2014). Rosemarie Benjamin and the Theatre for Children in Sydney, 1937-1957. [Journal article, submitted]. Available at http://www.artpages.com.au/Theatre_for_Children/Theatre_For_Children.html
It will be interesting to see how Chinese culture will come to shape and influence the development of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy worldwide as the conversation between the oriental and occidental worlds unfolds. Here is a pertinent article from The Guardian.