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.
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.
This is a fantastic idea and story, Christine- the juxtaposition of the clinical of old and of historical context. Riveting stuff. I look forward to reading more.