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.

Some thoughts on W R Bion, psychoanalysis, shell shock, and the Great War.

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This is a summary of a paper delivered to the Australian Association of Group Psychotherapists Annual General Meeting on 14 November 2015.

 

Introduction

The tragic losses on the battlefields of the Great War and the resulting psychological injuries to millions has had long term consequences for families down generations in Europe, Britain and the former Dominions. The Great War has also led to major professional and scientific advances and re-thinking including development of psychoanalysis from the treatment of trauma by doctors in the field and afterwards. During the last decade scholars have mined W R Bion’s autobiographical work as a basis for his contribution to psychoanalytical theory with his, focussing on his experience as a tank commander in the Great War. Terms such as nameless dread, attacks on linking, and ideas about the splintering of the mind emerged from the idioms of war in an attempt to put language to horrific experiences in the field. (Jacobus 2005; Torney 2009; Roper 2009). While this paper follows these developments I suggest that W R Bion’s book, ‘Experiences in Groups’ based on his work at Northfield is has its origins in his military training and experience in the Tank Corps under the command of General John Frederick Charles (‘Boney) Fuller.

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During the first months of the war a quarter of a million were killed and the war had stalled in France where it remained for the next two to three years. By December 1914 A third of the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from France, many with shell shock, the result of being ‘blown up’, by a shell or other incendiary device. The symptoms: paralysis, loss of senses, headaches, nervous tremors and nightmares where it seemed the patient relived his traumatic experiences were likened to ‘Hysteria’ by medically trained psychologist Charles Myers.( Myers 1915).

By mid 1916, in letters home from the Somme and the Battle of Pozieres soldiers wrote of conditions worse than the hell they had ever imagined. In letters published in the Australian press in 1916 soldiers observed how shell shock victims were ruined for battle, if not for the remainder of their lives. They wrote of the noise, the din, carnage and losses. Even so fear of the censor’s pen held them back. In his 1919 Memoir Bion wrote of the fear of finding himself walking on corpses of fallen soldiers – a ploy, perhaps, to protect his mother from the realities of the warfield. For Bion, a member of an elite group, the tank command of especially chosen officers, the difficulty of holding himself together in these conditions is expressed in his account of watching, for hours, a clod of earth held by the green shoot of a plant dangling above him – as if an infant holding himself together by focussing on a light or an object. His complete emotional collapse, and an event to which he returned again and again, for the remainder of his life, came with the death of his batman, Sweeting, who, as he lay dying from horrific injuries beside him, called to Bion to write to his mother. Bion, unable to cope, told him to ‘shut up’ and turned away. Indeed, Roper notes, letters home made light of the horrific conditions even as these acted to contain soldier trauma ( Roper 2009). No doubt there were many others who turned away. Too.

As Freud remarked in 1918, shell shock by many other names – war neuroses, neurasthenia, war shock – ‘helped put psychoanalysis on the map among medical men hitherto sceptical of its claims’. In the early months of the war diagnoses and treatment of shell shock followed physical definitions and treatment. By 1916 doctors were integrating psychological principles into diagnoses and treatment. In his 1917 work, War-shock, the psycho-neuroses in war: psychology and treatment, psychoanalyst and medical officer to the neurological department in Malta, David Eder observed shell shock to be rare amongst the seriously wounded, as if, he said, ‘the energy taken to deal with it left none to spare for the creation of phantasies'(Eder 1917). In a survey of one-hundred cases Eder noted that shell shock did not differentiate between classes nor between experienced soldiers and new recruits. Careful to differentiate the neurological, physical effects of being blown up from the psychological and asserted argued that shell shock occurred when presence of psychological factors over neurological in diagnosis and treatment. Eder asserted that the experience of war shock with its associations with mental collapse and insanity, was not the province of the weak minded, nor genetically disadvantaged, but resulted from unbearable and consistent terror. Work undertaken by W H R Rivers at Craiglockhart, immortalized by authors Siegfried Sassoon and Pat Barker, followed similar principles. On the German side similar work occurred. In 1918, also at the Fifth Psychoanalytical Congress in Budapest, Sandor Ferenczi’s paper on the treatment of war shock was well received and, according to Judit Meszaros, helped pave the way for his presidency of the International Psychoanalytical Society ( Meszaros 2014). By 1920 psychological interpretations and treatment of shell shock was was widely accepted. Further it was understood that part of the symptomatology of shell shock, was a manifestation of unconscious conflicts. ( Roper 2016, p. 43). In 1920 the Australian Medical Congress devoted an entire section, some eight papers, to neurology and psychotherapy many focusing upon the treatment of war shock.
An invisible wound of war, the effects of shell shock such as long term inability to hold work, marital conflict, family violence – were transmitted down generations. One outcome for Australians, was the emergence of formal psychoanalysis, borne of doctors attempts to understand patients suffering the condition in the post war years. Roy Coupland Winn and John Springthorpe who had enlisted as Medical Officers, returned with experience with shell shock patients the field hospitals. By 1933 after a training analysis in England Winn established the first psychoanalytic practice in Sydney and for the next three decades was a key figure in the establishment of the Melbourne and Sydney Psychoanalytical Societies. Winn’s Melbourne colleague Paul Dane developed his interest in psychoanalysis after working with shell shock patients in Melbourne. He enlisted as as a Medical Officer in 1916 but was invalided home within the year after a serious attack of dysentery and colitis. During the 1920s he went to London where he underwent analysis with Joan Riviere.
While scholars have stressed the place of Bion’s personal trauma in his later work, Bion’s experience in the Tank Corps a remains relatively neglected. Mary Jacobus has pointed out the failure of the containing function of tanks – called various ‘Mother’, ‘Little Willie’ and ‘Big Willie’, highlighting, as Bion did, their danger, noise and at worst, Bion’s experience of them as death traps (Jacobus 2005). He entered the tank Corps, Bion explains, because it was interesting and the secrecy surrounding appealed to him. Headed by Major General John Frederick Charles Fuller, ‘Boney’ Fuller, the Tank Corps was developed in order to break the stalemate and battlefield slaughter extant since late 1914. The Corps was the instrument of the younger generation designed to break the deadlock in France (Freedman 2013). Tanks were the secret weapon, designed to cover ground and defences more efficiently than an army platoon. In his account of the Corps. Drawn from the elite: its members were highly experienced soldiers (Fuller 1920) It members were the veritable ‘best and brightest’, experienced and, like Bion, with potential to lead. Freedman explains that Commanding General ‘Boney’ Fuller, based much of his work on that of le Bon’s theory of crowd behaviour. This stressed the ‘mindlessness’ of crowd behaviour. Freedman explains that Fuller, instead, described a military crowd dominated by a spirit which is the product of the thoughts of each individual concentrated on one idea. It was an organised crowd, contained through training and a common purpose. Nonetheless it was a crowd and could turn when stressed. (Freedman 2013 p. 130).

Serving in the Tank Corps was a pivotal experience for Bion. It influenced his work and his contemplation of leadership and the group in the book, Experiences in Groups. Bion’s analysis of group behaviour addressed the nature of unconscious stressors within the group and the group’s response. Where Fuller stressed leadership and containment of the group through careful and rigorous discipline, Bion took up the latent, unconscious aspects of group behaviour – the reasons why a group might fail. Critical of Freud’s idea that the group seeks a leader to look up to Bion explores the notion of the leaderless group and whether it is possible for such a group to function maturely, without regression. In his discussion of the mental activities of groups Bion recognizes the existence of ‘two groups’ existing within the one entity – the ‘work group’ which tries to retain focus on the task at hand but is constantly perturbed by influences that come from other group mental phenomena ( Bion 1961) and the ‘basic assumption’ group variously dependency, where the group gathers around a leader and appoints a ‘dummy’ that has to he taught; the pairing group: the idea, that two members will produce ‘a new leader figure who will assume full responsibility for the group’s security. The wish, in unconscious phantasy, is that the pair will produce a Messiah, a Saviour, either in the form of a person or an organising idea around which they can cohere’.(Lawrence, Bain and Gould 1996). Fight/Flight suggests there is an enemy to contend with. ‘The
unconscious assumption of the group is that they are met for action which is to preserve itself by fighting someone or something or by taking night from these. The individual is less important than the preservation of the group. Understandably [culture] is profoundly anti-intellectual and will decry as introspective any behaviour which attempts to reach self knowledge through self study’ ( Lawrence, Bain and Gould 1996). Each position, unconsciously held, acts against the group task undermining discipline from without.

War is a difficult subject to address coherently. Two classic texts read today Clauswitz’s ‘On War’published in 1832 and the work of the Chinese sage Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, sets out the conditions under which war is declared and fought, methods and goals. Freedman’s work on strategy during the Great War shows how officials, generals and strategists drew upon myriad disciplines in their undertakings, not least being group theory. It is to wonder how much the group activity of war was, and can be,disrupted by unconscious assumptions with the resulting stalemate in the Great war. Bion’s work on groups deserves further attention in this light.

REFERENCES:

Bion, W H R, (1919) War Memoir 1917-1919, London, Karnac.

(1961), Experiences in groups and other papers, London, Tavistock.

(1975), A memoir of the future, London, Karnac.

(1982), The Long Weekend 1897-1919, London, Karnac.

(1989), All My Sins Remembered : Another Part of a Life and The Other Side of
Genius: Family, London, Karnac.
Eder, Montague David (1917), War-shock, the psycho-neuroses in war: psychology and treatment, London, Heinemann.

Freedman, Lawrence (2013), Strategy: A History, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Fuller, J F C ( 1920), Tanks in the Great War 1914-1918, New York, E P Dutton and Co.

Harris Williams, Meg (1985), The Tiger and “O”, Free Associations http://human-nature.com/free-associations/MegH-WTiger&O.html accessed 2 February 2016

Jacobus Mary,( 2005), The Poetics of Psychoanalysis: In the Wake of Klein, Oxford University Press.

Lawrence, W Gordon, Bain, A and Gould, Laurence ( 1996), The fifth basic assumption
Free Associations Volume 6, Part 1, (No. 37): 2855, http://www.acsa.net.au/articles/thefifthbasicassumption.pdf, accessed 10 02 16.
Myers, Charles (1915), ‘A Contribution to the study of shell shock’, The Lancet Vol. 185, February 13, 1915 pp. 316-320.

Roper, Michael, (2009), The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War, Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Souter, Kay ( 2009), ‘The war memoirs: Some origins of the thought of W R Bion’, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol.90, Issue 4, pp 795-808.

Shell Shock in the Great War: Letters From ‘The Front’.

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The psychological impact of the Great War upon soldiers occupied the thoughts of the leading members of the Australasian Medical Congress in Brisbane held in August 1920. Papers on the use of psychoanalysis in the treatment of neurasthenia was  also noted by London’s Ernest Jones  in the first edition of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis.  The keynote speaker was  John Springthorpe whose paper addressed the lack of psychological components in the syllabus at medical school. the resulting professional ignorance was catastrophic for Australian soldiers at the Front. The final statistics are not in as to how many returned home suffering from shell shock, or endured it for many years afterwards. Nor do we have information about the suicides that resulted although a search through the newspaper archives reveals reportage in 1916, of the suicide of a Mr Peter Hogan, a returned soldier and an inmate of Broughton Military Hospital, who threw himself under a train at Petersham railway station in Sydney.

Springthorpe told the Congress:

We sent men physically unfit to enter upon the strains for which they were temperamentally unsuited, and then back again when their prompt, even immediate breakdown was inevitable. Our medical officers at the front from their ignorance and inexperience, were unable to differentially diagnose the different psychical disabilities incurred, and even more unfit to teat them. Men were punished and even shot ( though not by us), for such disabilities as if they were crimes. After a time the cases got so bad – and dealt with in special hospitals, miles behind the lines but still under shell fire.

No stranger to controversy Springthorpe was among friends and supporters on this occasion. Introducing the Congress, its President, Dr William Taylor, noted that in past wars “old time diseases” had usually killed more than were wounded in the field. In the Great War disease  had been replaced by hellish devices of gas and flame throwing which, coupled with the issue of high explosives, renders ti difficult to conceive how anything had escaped destruction. The resulting inferno along with the misery of the trenches caused the nervous system to be worked up to the highest pitch of tension... Is it to be wondered at that a large number iof soldiers should suffer from neuroses of different kinds to a greater or lesser extent, purely functional in many cases and in others [adding] to the effects of injury. ( Taylor, Proceedings, p. 22).

To learn more about the way people thought about shell shock in war time Australia I typed the  words ‘shell shock’ into the search engine of the Australian National Library’s digitized newspaper collection : TROVE along with the dates: 1 January 1914 to 31 December 1916. I discovered not just  accounts of shell shock and its treatment by medical practitioners, but a seam  letters from soldiers in the field. These had  passed, somehow,  through the censor’s hands to reach their destination.  These were from Australian soldiers. In civilian life they were among the legions of  labourers, clerks and bankers who had enlisted to serve the Empire.  These letters were written to family and friends who forwarded them to the local newspaper editor editors for publication.  Most towns throughout New South Wales where I found most of these letters, had their own newspaper. Editors were well known to the community and, moreover, the folk who forwarded these letters to the paper knew that their townsfolk would be interested in the  progress of their men at war.

In these letters  home the men related their experiences at the battle for Pozieres from 23rd July 1916 until the 4th August, 1916. Often a way of assembling one’s mind after terrible events, the letters are vivid descriptions of thier battle experiences.  By the end of 1916 the term ‘shell shock’ was familiar to the soldiers and, increasingly, to the folk at home. ‘Shell Shock’ had emerged early and surprisingly. By December 1914, shortly after the war’s beginning, reports were reaching London that large numbers of soldiers had been evacuated from the British Expeditionary Force  with nervous and mental shock. (Shepherd, 2002: 21). Charles Myers, a psychologist who investigated the condition likened the condition – with its symptoms of paralysis, the loss of senses, loss of speech and/or  hearing – to hysteria ( Myers 1915).  Initially explained as a sign of weakness and fearfulness, if not degeneracy, shell shock was increasingly understood as a condition which observed neither rank or class. It was as difficult to treat as to understand  although generally, views evolved from an emphasis on physical interpretations at the commencement of the war to acceptance of psychological understandings at its end.

The Letters

Corporal Harold Glover was buried when a shell exploded close to him. He was dug out, unconscious for some hours As recorded by his doctor, John Springthorpe, a Melbourne Psychiatrist who was serving in Military hospitals,  Glover reached England suffering from ‘headaches, tremors, bad dreams, fainting attacks, cardiac pain and general nervous excitability’ (NAA B2455, GLOVER H A). His letter written to his brother was published in the Singleton Argus on 12 October 1916.

Words cannot describe what the situation was like… It was not warfare at all but simply murder. One need not be in the front line of the trenches to get wounded or killed: you get it in your dugoput or simply miles behind the lines…. The sight of the dead and wounded soldiers is nearly enough to make one go mad and thes tench from the dead horses and human bodies is absoletly unbearable at times. Big men cry and are absolutely broken- spirited with the scenes of bombardment… Gallipoli was never like this…

Fred Brown, a former clerk, wrote to his sister:

The dead, both British and German, were in many places piled waist high and when gaps were made in the parapet the biodies were thrown in to fill the gap along with empty rifle equipment and bomb boxes. A man who a few minutes previously was your mate was now a barricade for you. Amongst all the dreadful things of war, the most pitiful is a man who has lost his mental balance. You see dozens upon dozens of them without a scratch, yet ruined for life. ( Gloucester Advocate 1916)

Joseph Jackson, born in 1863, lowered his age to enlist in 1915. After the battle at Pozieres he was admitted to hospital in England and subsequently elected to return to Australia. His letter was published in the Maitland Mercury on 17th January 1917.

We had three go luny ( loony) from sehh shock… It was painful to realize how many good fellows had gone whilst the memory of the agonizing sights of the wounded linger with you… Talk about Hell. wll, if it’s any worse than Pozieres then I don’t want to assist old Nick.

According to Harry Bedford,  some men could not stand the strain. They went off their heads. Holding on until the end of their turn at the front was worst: it is then a man sees a chance of getting out safely and he begtins top think, “Onlu a few more hours to go: I wonder if I will get knocked”.

Springthorpe’s Intervention

At the Congress Springthorpe who had been  embattled with the Repatriation Department since June 1920 asserted that in the field hospitals  psychological treatment for these men was a poor relation to physical treatment.  The hospitals were not especially staffed, he explained. Many men were sent to places not equipped to treat these men. Many remained ‘for months, misunderstood and uncared for until finally disharged, often without any pension, because an uninformed board could find no disabilities’. When they returned to Australia the first arrivals were dismissed, without pension, as malingerers; the next batch dealt with as requiring isolation and restraint. And ever since until the last few weeks, all have been under the triple control of the Defence, Pensions and Repatriation ( Government Offices) without any nexus or comprehensive scheme. 

Legacies of war, apart from names engraved upon country town memorials throughout Australia, were the ongoing trauma of disability, the shattered minds of the traumatized soldiers which in turn tore apart the lives of many families over many years anf generations ( Larsson 2009).
Returned soldiers found they could not simply slip back into their old lives, nor could families make room for them as they had expected.

References:

Charles Myers ( 1915) ‘A Contribution to the study of shell shock: being an account of three cases os loss of memory, vision, smell and taste, admitted into the Duchess of Westminster’s War Hospital, Le Touquet’, The Lancet, 2  February 1915, pp. 316-319.

1916 ‘OUR BOYS AT THE FRONT.’, Singleton Argus (NSW : 1880 – 1954) , 12 October, p. 2, viewed 24 November, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80448930

Gloucester Advocate 4 November 1916, p. 3.

Ben Shepherd ( 2002) A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century, London, Pimlico ( Random House).

John Springthorpe: Australasian Medical Congress, 1920, Section VIII: Neurology and Psychological Medicine, pp. 402-404.

‘John Springthorpe’s Memo on Cardiac and War Neurosis’,National Archives of Australia http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4794937

Dr W Taylor,  Presidential Address, Australasian Medical Congress, 1920, p 22.

1916 ‘Returned Heroe’s Death.’, National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 26 August, p. 2, viewed 24 November, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158525008