Madness, Nietzsche wrote, is rare in individuals, but in groups it is the norm. Britain today is like a child that has been not only abandoned but literally dropped by its parents. It has broken into two different social groups, two politics, two worldviews but also, beneath the surface, two divergent ways of reorganising what psychoanalysts call an object world.
In August 1934 Samuel Beckett was at his mother’s house in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock. In a letter to his friend Thomas McGreevy, he commented on the psychoanalysis he had been undergoing in London with Wilfred Bion: ‘It is only now that I begin to realize what the analysis has done for me,’ he wrote.
And now I am obliged to accept the whole panic as psychoneurotic – which leaves me in a hurry to get back & get on. Had a long walk with Geoffrey Sunday to Enniskerry & got soaked. He likes you very much & hopes to be writing to you soon.
The ‘whole panic’ is the series of heart palpitations that drove Beckett to seek medical help. Geoffrey is Geoffrey Thompson, an old school and university friend, now a doctor, who consulted with him about his symptoms and advised him to move to London for psychoanalysis.
Geoffrey Thompson was my grandfather.
In 1952, Louise Bourgeois began an analysis with Henry Lowenfeld, visiting him four times a week at his apartment on Central Park West. She stayed with it, on and off, until Lowenfeld’s death in 1985. Lowenfeld had been a member of the rebellious Children’s Seminar in Berlin, run by Wilhelm Reich and Otto Fenichel, both of whom Freud dismissed as troublesome Bolsheviks (Lowenfeld’s father wrote a biography of Trotsky). But, in America, where he emigrated in 1938 – the same year Bourgeois did – he joined the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, a centre of orthodox Freudianism, and rejected his radical past.