Contact with Jung: Essays on the influence of his work and personality
It was contact with Jung the man and with his work that led me to a study of this subject. The man I met first in 1938.
My training analyst had himself been trained by a pupil of Jung.
My case work was done under the supervision of a present member of the Society of Analytical Psychology.
On the occasion of my first meeting with Jung we had just seen the play Glorious Morning, which dealt with resistance to the Nazi movement. seeing of this play was called by the Professor a ‘valid experience’.
I have never understood why Jung (like P. G. Wodehouse) was wrongfully thought to be pro-Nazi.
The next occasion was in the summer of 1947 when I had tea with him at his home in Kusnacht.
Those two hours for me produced a ‘valid experience’.
We talked of many things, including the summer conference for which Heinz Westmann and I were responsible, in order to develop Jungian ideas in various walks of life-especially the practice of dialogue, group discussion, and enantiodromia.
Most of the time was given to discussing the group psychotherapy which I was then practising at the Tavistock Clinic.
Jung told me of bis experiment before the first world war in the group psychotherapy of scbizophrenics in the Burgholzli.
We then talked of the idea which forms the title of this paper.
We now bring about a schizophreniform illness by hallucinogenic drugs. In doing this we accelerate the production of the symbols of transformation.
I have found that enough time must Schizophreniform Illness as a Therapeutic Process be given between the treatments for assimilation and interpretation;
not only that the therapist, in dealing with the patient who is revealing archetypes and his shadow side, must himself be aware of his own shadow side.
About five years ago a patient came under my care in the mental hospital where I work. He was thirty-five.
He complained of strange sensations, and felt he was in possession of a power he had never experienced before.
He had the idea that a supernatural female was calling on him to follow her.
He felt that he was soon to die, and that he was the reincarnation of great figures in history.
He was the son of a widow. Felix Brown’s studies (1961) have shown that this itself can be a precipitating factor in psychological illness.
This patient was single and, as in most cases of this type, he was frustrated in his effort to attain the major objective in life in terms of his own picture of himself Like others in a similar situation, the problem lay in the field of personal relationships, in which he had an acute sense of failure.
He felt isolated from the group through a social judgement which he pronounced on himself He began to build up in defence a delusional misinterpretation which accompanied his emotional disturbance.
It was manifested at one stage of the illness in a depressive episode in which he lost all interest in the external world and in himself, and felt as if he were dead.
This disturbance was like a febrile illness and was part of the therapeutic process.
Very often these cases proceed to disintegration and the old phase of dementia praecox, true schizophrenia, which Jung believed has a physical factor.
There is, in this type of case, an eruption of unconscious contents interpreted as manifestations of the supernatural.
This phase can be repeated by the hallucinogenic drugs which seem to speed up the unconscious component of the individuation process.
It is important for the patient to have sufficient ego strength to cope with the uprush of the unconscious contents.
To ascertain ego strength, I usually had a Rorschach test done by a psychologist familiar with Jungian techniques.
It is as if the ‘self’ had descended into the region of the mind where it was no longer in control but at the mercy of primitive and terrifying ideas and imagery.
My patient had the idea of a coming cataclysm alternating with the feeling of being possessed of great power.
He had ideas of death, catastrophe in the universe, and an identification with the universe. Ideas of rebirth, of having existed before, and of being called upon to do some great work, were also present.
There was a profound regression, which in the end was to be a psychosis that served to clear up problems which had for years been obstructing the normal functioning and development of his personality.
His autochthonous ideas seemed to be the result of his ‘journey’ into the deeper layers of his psyche.
The regression into the depths was an attempt to assimilate previously unassimilated areas of his experience.
There was a changing of his old attitudes to a new outlook.
The illness was purposive, and all that one could do was to help ‘the integrating factor’ in the transforming of the obstructions to his development.
The patient was seen several times weekly and listened to while he described his bizarre ideas.
These were accepted as part of the recovering process as in any febrile delirium.
He constantly dreamed of himself carrying a mop and pail.
This dream was accompanied by a lightening of his symptoms.
I did not understand it until some time after his discharge, when I learned that he was doing voluntary evening work with a family service unit which catered for problem families.
I was once chairman of such a group of workers, and residential for the same kind of family.
The workers called themselves the ‘mop and pail’ brigade, since they visited homes thus equipped, and worked with the families in rehabilitating the ‘down-and-out’ homes.
My patient achieved social adaptation.
From being a solitary mother-fixated individual with fears of adaptation to the other sex, he mixed freely in voluntary work with a team of both sexes and was a popular member of the group.
He was no longer shy but able to make satisfactory personal relationships.
Not every such schizophreniform illness has a satisfactory result.
Our mental hospitals are half full of the failures, the drifters, the dreamers, the ineffective Messiahs.
Russell Brain has studied the linkage between emotional instability and genius in Some Reflections on Genius and Other Essays (1960).
The case described seemed to have a preoccupation with religious ideas.
The founder of the Quakers, George Fox, had a Schizophreniform Illness as a Therapeutic Process similar illness which lasted from the age of nineteen to twenty-three.
In this illness he had grandiose delusions, identification with the universe, a feeling of a new birth, deep depression, and thought he had sinned against the Holy Ghost.
He recovered and founded a movement which has had very great influence in proportion to its membership. From being a solemn, self-righteous, obstinate, hyper-sensitive boy he developed courage, great feeling, and a remarkable influence over men.
His symptoms of instability became fewer and fewer, and he became integrated, disciplined, and possessed of an understanding and healthy critical judgement.
He had a brief second schizophreniform episode twenty years later, but recovered to go on and extend his work.
John Bunyan was another religious genius who has left a record of his schizophreniform illness, which was also of four years’ duration and occurred in his twenties.
He had alternating hope and despair, and many symptoms similar to those of George Fox, including the feeling of committing the unforgivable sin.
His experience was not so profound. Professor Royce of Harvard (1898) said he had a ‘heavy and morbid load of nervous ill’.
Bunyan himself looked on his ilh1ess as constructive and problem solving.
He was not a religious genius in spite of his disabilities, but because of this experience and its outcome in integration.
St. Paul is another who has been studied.
He had a cataclysmic experience which resulted in a reorganization of his life.
He had hallucinations similar to those we find in our L.S.D. cases, followed by a period of three years of confusion and disorder, which resulted in his being instrumental in making Christianity a world-wide religion.
It appears that the stages of disturbance that these men went through accompanied the attainment of some near insight and a reorganization of their personalities.
Jung suggests that the ‘daimon’ seems to triumph over the ‘demon’.
During a period in charge of the Quaker Hospital, The Retreat, in York, I discovered in a visitor’s book a comment written by Elizabeth Fry who must have been familiar with all this.
She wrote: ‘Treat the insane as if they were sane.’
Over a hundred years ago this was done in The Retreat, and a long follow-up showed that the relapse rate was half what it is today when we rush to relieve symptoms. ~Alfred Torrie, Contact with Jung, Pages
There is nothing new in this thesis, but Jung gave it a new meaning and a scientific basis.
It was also held by Stack Sullivan (1924), who wrote of patients who before their psychosis had been emotionally unstable, excessively sensitive, and extremely self-conscious, but emerged from the illness open and frank, with previous defects either mitigated or overcome. ~Alfred Torrie, Contacts with Jung, Pages 82-85