Pyschoanalysis and the Blitz

Prof. Daniel Pick

This presentation was a part of Session four: Shock, Rubble, Clearance, From 10:00 am until 1:00 pm on Saturday 12th November, 2011, Lower Ground 02, New Academic Building, Goldsmiths


What did psychoanalysts make of the Blitz? How far was 'the talking cure' relevant to the treatment of immediate casualties or to wider understanding of the psychological stakes of the conflict, and its technologies? How far was 'the talking cure' reshaped by the horrors encountered in this age of total warfare? During the 1940s, as is well known, British psychoanalysts were embroiled in a series of 'controversial discussions', internal to the discipline. These took place firmly behind closed doors in London. Such heated debates, theoretical, technical and highly personal, sometimes appeared to be proceeding with little  regard to the immediate material context: the war against Nazism that was raging, and the aerial bombing that proceeded ferociously outside the consulting rooms and the meeting rooms of psychoanalysts. On one occasion it was said that a contributor had to alert his oblivious colleagues locked in adversarial exchanges to the imminent danger that was signaled by a siren. Yet however absorbed the analysts may have been in battles of ideas and personalities, in fact, for a  number of reasons, that will be sketched by Daniel Pick in this short talk,  the 'inside' of the psychoanalytical institution and 'outside' of the war were intimately and problematically connected.