This book is one person’s experience of living a dream which does not fit easily into abstract theory, even the author’s own. As she tells us, the dry beach of the conscious mind is a poor relation to the unconscious. Although we speak a common conscious language, socialized by our common culture, it is no easy thing for a man to communicate with even his own unconscious. For psychology, everyone’s experience must be relevant; the experts in this field depend on the experience of others. Theory is little more than an organizing myth, and myths become powerful theories only by remaining sensitive to experience.
Ideally, we would like to be able to apply the content of Barbara’s schizophrenic world to some myth or model, no matter how inadequate, of the unconscious processes. In this connection, two points made by Barbara are particularly interesting to me. The first is her feeling that the drama staged by her unconscious was an attempt to save her from the unbearable, an idea that supports Freud’s hypothesis that the hallucinatory (hysterical) mechanism is an attempt at recovery, not the disease itself. [Sigmund Freud, “On the Mechanism of Paranoia,” in Collected Papers Volume III, London: The Hogarth Press, 1925 Pages 444-470. In fact, Freud credits the idea of hallucinations as attempts at recovery to Jung’s observations that the flight of ideas and motor stereotypes occurring in this disorder (dementia praecox or paraphrenia) are the relics of former object-cathexes, clung to with convulsive energy. Barbara places herself in the diagnostic category of paranoia. It is probably more correct to call her illness paraphrenia, which, as Freud points out, is close to paranoia and can develop from it. The differences are described briefly in the above paper. This paper is worth reading from another angle, also. Barbara’s description of the “cure” offered by the psychoanalyst she saw is quite different from Freud’s theories about paraphrenia and its aeteosis, which he considers less sexual in the normal sense, more related to early infant problems which might better be called problems of trust and autonomy.] Barbara’s hallucinations are not, however, the gods and devils common to another age; they are horrors of Organization Man; they are reactions to forces blocking attempts at creativity in work and attempts to enjoy relationships of trust with others.