Lucy Vickery

Going mental

Text settings

In Competition No. 2931 you were invited to submit a psychiatric report on a well-known figure in literature.

Shakespearean characters featured strongly in the entry, but it was children’s books that provided the most fertile hunting ground. Pretty much all of the inhabitants of Hundred Acre Wood — and of Wonderland — found themselves on the shrink’s couch, as did Mr Toad (bipolar); William Brown (ADHD; gender/body dysmorphia); and Rupert Bear (Asperger’s).

Honourable mentions go to Amanda Nicholson, Julia Pickles, Alan Millard and Alanna Blake, but D.A. Prince is star performer this week and is rewarded with the bonus fiver. Her fellow winners earn £30.

AM is a former sailor, suffering a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and associated feelings of persecution after his last ‘trip’. (Note: we have not established hallucinogenic substance abuse although detail — spectral figures, fantastical sea creatures etc — suggest this is possible.) His flashbacks are linked to blame/guilt consequent on estrangement from peer support after the killing of a bird, possibly an albatross: this may represent unresolved childhood trauma (or unhappy relationship vis-à-vis his mother) but AM is not yet sufficiently focused to explore this. Currently we accept his story as presented and the voices (two) he hears. To facilitate this he addresses me as ‘Hermit’.

AM is underweight (long and lank) but capable of independent living in a settled community to whom he presents no danger. He is exploring taking control of his own ‘story’ through talking therapies; we continue to monitor this.

D.A. Prince

J has managed not merely to suppress the id but to extinguish it altogether, his ego taking full control of the self. This has become essential in order to maintain his role in a co-dependent relationship with his employer, B, the rampancy of whose id necessitates this compensatory response. J scores exceptionally in all IQ tests, going so far as to suggest ingenious improvements to them with a politeness typical in the passive aggressive. J, a valet by occupation, reveals himself when describing himself as ‘a gentleman’s personal gentleman’; his unwillingness to discuss possible homoerotic implications from this appellation confirming its importance. Obsessive compulsive traits being occupationally advantageous to him, J seeks to cultivate rather than cure them. Asked to keep a dream diary, J produced a vivid journal confirming all my psychoanalytic theories: it proved as artful a contrivance as any novel. J’s phobia of the banjolele warrants investigation.

Adrian Fry

Mr Leopold Bloom is a bipolar male of Jewish extraction suffering from severe inhibition loss. He is passive-aggressive towards his wife, a lively, attractive female with considerable musical ability, preferring the company of his cat. His jealousy of his wife’s artistic success and his consequent mental and sexual self-abuse have distorted his marital relations to breaking point. His delusional pretence that he is a character from Greek myth is a prominent feature of his psychosis, which is driven by subconscious identification with heroic gestures often imaginary and grandiose. His unrealised homosexual feelings are expressed in inappropriate liaisons with younger men whom he befriends in the vague hope of watching them copulate with his wife in revenge for her supposed infidelities. Hospitalisation is unfortunately not possible at present due to pressure on beds but a course of Xanax is indicated as a satisfactory substitute, probably for life.

Josh Ekroy

Miss Shalott is a young lady of aristocratic pretensions who presents as persistently hypnagogic, with some signs of hyperthyroidism (restless hands, as if constantly weaving). She suffers from long spells of mutism, and early tests suggest she has bhavatonin receptors in the hippocampus — a rare problem associated with repetitive chanting. It can seem as if stimulants are involved: her steady stony glance gives this (false) impression. There may be some hypothalamic dysfunction. She is certainly hyperactive, and morbidly afraid of desisting from slight movement, although principally supine. She has a worrying predilection for clothing fashionable in the late 1960s. Also concerning is her attraction to dim light, or shadow, of which she is ‘half sick’— placing herself midway on the spectrum between wellness and unwellness. There is a problematic addiction to authority, and obedience to it (cf. Milgram et al), which I have found personally difficult.

Professor Searle Arnzel-Aut FRCPsych

Bill Greenwell

The failure of M. Godot to attend any of his appointed sessions has not made analysis easy; it suggests, however, a strong compulsion to make others wait anxiously for his appearance. This in itself allows insight into the roots of his neurosis. From the passive-aggressive tactic of arbitrarily withholding his presence it is easy to deduce a (largely unconscious) need to normalise his own anxieties by recreating them in those whom he leaves waiting hopefully (albeit hopelessly) in the lurch. Significant doubts about his own identity and perhaps even doubts about his own ability to be genuinely present-in-the-world are quashed by the excitement of adopting an utterly negative persona, a human lacuna with the power of what Lacan calls a ‘presence made of absence’. What triggered such compulsive self-withdrawal? My speculation is that he unconsciously seeks revenge on a love-object who spurned him in early manhood. Possibly a waiter.

George Simmers

No. 2934: rich rhymes

You are invited to submit poems suitable for inclusion in Now We Are Rich (16 lines maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 4 February.