What do we mean when we say we are ‘giving up’?

Oscar Nemon’s statue of Sigmund Freud at the Tavistock Clinic glares out with such a contemptuous look of superior knowledge that Freud’s housekeeper told him it made him look too angry. ‘But I am angry,’ replied Freud. ‘I am angry with humanity.’ Meanwhile, the cover image of Adam Phillips’s new book on psychoanalysis is a detail of a figure from Michelangelo’s ‘Last Judgment’, cast down to damnation, face in hand, his eyes wracked with fear and regret, his muscular ring finger grinding anxiously into his muscular forehead. If you didn’t recognise him from the Sistine Chapel you could imagine an angry Freud, not an impassive Christ, glaring at him just

The death of royalty

The cohorts of Hamas have invaded my neighbourhood. I was walking my dog, Maxi, in the afterglow of a shower that had lit the pavements with a pearlescence you normally see only in the piazzas of Syracuse, when I paused to look at the posters of kidnapped Israelis that someone had hung opposite Gail’s. I was thinking that I should have brought flowers, when they were upon us. Two women, their faces slack with the stupidity of hate, started tearing at the sad tributes with their carmine fingernails, screaming obscenities about Israel and the Jews. I didn’t know what the etiquette was on occasions like these, so I picked up

The glory of Paris has long past

Gstaad A reader’s inquiry as to why I think Paris belongs to yesterday (12 August) has me remembering times past. When did the party end? According to many night owls it was when the ‘Queen of the Night’, Regine, shut down her club New Jimmy’z and moved to London in the 1970s, where she flopped. Others believe it was ‘les événements de soixante-huit’, the student-worker revolt against De Gaulle that did Paris in. Certainly, any way one looks at it, the events of 1968 did signal that the party was over; and it has stayed over ever since. Mind you, the high jinks had been waning for some time. I

Why America’s attitude to mental illness is dangerously deluded

A friend who works in social care speaks to me earnestly about a troubled young colleague: ‘Of course, she’s got a borderline personality disorder…’ I check her there: ‘What do you mean by that?’ She thinks for a moment and continues: ‘Well, she’s very emotional, she can’t maintain relationships, and she’s very defiant…’ I wait for a moment to see if there’s anything else before I say my bit: ‘Perhaps she just has a bad character — because fundamentally that’s all a personality disorder is: epithetic psychiatry. There’s no defined organic basis for these so-called disorders, no psycho-dynamic aetiology either, no progression — and, of course, no cure.’ My friend

Liberate yourself from sexual repression the Wilhelm Reich way

When she was 22, Olivia Laing had a sensual epiphany in Brighton. She’d been drawn into a herbalist’s massage parlour by the sign outside claiming that headaches, anger, depression and colds — in fact any symptoms at all — were caused by stuck energy from past traumas that body psychotherapy could release. ‘The idea of the body as a storage unit for emotional distress excited me,’ she writes. Just as well she didn’t present with cancer or the symptoms of Covid. At the time, Laing’s body was, she thought, a cataclysm of inaccessible traumas: ‘I was so rigid and stiff I flinched when anyone touched me, like a mousetrap going