Category Archives: cognitive defect

W.E. Henley’s toxic stoicism

W.E. Henley: emotional constipation

Dalrymple draws attention to the distressing mental disorder exhibited in ‘Invictus’ (1875):

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbow’d.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

He notes that the deranged ‘fortitude’ and emotional repression that the poem betrays are deeply problematic, being

part of what is known, including by the American Psychological Association, as toxic masculinity.

‘Fortitude’ is treason to the self

Dalrymple says that

if only Henley had been true to himself, he wouldn’t have bothered with all that captain-of-my-soul stuff.

Instead he would have gone into

  • counselling
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • psychotherapy

Courses of treatment of this kind, which might usefully have been accompanied by colectomy, frontal leucotomy, Metrazol-induced convulsion therapy, laxative therapy, and insulin coma therapy (Insulinschockbehandlung),

would really have sorted him out and rid him of the poisonous notion that misfortune was something to be overcome by making the best of things.

Dalrymple points out that in advertising his neurosis by producing verse of such hysterical irrationality, Henley

set a very bad example, for not everyone can overcome misfortune as did he. By becoming famous, by achieving a great deal despite pain and illness all his life, he inhibited myriad others from admitting their vulnerability and victimhood, thereby reinforcing toxic masculinity.

Rather,

it was Henley’s duty to have been angry and resentful at his fate, thereby giving work to psychologists and psychotherapists. If everyone went round being the captain of his soul, what would there be for psychologists to do? They would need counselling about their loss of income.

Henley lived in Woking in the latter part of his life, though he also maintained a flat in this Battersea block

St John the Baptist Churchyard, Cockayne Hatley, Bedfordshire

Kim Jong-il’s dropsy and dipsomania

Dalrymple offers a diagnostic opinion after examining a number of photographs:

The Dear Leader had had a left-sided stroke, not surprisingly as he was a diabetic. His left arm hangs limply, atrophied but with the back of his hand slightly œdematous…sometimes he holds the left with his right hand…as hemiplegics often do. The fingers…are permanently flexed as after a stroke, and when he picks something up he uses his right hand…his left arm hangs useless….His facial expression is…vacant or…puzzled (though with a touch of malignity), as if he were suffering from cognitive defect….He looks at his happiest when examining a bottle of…vodka.

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White spirit brings a smile to the face of the Dear Leader and Eternal General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea