Category Archives: emotional constipation

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

Dalrymple on…

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 18.02.43♦ his reportage
I was just describing what I saw. I probably made it less terrible. I saw almost straight away that raw want was not the explanation.

♦ moral relativism
It has disastrous effects on those worst off, those least able to withstand the practical results of moral anarchy.

♦ loss of self-control
It leaves people trapped in cheerless self-pitying hedonism and the brutality of the dependency culture.

♦ the British
Now they are all the Lumpenproletariat.

♦ middle-class emulation of the barbarian
When you imitate something, the role becomes the reality.

♦ Jimmy Savile
The start of an evangelical vulgarisation that has proved unstoppable.

♦ English downward cultural aspiration
Among the causes:
Loss of confidence of the middle class (which is quite easy to enter, unlike France which is far more snobbish).
⇒ Loss of British power and influence in the world. It’s catastrophic when that happens.
In France, politicians pretend to be more cultured than they are; in Britain it’s the opposite.

♦ exports of UK vulgarity
Why anyone finds British culture attractive I can’t imagine.

♦ British urban residents
Barbarians camped out in the ruins of an older, superior civilisation they don’t understand.

♦ litter
You don’t have to wait 3,000 years for litter to become archæology before it tells you something. You can track diet, habits, attitudes, how people see the world. It’s a complete loss of interest in the public space.

♦ his character
People have great difficulty marking themselves out as individuals. I didn’t, but I’m odd. From an early age I was contrary. Not in any aggressive or egotistical way. But I was always quite happy that I knew best. It’s not true, of course, but I never let it destroy the illusion.

♦ the worst fate
To be an intelligent and sensitive person born into the British underclass. The social pressure on you to fail is enormous. I remember a girl who wanted to study French but ‘they said I was stupid because I was clever’. Can you imagine growing up in that environment?

♦ British education
A modern miracle. People come out of school knowing less than when they went in.

♦ England’s cultural level
Extremely low, at least on a mass scale. The British are so degraded culturally they can’t even answer the telephone properly.

♦ Britain’s ‘service economy without the service’
The English can’t tell the difference between service and servitude, which is a terrible thing in a service economy.

♦ emotional constipation
The British used to be known for it. Now it’s emotional incontinence.

♦ why he became a psychiatrist
The gossip.

♦ disappointment
The permanent condition of mankind. Life would be intolerable without it. We would all be so smug.

♦ tolerance
A society that tolerates everything is rather bad. Shouting, screaming, intimidation. We are prepared to tolerate public vomiting, but if you use the term ‘actress’, you are a sexist. A very well-educated lady told me public vomiting is all right: ‘They can clear it up.’ This is how the élite thinks. They are so anxious not to seem narrow-minded or bigoted, or of being ‘judgmental’.

The English were constipated: now they’re incontinent

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 21.17.05Dalrymple explains that his account of Britain as a declining, broken society is

ironic in the sense that I don’t think there was a golden age in which society was whole.

But

we have to look at the problems we have. Every age looks at the problems it has, and what I’ve found in England is a refusal to face the problems: they’re just too uncomfortable.

Dalrymple says it is, to a degree, a

puzzle

as to why Britain has become more degraded than all other comparable countries. But he points to

a gestalt switch: what was regarded as good is regarded as bad, and vice-versa. Emotional constipation, once a characteristic of the British, has become emotional incontinence. People regard it as a good thing to express themselves, irrespective of whether they’ve anything to express.

For reasons of hormonal disaffection, young people are disposed to throw themselves into ideological causes. They are susceptible to ideological rot, as they are to criminality,

which is a young man’s game.

With regard to English anti-social life, Dalrymple says:

If you go to entertainment areas, there is always an element of threat in Britain.

He recounts an experience he had in Manchester, where he was staying at an hotel.

There was laughing and screaming outside at 1.30 in the morning. When I went out the next morning, I found that someone had been nearly murdered — he was in hospital, in a coma. You can’t tell the difference in England between people enjoying themselves and someone being murdered.