Category Archives: psychotherapists

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

27 idiotic mental health ‘experts’

Dalrymple writes that The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (2017) is

principally an echo chamber for the thoughts and feelings of those who abominate Mr Trump.

The authors relay their political preferences rather than provide any independent or dispassionate knowledge.

Dalrymple’s chief objection to the book

is not so much its transgression of a rule of professional ethics, but its profound, though predictable, banality.

Psychological ‘diagnosis’ of this kind

amounts to little more than re-description of easily and publicly observable traits and conduct. Anyone reading the 360 pages of this book will probably come away with nothing new to him, no fact that he did not know before, and no opinion that he had not heard before.

The explanatory value of the diagnoses offered by the ‘experts’ is

virtually nil.

For example,

we know that Mr Trump has narcissistic personality disorder because he is narcissistic; he is narcissistic because he has narcissistic personality disorder. This is the kind of ‘explanation’ that Molière ridiculed: opium produces sleep because it has within it a dormitive property.

Trump, the book informs us,

lacks self-esteem. That is why he is so narcissistic. He is always trying desperately to compensate for his permanently damaged self-conception.

Of course, says Dalrymple,

if he were a morbidly shy and retiring man, the same lack of self-esteem would explain it. In effect, then, the same factor explains everything from the grossest exhibitionism to the most profound social withdrawal.