05/21/2019, 09:04, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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"Freud is upsetting: reducing one to whirlpool; & I daresay truly. If we´re all instinct, the unconscious, whats all this about civilisation, the whole man, freedom &c?” Virginia Woolf was in two minds about psychoanalysis which she perceived not only as threat and competition, but also as reference point. Perhaps Freud´s rational observations of the mind were too close to comfort for the troubled storyteller.

When Freud met Virginia Woolf she was still resisting the raison d´être of psychoanalysis and described the doctor as “a screwed up shrunk very old man” who seemed “inarticulate: but alert”, “an old fire now flickering” with “immense potential”. This ambivalence would remain at the center of Virginia Woolf´s stance on psychoanalysis. The field was too rational, too objectified for the author´s romanticized approach to her work and self-image. To Freud, creativity was not an abstract concept but strongly linked to an artist´s biography. He took the mystery, the unexplained out of the equation and instead tried to interpret the underlying motives of the creative processes. It knocked the artist´s persona off its pedestal and, consequently, the impact wounded the egos of not a few writers. After all, the truth is rarely as exciting as the eccentric stories artists tend to weave around their lives. Virginia Woolf, however, was not only the victim of her own ego: "Virginia´s need to write was, among other things, to make sense out of mental chaos and gain control of madness. Through her novels she made her inner world less frightening. Writing was often agony but it provided the ´strongest pleasure´ she knew" (Psychiatrist Peter Dally, 1999)...

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