Thursday, 19 April 2007

What cannot be written

I commented on the changing style of the articles appearing in the journal Psychomatic Medicine back here. Perhaps to many interested in medical psychology, the psychological hypotheses of fifty years ago seem somewhat speculative, possibly even hopelessly uncontrolled. But can anyone read these studies today without being struck by the originality of the researchers, expressing ideas which would be impossible even to formulate in contemporary journal language?

Take the April 1957 edition, and two papers more or less at random. In Human Camouflage and Identification with the Environment: The Contagious Effect of Archaic Skin Signs, we read:
One of my patients experienced a renewal of eczema of the hands only when childhood fantasies of choking his brother returned.
In several patients with an emotional skin rash I found the Bible story of Jonah and the whale repeatedly appearing in their dream life as a panicky, ambivalent fantasy of skin delight and skin destruction while living in a fantasy womb.
Has the exclusion of this kind of observation been an unmitigated triumph of scientific progress? Ditto for the disappearance of the kind of collaboration between a psychiatrist and surgeon described in Rectal Resection: Psychiatric and Medical Management of Its Sequelae; Report of a Case?

No comments: