A ‘commonsense’ psychoanalysis: Listening to the psychosocial dreamer in interwar Glasgow psychiatry

History of the Human Sciences 34 (3-4):142-168 (2021)
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Abstract

This article historicises a dream analytic intervention launched in the 1930s by Scottish psychiatrist and future professor of psychological medicine at the University of Glasgow, Thomas Ferguson Rodger. Intimate therapeutic meetings with five male patients are preserved within the so-called ‘dream books’, six manuscript notebooks from Rodger’s earlier career. Investigating one such case history in parallel with lecture material, this article elucidates the origins of Rodger’s adapted, rapport-centred psychotherapy, offered in his post-war National Health Service, Glasgow-based department. Oriented in a reading of the revealing fourth dream book, the article unearths a history of the reception and adaptation of psychoanalysis from within a therapeutic encounter and in a non-elite context. Situating Rodger’s psychiatric development in his Glasgow environment, it then contextualises the psychosocial narrative of the fourth book in relation to contrasting therapeutic commitments: an undiluted Freudianism and a pragmatic ‘commonsense’ psychotherapy, tempered to the clinical psychiatric, and often working-class, interwar Glasgow context. An exploration of pre-recorded dreams, transcribed free associations, and ‘weekly reports’ reveals that in practice, Rodger’s Meyerian attitude worked productively with Freudian techniques to ennoble the patient’s psychosocial testimony and personal wisdom. This psychotherapeutic eclecticism underpinned and made visible the patient’s concurrent faith in and resistance to psychoanalytic interpretation. Chronicling a collaborative route to psychotherapeutic knowledge within a discrete encounter, the article situates post-war treatment values in the interwar impasse of outpatient psychiatry.

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