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Waddell, M. Williams, G. (1991). Reflections on perverse states of mind. Free Associations, 2(2):203-213.

(1991). Free Associations, 2(2):203-213

Feature: Perversion

Reflections on perverse states of mind

Margot Waddell and Gianna Williams

‘I want to eat pooh food and grow up and live dying.’ This was the chilling response of four-year-old Nigel to his therapist's attemptsto make sense of the child's hopeless confusion.1 One can hardly find a more dramatic and searing expression of the perverse state of mind. In so entitling this paper, we tried to establish our central interest, not so much in sexual perversion as such, but in perversions of character — the distortion and misuse of psychic and external reality: the slaughter of truth.

Rather than defining what we mean by perversion at this stage, we would like to begin by giving some clinical illustrations of perverse states of mind, and then proceed from the observable material to formulate a hypothesis about its meaning. Nigel, totally trapped in what we would call a ‘perverse state of mind’, was not, at this point, reachable through interpretations about his alliance with a destructive part of himself — what became known between him and his therapist as ‘the muddling Nigel”.’ He seemed, rather, to relish the alliance. He would state firmly, ‘I am not listening to you, because I like listening to the “muddling Nigel”’.

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