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Jacoby, M. (1981). Langegger, Florian (Zürich). ‘Zum Problem der Chronisch Kranken’ (The Problem of the Chronic Mentally Ill). Analytische Psychologie 10, 49-58 (1979).. J. Anal. Psychol., 26(3):270-271.

(1981). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 26(3):270-271

Langegger, Florian (Zürich). ‘Zum Problem der Chronisch Kranken’ (The Problem of the Chronic Mentally Ill). Analytische Psychologie 10, 49-58 (1979).

Review by:
Marianne Jacoby

This article is based on a lecture given at a Symposium on out-patient psychotherapy, Stuttgart-Sonnenberg, 1977.

In his capacity as a Jungian psychologist, the author searches for collective images which express the plight of the chronically ill, hospitalised, psychotic patients. As a psychiatrist, he discusses the psychiatric point of view, according to which one third of psychotic patients are amenable to cure, a further third may improve, but one third remain unchanged. It is to this last third that the author devotes himself.

He asks: where has collective phantasy in myths placed the chronically ill? His search leads him to the mythology of the underworld which, as Hades or Sheol, condemns the sufferers to endure their plight as the living dead, moving around aimlessly, hopelessly, and endlessly. Moreover, Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, flows at the edge of the underworld. The author deplores that psychiatric clinics are segregated from the outer world, their inmates forgotten, while the patients themselves forget their past and the length of their stay in hospital.

The author comments on the patients' Sisyphus labour: glueing paperbags together, endlessly, without reward. But it seems to me that there is Sisyphus labour on the therapist's side too. He points out such countertransference reactions as tiredness, boredom, or a sudden absent-mindedness as defences against the bloodsucker type of patient. As a mythological image for the therapist himself, the author selects Chiron, the centaur and the most ancient of divine healers, who sacrificed himself in order to liberate Prometheus from the underworld.

I would like to add here that on the brighter side Chiron taught his companions the art of music as well as that of healing.

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