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and of memories of the past, with a tenderness which moved me deeply and made me cry. He himself was surprised to find me, at my age, expressing the feelings which I did, and he made up his mind to procure all sorts of distractions for me in the holidays. God had decided otherwise. That very evening my headache became extremely bad, and I was seized with a strange trembling, which lasted all night. My aunt, like a true mother, did not leave me for a single instant....How can I describe the misery of my dear father when on his return from Paris he found me in this desperate condition?...God was glorified by the wonderful resignation of my father and that of my sisters, especially by Marie. How she suffered because of me.
Meanwhile, my Mother (Pauline), the day for you to take the habit was approaching; no one spoke of it in my presence,...thinking that I should not be able to go....I knew that Jesus would not try his little fiancée by my absence; she who had already suffered so much from the illness of her little girl. And really I was able to kiss my dear mother, to sit on her knee, and to hide myself under her veil, and to be kissed by her....
Next day I was again violently attacked by the illness, which became so serious that, according to human reckoning, I ought never to have got better....
With what terrors the Devil inspired me! I was afraid of everything; my bed seemed surrounded by frightful precipices; certain nails in the wall of the room took the terrifying form of large black charred fingers, and made me cry out with fear. One day while Daddy was looking at me silently, the hat which he held in his hand was turned into-I cannot say what horrible shape, and I showed such terror, that poor Daddy left me sobbing....
Marie never left me...for I could not bear her to leave me....Ah! my dear sisters, how I made you suffer!
When my suffering was less acute I used to enjoy making wreaths of daisies and forget-me-nots for the Virgin Mary....One day I saw Daddy come into the room; he seemed much moved, and going up to Marie he gave her some money and with an expression of great sadness he begged her to write to Paris for a novena of Masses at the shrine of our Lady of Victories, in order to obtain the recovery of his poor little Queen.
One Sunday during the novena Marie went into the garden,...I began to call "Marie, Marie."...I saw her come in quite clearly, but alas!...I did not recognize her. This inexplicable forced fight caused indescribable suffering, and Marie suffered perhaps even more than her poor Thérèse. At last, after making vain efforts to get me to recognize her...my dear sister...prayed to the Virgin with all the fervour of a mother....I also turned to my heavenly mother. Suddenly the statue became alive.... The holy Virgin came towards me....Then without any effort I recognized my dear Marie.... The little flower was reborn to life, a shining ray of her sweet sun had warmed her, and had delivered her for ever from her cruel enemy.
This account of her illness gives us the Oedipus conflict most clearly. It is present in its complete form1. The positive attitude towards the mother is shown in the making of wreaths for the Virgin and the part that the Virgin plays in the final recovery, though here we must not forget the triumph over the mother in making her play this part; while the hostility to the father is fairly directly expressed. Still, in the main, the positive attitude is directed towards the father and the negative attitude towards the mother. The whole illness is a repetition of the two letters cited above.
The headaches begin when Pauline, who as we remember was chosen to represent the mother when the mother died and is addressed as Mother throughout the book, goes to be married to Christ. Thérèse writes2,
I must now speak of the painful separation which nearly broke my heart, when Jesus took my much loved little mother from me by force. I said to her one day that I should like to go away with her into a faraway desert; she answered that she had the same wish, but that she would wait until I was older. Thérèse took this unrealizable promise seriously.
But Pauline went to the convent (the desert, heaven) without her and so deceived her in two points. Firstly she did not take her with her, and secondly she went to have intercourse with the father herself. The result is her illness which makes amends for this, and fulfills the incestuous desires towards the father, and punishes the mother (Pauline), and punishes herself, of course, both for the one thing and for the other.
Then if we turn to her account of the beginning of the illness, she is at the breast of suffering, that is in the mother's arms, and is to be attacked by the devil, who cannot harm her because the heavenly mother is watching over her.
The severe outbreak of the illness is immediately prefaced by a conversation with the uncle about the dead mother. This tête-à-tête conversation activated the guilt, the enmity and the incestuous desires; the result is a night spent in a masked orgasm, an aunt kept in close attendance, and increased headache.
In the betrothal setting the father (Christ) figure is unseen but none the less present. She is taken on Pauline's lap, and the covering veil completes the womb imagery. The result of this enactment of her phantasy is an exacerbation of the symptoms. The working out of the drama in the recovery takes one directly back to the two letters cited above. She fails to see Marie, meaning that she is dead. "Oh, how I
1 Freud, Das Ich und das Es.
wish you would die my poor little mother...so that you may go to heaven." In the recovery, when the dying had had its turn, Thérèse looks at the "heavenly mother," that is, the mother is now in heaven, and "the little flower is reborn through a ray of her gentle sun" (the father).
The money given for the Masses which are to cause Thérèse to be reborn shows the father's love to her. The mother is a prostitute with whom the father has intercourse, because of the child carried in her womb.
It is unnecessary to say much about the aspect of the punishment of the sisters which is a part of the gratification of the illness, it is always mentioned in connection with her own sufferings and shows an identification. Pauline must suffer for marrying Christ, because the devil is jealous. A useful projection, but the angry devil is the angry God of her childhood, who terrifies her with his phallus. Here, however, is distinct penis envy. Her father is also made miserable.
In the original phantasy the castration of the father is expressed by the place of censorship. What could God do to her then? So the Virgin watches over her, and the devil cannot harm her.
The torpor of which she speaks in her illness, possibly represents the mother lying immovable in the coffin, and the death which takes her to heaven. Years later, when she was watching by the death-bed of the mother superior of the convent (not Pauline), she experienced a sort of torpor, and an awakening from it, at the moment of death, which she calls birth into heaven. She herself links up this death with her own mother's death1.
The day when this venerable mother left her exile for the fatherland (la patrie)-note the expression-I received a very special blessing. It was the first time that I was present at a death-bed; it was really a most entrancing sight. But for the two hours that I spent at the foot of the bed of the dying saint, I was seized with a sort of torpor; I was full of trouble about it, and then at the moment that our mother was born into heaven, I felt filled with an indescribable joy and fervour, as if the blessed soul of our sainted mother had at that moment given me a share of the joy in which she already rejoiced; as I am sure that she went straight to heaven.
There can be no doubt that this phantasy played a large part in her vocation; she writes, "The good master transplanted her (Thérèse) to Mount Carmel, in the garden chosen by the Virgin Mary." Her favourite name for a nun is the "bride of Christ." "I have found my vocation, 1 pp. 25 and 163. 2 p. 8.
it is love! and this place, O my God, it is Thou who hast given it to me, in the heart of the Church my Mother, I shall be love...so I shall be everything1."
Here we find that this child in the womb identification, if we may so call it, satisfies her extraordinary narcissism, of which the following is an amusing example. Her libidinal desires had been stimulated by hearing of the marriage of a cousin of whom she saw a good deal in her childhood. She said it aroused her to try more than ever to please her spouse, "the king of kings." She was at the time instructress of the novices, and in order to bring home to them the greatness of their marriage destiny, she wrote the following lettre de faire part2.
God the almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, Sovereign Lord of the world, and the most Glorious Virgin Mary, Queen of the Heavenly court, invite you to the spiritual marriage of their August Son, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, with little Thérèse Martin,...you are invited to the wedding reception when Jesus...will come in the splendour of His Majesty to judge the quick and the dead.
In the later years of her life the masochism is tremendously increased. Two years before her death she offers herself as "a victim in a holocaust to divine love3." This idea takes up a large portion of this part of the book, and helped her to hasten to her death.
On the eve of Good Friday, eighteen months before she died, she had obtained permission to watch by the sepulchre of Christ until midnight. Such a situation would inevitably have stimulated her incestuous desires, and an haemoptysis which took place about an hour later was greeted with joy as an intimation of going to rejoin her "well-beloved in heaven." Next morning she mentioned what had happened, but made light of it and was allowed to continue fasting. The following night there was another haemoptysis which she regarded in the same light as the first, and no sort of remedy seems to have been given or any notice taken of it, and though later she was given treatment for a cough which she developed, she appears to have followed the severe rule of the convent as long as it was in any way possible for her to do so. As one reads the book one feels that the whole convent identified with her, and her phantasy became a communal phantasy.
The story of the last months of her life is unfortunately not by herself, and so the account of the phantasies underlying her actions is less complete, but we have one version of our phantasy which shows the increasing masochism of the last period. "I know that God wants a little bunch
of grapes, that no one will offer Him....I pray...to the Virgin Mary to remind her son of his title of thief...so that he may not forget to come and steal me." Throughout the last months of her life she showed a particular devotion to the Virgin. One of the remarks reported from her last illness is1, "The devil torments me, I cannot pray, I can only look at the holy Virgin." Her last words were, "My God,...I love you?." Her last action was to look towards and above the statue of the Virgin.
It is interesting to note that "Her great supernatural spirit enabled her to account herself happy to die in the arms of another Prioress (i.e. not her sister) in order to be able once more to practise faith in authority," or once more to repudiate the mother whilst retaining her3.
The chief mechanism involved in this phantasy seems to be a very complete identification with the mother, or even with the mother's genital organ1. The value of the phantasy is enormous. It enables Thérèse to have the incestuous relations with her father which she desires, and at the same time it serves as a reaction formation against the death wishes to her mother; but the purpose of the death wishes is fulfilled, because the mother has ceased to be an envied rival and has become a subservient intermediary. There is an exquisite irony in such a phrase as "the Queen of Heaven watched over her little flower," for the situation is "either you and I," or "neither you nor I." If her mother's jealousy forbids Thérèse gratifications with her father, her mother cannot have them either; if, on the other hand, her mother indulges in them, Thérèse as the genital organ is the chief beneficiary. But she is in no way to blame. She cannot help it if her mother is in heaven with her father. And so by living out her phantasy she attained a fairly happy solution. to her conflicts.
Med. Psych. v
4 This mechanism was put forward by Dr Ernest Jones when this paper was read before the British Psycho-Analytical Society. When I wrote the paper I thought it was a case of bisexuality, a strong homosexual component making it easy for Thérèse to shelter with her mother from her father, and it seems probable that her homosexual impulses would find satisfactions in the situation, and so help towards it, but in thinking the matter over I came to the conclusion that a much more important element was the identification suggested by Dr Ernest Jones, and he kindly gave me permission to incorporate his idea in this study.