The possessions at Loudun: tracking the discourse of dissociation
(2017) Journal of Analytical Psychology, 62 (4), pp. 544-566.
Embedded in the history of dissociation is the best known case of possession in European history, the 17th century possessions at Loudun, France (1632-1638). The exorcisms and the trial drew crowds from all over Europe, the outcome prefiguring the direction in which the Western science of mind would be carried. The published debate about the possessed and obsessed Ursuline nuns of Loudun spans four centuries. One can track how theorizing about dissociation changed over time, with psychological contributions by Jean Martin Charcot, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, Pierre Janet, Michel Foucault and Michel de Certeau. Freud’s psychoanalytic notion of demonological neurosis emphasized defensive strategies and a diabolic parody of adulthood. Jung’s concepts of demonism and possession highlighted dissociated complexes that assimilate the ego and unseat the self, rendering a life ‘provisional’. Dissociation as possession provides a through-line in Jung’s Collected Works, from his 1902 dissertation to one of the last essays he wrote, in 1961. Within the context of psychotherapy, therapists and patients work towards psychological containment, consciously reorienting themselves to the presence of unconscious factors, personifying, embodying and thereby incorporating images of dissociated Otherness into the experience of selfhood. © 2017, The Society of Analytical Psychology
Charcot; de Certeau; demonism; dissociation; Janet; obsession; possession; self