The Freud Museum announced earlier this week that it needed £5000 to restore Freud’s couch, the centerpiece of a study crammed with other relics, a cluttered cabinet of antique curiosities that Freud called his ‘old and dirty gods’. (‘Overwhelmed by the response’, they ‘are now seeking to raise around £40,000 to conserve Freud's collection of antiquities’.) The altar of psychoanalysis – on which Dora, Anna O. and the Wolf Man lay like sacrificial victims to the nascent science – is covered with an oriental rug and several opulent cushions; to preserve them the room is lit only with lugubrious light. The couch, behind its velvet rope, is apparently in a state of frayed disrepair that seems entirely appropriate. I always imagined Freud, who sat behind his patients in a green velvet armchair, pulling the loose threads as he disentangled their troubled minds.
I once met an aristocratic woman who had trepanned herself. In her moated Tudor manor outside Oxford, as an African Grey parrot nibbled her ear, she showed me the film she had made of the procedure. She shaved her hairline, bandaged her head, put on dark glasses and a floral shower cap, peeled back a patch of skin with a scalpel and applied the point of a dental drill to her frontal bone. A few minutes later its grinding teeth made it through the dura mater, releasing a geyser of blood. As it gurgled from the half-centimetre opening, she smiled, blood dribbling between her teeth.
In 1952, Louise Bourgeois began an analysis with Henry Lowenfeld, visiting him four times a week at his apartment on Central Park West. She stayed with it, on and off, until Lowenfeld’s death in 1985. Lowenfeld had been a member of the rebellious Children’s Seminar in Berlin, run by Wilhelm Reich and Otto Fenichel, both of whom Freud dismissed as troublesome Bolsheviks (Lowenfeld’s father wrote a biography of Trotsky). But, in America, where he emigrated in 1938 – the same year Bourgeois did – he joined the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, a centre of orthodox Freudianism, and rejected his radical past.