Love as a Cure for Madness

by Richard Gipps

What, as you see it, is the most absurd of our therapeutic fantasies? To imagine that a patient suffering a deep disturbance of the brain’s balance could be cured by a passionate offering of nurture or concern? As I see it, at least, that just about fits the bill. Consider: a middle aged man unexpectedly collapses into a dreadful psychotic depression. His adoring wife and daughter, his therapist, do all they can to care for, pray for, show sympathy to, him…and just three months later he’s killed himself. What went wrong? Didn’t they love him enough?

I started there to get out of the way a deliberately poor reading of our title. So let’s now begin again, thinking on what it could realistically mean to propose love as madness’s cure. Let’s consider Morag.

In her autobiographical Beyond All Reason Morag Coate describes: emotionally remote parents unable to contain her childhood distress; the numbing respite of boarding school; early years of illness, disability and intense theological preoccupation; and an adult life marked by an absence of close relationships (“I hadn’t even been kissed until I was 27”), ps