defense mechanisms including intellectualization, projection, reaction-formation, and somatization
2015-04-27, 12:02 a.m.
Psych report on Joan Didion, June 1968:
In June of this year, patient experienced an attack of vertigo, nausea, and a feeling that she was going to pass out… The Rorschach record is interpreted as describing a personality in process of deterioration with abundant signs of failing defenses and increasing inability of the ego to mediate the world of reality and to cope with normal stress… Emotionally, patient has alienated herself almost entirely from the world of other human beings… In a technical sense basic affective controls appear to be intact but it is equally clear that they are insecurely and tenuously maintained for the present by a variety of defense mechanisms including intellectualization, obsessive-compulsive devices, projection, reaction-formation, and somatization, all of which now seem inadequate to their task of controlling or containing an underlying psychotic process and are therefore in process of failure… In quality and level of sophistication patient’s responses are characteristic of those of individuals of high average or superior intelligence but she is now functioning intellectually in impaired fashion at barely average level. Patient’s thematic productions on the Thematic Apperception Test emphasize her fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic, and depressive view of the world around her. It is as though she feels deeply that all human effort is foredoomed to failure… in a world of people moved by strange, conflicted, poorly comprehended, and, above all, devious motivations which commit them inevitably to conflict and failure.
The patient to whom this psychiatric report refers is me. The tests mentioned… were administered privately… shortly before I was named a Los Angeles Times woman of the year. By way of comment I offer only that an attack of vertigo and nausea does not now seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968.