Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Tommy, Primal Therapy, and the Counter-cultural Critique of “Sick Society” and “Cripple Psychology”

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2015), 9, (2), 207–223.

Abstract

One of the criticisms the counterculture aimed at post-war capitalist society was that commonly held mental states were “disabled” or “diseased.” This stigmatization of those who did not adopt the counterculture’s norms risked reinstating the dynamic of oppression that was ostensibly being overthrown. Sickness and disability are central to The Who’s “rock opera” Tommy (1969), which used a multiply disabled character to signify most people’s impoverished psychological existence. However, the plot and iconography of Tommy warn that the alternative lifestyles associated with “the 1960s” risk imposing new codes of conformity. Given its countercultural origins, it is unsurprising that Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy posited everyday life as existentially and literally disabling, but like Tommy it understood many of the counterculture’s activities as pathological alternatives. The article finishes by analysing James Saunders’s play Bodies (1977), which dramatized the tyrannous potential of Janov’s claim that Primal Therapy alone could ensure healthy, fully able lives.

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Laing, R.D. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise. 1967. London: Penguin, 1990. Print. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. Self and Others. 1961. London: Tavistock, 1969. Print. Self and Others Google Scholar

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Lennon, John. John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band. Perf. John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. Apple, 1970. LP. John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band Google Scholar

Marcuse, Herbert. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory. Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. 1968. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972. Print. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory Google Scholar

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper, 1954. Print. Motivation and Personality Google Scholar

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Sanders, Rick, and David Dalton. “Pete Townshend.” Rolling Stone 12 July 1969: 16–18. Microfilm. Pete Townshend Rolling Stone 16 18 Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Bodies. [1977?]. TS. Box 4 Folder 4 of the James Saunders Papers. Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX. Bodies Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Bodies. London: French, 1979. Print. Bodies Google Scholar

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Sedgwick, Peter. Psycho Politics. London: Pluto, 1982. Print. Psycho Politics Google Scholar

Staub, Michael E. Madness Is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011. Print. Madness Is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980 Google Scholar

The Who: The Making of Tommy. Dir. Martin R. Smith. BBC4. 25 Oct. 2013. Box of Broadcasts. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. The Who: The Making of Tommy Google Scholar

Tommy. Dir. Ken Russell. Perf. Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, and Roger Daltrey. Columbia Pictures, 1975. Film. Tommy Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Interview by Jann Wenner. Rolling Stone 14 Sept. 1968: 1+. Microfilm. Rolling Stone Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Interview by Peter Watts. The Great Wen. Peter Watts, 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 30 Dec. 2013. The Great Wen Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Who I Am. London: Harper, 2012. Print. Who I Am Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete, with Sonny Boy Williamson, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. Tommy. Perf. The Who. Polydor, 1969. LP. Tommy Google Scholar

Wilkerson, Mark. Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend. London: Omnibus, 2008. Print. Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend Google Scholar

Williams, Paul, and Brian Edgar. “Up against the Wall: Primal Therapy and ‘the Sixties.’” May 68. Spec. issue of European Journal of American Studies (2008). Web. 6 July 2012. Up against the Wall: Primal Therapy and ‘the Sixties.’ Spec. issue of European Journal of American Studies Google Scholar

Barnes, Richard, and Pete Townshend. The Story of Tommy. Twickenham: Eel Pie, 1977. Print. The Story of Tommy Google Scholar

Burston, Daniel. The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D. Laing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1996. Print. The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D. Laing Google Scholar

Barnes, Richard, and Pete Townshend. The Story of Tommy. Twickenham: Eel Pie, 1977. Print. The Story of Tommy Google Scholar

Clare, Anthony W., and Sally Thompson. Let’s Talk about Me: A Critical Examination of the New Psychotherapies. London: BBC, 1981. Print. Let’s Talk about Me: A Critical Examination of the New Psychotherapies Google Scholar

Burston, Daniel. The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D. Laing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1996. Print. The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D. Laing Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Difficult Positions. New York: New York UP, 2002. Print. Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Diffcult Positions Google Scholar

Clare, Anthony W., and Sally Thompson. Let’s Talk about Me: A Critical Examination of the New Psychotherapies. London: BBC, 1981. Print. Let’s Talk about Me: A Critical Examination of the New Psychotherapies Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Difficult Positions. New York: New York UP, 2002. Print. Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Diffcult Positions Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. New York: Verso, 1995. Print. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body Google Scholar

Ginsberg, Allen. The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937–1952. Ed. Juanita Liebermann-Plimpton and Bill Morgan. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2006. Print. The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937–1952 Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. New York: Verso, 1995. Print. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body Google Scholar

Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl.” Howl and Other Poems.San Francisco: City Lights, 1994. 9–26. Print. Howl Howl and Other Poems Google Scholar

Ginsberg, Allen. The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937–1952. Ed. Juanita Liebermann-Plimpton and Bill Morgan. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2006. Print. The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937–1952 Google Scholar

Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl.” Howl and Other Poems.San Francisco: City Lights, 1994. 9–26. Print. Howl Howl and Other Poems Google Scholar

Halliwell, Martin. Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945–1970. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2013. Print. Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945–1970 Google Scholar

Halliwell, Martin. Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945–1970. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2013. Print. Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945–1970 Google Scholar

Herman, Ellen. The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. Print. The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts Google Scholar

Irwin, Jim. “James Saunders.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 5 Feb. 2004. Web. 12 Jan. 2014. James Saunders The Guardian Google Scholar

Herman, Ellen. The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. Print. The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur. “On Homosexuality as a Normal Variant of Human Sexuality.” Janov’s Reflections on the Human Condition. Arthur Janov, 8 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. On Homosexuality as a Normal Variant of Human Sexuality Janov’s Reflections on the Human Condition Google Scholar

Irwin, Jim. “James Saunders.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 5 Feb. 2004. Web. 12 Jan. 2014. James Saunders The Guardian Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur. “On Homosexuality as a Normal Variant of Human Sexuality.” Janov’s Reflections on the Human Condition. Arthur Janov, 8 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. On Homosexuality as a Normal Variant of Human Sexuality Janov’s Reflections on the Human Condition Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur. The Primal Revolution. 1972. London: Garnstone, 1974. Print. The Primal Revolution Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur. The Primal Revolution. 1972. London: Garnstone, 1974. Print. The Primal Revolution Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur. The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis. New York: Delta, 1970. Print. The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur. The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis. New York: Delta, 1970. Print. The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur, and E. Michael Holden. Primal Man: The New Consciousness. 1975. London: Sphere, 1977. Print. Primal Man: The New Consciousness Google Scholar

Janov, Arthur, and E. Michael Holden. Primal Man: The New Consciousness. 1975. London: Sphere, 1977. Print. Primal Man: The New Consciousness Google Scholar

Kripal, Jeffrey John. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007. Print. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness. 1960. London: Penguin, 1990. Print. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness Google Scholar

Kripal, Jeffrey John. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007. Print. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise. 1967. London: Penguin, 1990. Print. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness. 1960. London: Penguin, 1990. Print. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. Self and Others. 1961. London: Tavistock, 1969. Print. Self and Others Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise. 1967. London: Penguin, 1990. Print. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. Self and Others. 1961. London: Tavistock, 1969. Print. Self and Others Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. “Transcendental Experience in Relation to Religion and Psychosis.” The Psychedelic Review 6 (1965): 7–15. MAPS. Web. 30 Dec. 2013. Transcendental Experience in Relation to Religion and Psychosis The Psychedelic Review 6 7 15 Google Scholar

Laing, R.D. “Transcendental Experience in Relation to Religion and Psychosis.” The Psychedelic Review 6 (1965): 7–15. MAPS. Web. 30 Dec. 2013. Transcendental Experience in Relation to Religion and Psychosis The Psychedelic Review 6 7 15 Google Scholar

Lennon, John. John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band. Perf. John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. Apple, 1970. LP. John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band Google Scholar

Lennon, John. John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band. Perf. John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. Apple, 1970. LP. John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band Google Scholar

Marcuse, Herbert. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory. Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. 1968. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972. Print. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory Google Scholar

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper, 1954. Print. Motivation and Personality Google Scholar

Marcuse, Herbert. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory. Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. 1968. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972. Print. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory Google Scholar

Osborne, Carol. “From Primals to Inner Children: Margaret Atwood’s Reflections on Therapy.” LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory 6 (1995): 181–95. Print. From Primals to Inner Children: Margaret Atwood’s Reflections on Therapy LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory 6 181 95 Google Scholar

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper, 1954. Print. Motivation and Personality Google Scholar

Osborne, Carol. “From Primals to Inner Children: Margaret Atwood’s Reflections on Therapy.” LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory 6 (1995): 181–95. Print. From Primals to Inner Children: Margaret Atwood’s Reflections on Therapy LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory 6 181 95 Google Scholar

Picard, Lil. “An Artist with Balls is Worth Two in the Gallery / Round 2.” East Village Other 29 Mar.–4 Apr. 1968: 10+. Print. An Artist with Balls is Worth Two in the Gallery / Round 2 East Village Other Google Scholar

Picard, Lil. “An Artist with Balls is Worth Two in the Gallery / Round 2.” East Village Other 29 Mar.–4 Apr. 1968: 10+. Print. An Artist with Balls is Worth Two in the Gallery / Round 2 East Village Other Google Scholar

“A Play on Primal.” Primal Institute Newsletter Aug. 1983: 2. Print. A Play on Primal Primal Institute Newsletter Google Scholar

“A Play on Primal.” Primal Institute Newsletter Aug. 1983: 2. Print. A Play on Primal Primal Institute Newsletter Google Scholar

Rosen, R.D. Psychobabble. New York: Avon, 1979. Print. Psychobabble Google Scholar

Rosen, R.D. Psychobabble. New York: Avon, 1979. Print. Psychobabble Google Scholar

Sanders, Rick, and David Dalton. “Pete Townshend.” Rolling Stone 12 July 1969: 16–18. Microfilm. Pete Townshend Rolling Stone 16 18 Google Scholar

Sanders, Rick, and David Dalton. “Pete Townshend.” Rolling Stone 12 July 1969: 16–18. Microfilm. Pete Townshend Rolling Stone 16 18 Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Bodies. [1977?]. TS. Box 4 Folder 4 of the James Saunders Papers. Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX. Bodies Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Bodies. [1977?]. TS. Box 4 Folder 4 of the James Saunders Papers. Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX. Bodies Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Bodies. London: French, 1979. Print. Bodies Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Bodies. London: French, 1979. Print. Bodies Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Draft fragments of Bodies. Undated. TS. Box 4 Folder 5 of the James Saunders Papers. Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX. Draft fragments of Bodies Google Scholar

Sedgwick, Peter. Psycho Politics. London: Pluto, 1982. Print. Psycho Politics Google Scholar

Saunders, James. Draft fragments of Bodies. Undated. TS. Box 4 Folder 5 of the James Saunders Papers. Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX. Draft fragments of Bodies Google Scholar

Staub, Michael E. Madness Is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011. Print. Madness Is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980 Google Scholar

Sedgwick, Peter. Psycho Politics. London: Pluto, 1982. Print. Psycho Politics Google Scholar

The Who: The Making of Tommy. Dir. Martin R. Smith. BBC4. 25 Oct. 2013. Box of Broadcasts. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. The Who: The Making of Tommy Google Scholar

Staub, Michael E. Madness Is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011. Print. Madness Is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980 Google Scholar

Tommy. Dir. Ken Russell. Perf. Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, and Roger Daltrey. Columbia Pictures, 1975. Film. Tommy Google Scholar

The Who: The Making of Tommy. Dir. Martin R. Smith. BBC4. 25 Oct. 2013. Box of Broadcasts. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. The Who: The Making of Tommy Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Interview by Jann Wenner. Rolling Stone 14 Sept. 1968: 1+. Microfilm. Rolling Stone Google Scholar

Tommy. Dir. Ken Russell. Perf. Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, and Roger Daltrey. Columbia Pictures, 1975. Film. Tommy Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Interview by Jann Wenner. Rolling Stone 14 Sept. 1968: 1+. Microfilm. Rolling Stone Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Interview by Peter Watts. The Great Wen. Peter Watts, 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 30 Dec. 2013. The Great Wen Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Interview by Peter Watts. The Great Wen. Peter Watts, 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 30 Dec. 2013. The Great Wen Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Who I Am. London: Harper, 2012. Print. Who I Am Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete. Who I Am. London: Harper, 2012. Print. Who I Am Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete, with Sonny Boy Williamson, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. Tommy. Perf. The Who. Polydor, 1969. LP. Tommy Google Scholar

Wilkerson, Mark. Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend. London: Omnibus, 2008. Print. Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend Google Scholar

Townshend, Pete, with Sonny Boy Williamson, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. Tommy. Perf. The Who. Polydor, 1969. LP. Tommy Google Scholar

Williams, Paul, and Brian Edgar. “Up against the Wall: Primal Therapy and ‘the Sixties.’” May 68. Spec. issue of European Journal of American Studies (2008). Web. 6 July 2012. Up against the Wall: Primal Therapy and ‘the Sixties.’ Spec. issue of European Journal of American Studies Google Scholar

Wilkerson, Mark. Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend. London: Omnibus, 2008. Print. Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend Google Scholar

Williams, Paul, and Brian Edgar. “Up against the Wall: Primal Therapy and ‘the Sixties.’” May 68. Spec. issue of European Journal of American Studies (2008). Web. 6 July 2012. Up against the Wall: Primal Therapy and ‘the Sixties.’ Spec. issue of European Journal of American Studies Google Scholar

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Author details

Williams, Paul

Edgar, Brian