Mechanisms: Projection and Ageing Clients

The third and last core mechanism I would like to discuss is the relationship between the passing of time, and of generations in particular, and the resolution of the underlying neurosis.

The layer of landscape laid down in the late Fifties and early Sixties, especially with projects that achieved iconic architectural status, seems to have been the culmination of a process of deferred mourning that had failed in the 1920s due to the enormity and proximity of the traumatising events involved. This explosion of projected traumatic memory-images seems in part related to the aging process. By the late 1950s, survivors of the First World War were reaching old age. Many, immersed in the British attitude of the stiff upper lip, had not told the story of what they had seen and had not passed on their experiences. This failure to pass on and to share a difficult story was part of what blocked the human need to mourn.

Through the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, their children experienced, for the most part, only silence about their fathers’ war experiences. They may have sensed repressed pain, but they would have been made to appreciate where not to tread.

However, the grandchildrens’ links with the war of 1914-18 were more tenuous, particularly given the intervention of the second war. Silence denied them the patrimony of their ageing grandparents. In the 1950s, young people were said to look back in anger. The phrase may partly refer to anger over an event whose enormity had not been properly acknowledged.

And so two immensely strong forces intertwined: an older generation feeling more compelled to relate its own story in order to come to some sort of acceptance, and a younger generation unafraid to ask questions and to claim its birthright.

This tension grew at a time when physical rebuilding was already a necessity after the Second World War; and material and social progress, fuelled by the ‘white heat of technology’ and unleashed by breakthroughs in everything from vinyl recordings to contraception, promised a definitive break with the past. This new world could not be born without due respect first being given to the old.

And so the schizophrenic mood of the early Sixties set in, hurtling towards the future while still in thrall to the past.