The Freud Museum



In March 2008 a group of A-level Psychology students from South Camden Community School went to Tywhitt House in Surrey, the residential treatment centre of the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Association 'Combat Stress'. They were there to interview soldiers traumatised by their experiences of war, as part of a project run by The Freud Museum: The Archaeology of Conflict: Unearthing the psychological. The ex-servicemen and students were profoundly moved by their meetings.

The psychoanalytically influenced sessions with the ex-soldiers were recorded to form the basis of an audio archive to be used by GCSE drama students at South Camden Community School. With professional playwright, Benjamin Davis, and under the direction of their teacher James Dove, the drama group created a performance based on the ex-soldiers’ experiences and what they described about their former lives.

The resulting play “Not Yet Nervous” was performed in June 2008 at the South Camden Community School theatre in the presence of some of the veterans who were originally interviewed. One veteran said that the performance "showed an understanding and maturity that belies the generally accepted stereotype of modern youth." Tony Letford, clinical manager of Combat Stress, said it was so true to life that he thought he was back at work!. It was astonishing that 15 year olds could empathise so completely with the veterans' experience.

The 30 minute performance was followed by a round table discussion to congratulate the students and explore some of the issues raised by the play about the psychology of conflict and the mental welfare of soldiers. Resources are inadequate and understanding of combat induced mental breakdown is patchy. Many ex-servicemen do not get the help they need.

This truly innovative intergenerational project was part of the programme 'Their Past/Your Future 2' run by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council, which offers Big Lottery funding for museums to explore innovative and creative ways of increasing community learning and young people’s knowledge and understanding of the impact and contemporary significance of conflict.

As well as gaining insight into the practical applications of psychology, this project has been an excellent opportunity for intergenerational and intercultural learning and to increase young peoples’ understanding of the diversity and impact of experiences of conflict. The interviews were conducted with respect and empathy; the personal benefits of the meeting being felt by students and veterans alike. One veteran described the experience as “a further form of therapy, as it were” and students described it as an experience they will never forget.

All materials from this project are available and sixth forms are encouraged to co-ordinate ‘Archaeology of Conflict’ projects of their own as a way of making psychology real for their students and challenging them to actively engage with the sensitive ethics of exploring the mind, as well as the marked benefits of achieving open minded social attitudes and empathy at a high level.

An edited version of the play is also available and is suited for GCSE or A-level students as a performance piece or as the starting point for their own improvisation and related projects. Many of the A-level workshop activities are adaptable for a drama group to use as research into exploring trauma and therapy in theatrical ways.

A-LEVEL: Workshops and Interviews
The Making of an Oral Archive

The students were carefully prepared in a series of workshops exploring the psychology of conflict and the uses and ethics of Freudian psychodynamic lines of questioning. Sigmund Freud was influential in the field of military psychiatry and used archaeology as a metaphor for his model of the mind and the process by which buried memories are retrieved.

The workshops prepared the students for thoughtful dialogues with the volunteer veterans in which the students attempted to reach the unheard stories of wartime experience. In the ideal psychodynamic dialogue, the students would unearth stories that the veterans did not know were there to tell

GCSE: The Play
‘Not Yet Nervous’
A Play Inspired by the Oral Archive

As a result of his involvement in the Archaeology of Conflict project (from background research carried out in association with the Freud Museum as well as listening to the oral archives together with a GCSE Drama group from South Camden Community School), playwright Benjamin Davis produced the historically interesting and politically relevant play ‘Not Yet Nervous’.

‘Not Yet Nervous’ by Ben Davis is a play inspired by the unearthed memories in the veterans’ interviews and developed through workshops with GSCE drama students. The play takes place in a Combat Stress Treatment Centre where five veterans come to terms with their inner traumas through group and individual therapy sessions.

Photographic documentation of this project by Ian Lillicrap and Jodi Warren

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