For a variety of reasons I’ve been thinking about Humpty Dumpty this week. He makes an interesting case study. What strikes me most is his sense of omnipotence. He knows he is an egg. He must know that eggs and walls do not go well together-no matter how one defines “egg” and “wall” and “risk”. There is a refusal to accept his vulnerability-which, we assume, is why he is found sitting on top of a wall. Because his fantasy is that he is unbreakable. This belief almost has the power of a psychotic delusion which is usually defensive. I have lost count of the number of patients who believe themselves to be Jesus and to have special powers. (As one begins to unpick this idea it becomes apparent that the underlying belief is just the opposite. That they are of no worth to anyone. So in response to this depressing thought, they evolve the fantasy of being messaianically important.And who is to blame them?)
If we were looking at Humpty Dumpty clinically we might diagnose an underlying depression. Or at the least feelings of low self worth. It is an interesting phenomena that I have seen many women who have ben abused as children repeat that pattern in adulthood. They manage to seek out men who will continue that abuse-albeit not physically. This serves to confirm an unconscious belief in their own worthlessness. Is this part of Humpty’s grandiosity? That he fundamentally lacks any sense of self worth? The famous exchange between him and Alice in “Through the looking Glass” gives a sense of his thinking.
” ‘When I use a word” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone ‘it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.’ ” How much more grandiose can one get? To believe that the only meaning of a word is what I choose to give it at any moment. Centuries of meaning are thrown away and Humpty rules supreme. (How dreadfully humiliating to have to abide by someone else’s definition of something. Like “egg” and “vulnerable”!)
Given this omnipotence is was only going to be a matter of time before Humpty had a great fall. There could be no other outcome that allowed him to keep his integrity. He could hardly go back to the hen-coop and regale his fellow eggs with his adventures. Nor was he going to become a successful egg in the human world.Sadly he felt that he belonged nowhere- which opens up the possibly of a differential diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. The tragedy of his great fall is akin to a successful suicide. It is a pyrrhic victory. Suicide proves my omnipotence. “None of you could help me. In the end the only person I could count on was me.”
As a final thought here is Geisha performing her interpretation of Humpty Dumpty. Enjoy, as they say!