Adele Mittwoch

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries - UR­SULA MITTWOCH

AL­THOUGH MY sis­ter Adele Mittwoch was a prac­tis­ing psy­chother­a­pist for over 35 years, this had not been her first ca­reer choice. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in physics, chem­istry and math­e­mat­ics, and with a mas­ter’s de­gree in or­ganic chem­istry, she worked for a num­ber of years both in the food in­dus­try, as a mem­ber of the sci­en­tific staff of the Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil, and as a maths teacher in sec­ondary schools.

But grad­u­ally Adele be­came aware that there was more to life than hard science, and she de­cided to un­dergo psy­cho­anal­y­sis. This ex­pe­ri­ence helped her gain new in­sights into life’s prob­lems, and ev­i­dently had a strong ef­fect on her per­sonal de­vel­op­ment.

Even though she never gave up her sci­en­tific in­ter­ests, she took up psy­chother­apy pro­fes­sion­ally and so in­stead of clar­i­fy­ing the mys­ter­ies of qua­dratic equa­tions to school chil­dren, she di­rected her in-built fel­low-feel­ing to help adults un­der­stand the equally puz­zling prob­lems of later life.

Fol­low­ing ex­ten­sive train­ing in in­di­vid­ual and group ther­apy, part of which in­cluded vol­un­tary work in ther­a­peu­tic so­cial clubs, Adele be­came an ac­tive and pop­u­lar mem­ber of the In­sti­tute of Group Anal­y­sis and of the Group An­a­lytic So­ci­ety. She also had a large fol­low­ing in Ger­many. She was a founder mem­ber of their group anal­y­sis seminar (GRAS) and par­tic­i­pated in their twice-yearly meet­ings for over 30 years. In this coun­try, she con­tin­ued work­ing with groups, as well as with in­di­vid­ual pa­tients, un­til the end of her life.

A sub­ject to which Adele re­turned re­peat­edly in pub­li­ca­tions and lec­tures, and which she thought ex­hib­ited a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship be­tween psy­cho­anal­y­sis and Jewish teach­ing, was the topic of guilt and shame, the sense of which Freud called the super­ego. In a group session, the dis­cus­sion would con­sider the best way to cor­rect the aber­rant be­hav­iour, for in­stance, by an ap­pro­pri­ate apol­ogy or the resti­tu­tion of stolen prop­erty. Such ac­tions are, of course, also nec­es­sary in Jewish tra­di­tion be­fore divine atone­ment can be ob­tained.

Whereas dis­cus­sions in groups of like-minded peo­ple may well gen­er­ate mu­tual help and sup­port, a ma­nip­u­lated crowd can have neg­a­tive ef­fects on those who get caught up in them. Adele re­lated two per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences.

The first took place in 1954 when Billy Graham was in Lon­don, hav­ing enor­mous suc­cess in con­vert­ing peo­ple to his faith. Adele was in­ter­ested to find out the cause of this suc­cess and booked a session to hear him. She didn’t find the ser­mon in­ter­est­ing, nor was she im­pressed by his much-vaunted charisma. When he had fin­ished speak­ing, the huge au­di­ence were in­vited to come for­ward to pledge them­selves. No-one went. The or­gan be­gan to play very softly. One man went for­ward.

As t he mu­sic be­came a lit­tle l ouder, t wo peo­ple got up, then a trickle and fi­nally, at a r o u s - ing crescendo, t h e r e was a rush for­ward, and as the seats around Adele emp­tied, she re­mained in hers, per­suaded to do so by the mem­ory of Ger­many in the 1930s.

The other oc­ca­sion oc­curred in a small gather­ing when the dis­cus­sion was about pin­ning down a bib­li­cal story. She re­alised that they had agreed on the wrong story. Hon­est self-as­sess­ment, she judged, would lead one to fol­low Hil­lel’s pre­cept (Ethics of the Fathers, 2.5): “Do not judge your fel­low un­til you have stood in his place.”

Adele never mar­ried, but was a de­voted sis­ter, aunt and great-aunt and will be widely missed. She was keen on ram­bles and phys­i­cal ex­er­cise and for many years went on stren­u­ous weekly walks on Hamp­stead Heath. She never missed a Pi­lates class un­til a month be­fore her death. She was a mem­ber of Be­vis Marks Synagogue, which she fre­quently at­tended.

She is sur­vived by my­self, an aunt and great-aunt.

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