“…powerful deflections, which cause us to make light of our misery; substitutive satisfactions, which diminish it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensible to it.”*

*Sigmund Freud, in “Civilization and Its Discontents” (1929).

From: Exploring Narrative Time, Circular Temporalities, and Growth in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan, by Alison Kjeldgaard (Spring 2009):

“Alice and Wendy, coming from the Victorian age of transition, find the characters’ inability to structure time into a beginning and end frustrating; their time spent in the imaginary worlds becomes an incessant journey to find progression in a world where it does not exist. The characters do not look for meaning in their movements, have no desire to find an ending, and therefore cannot move progressively. Alice and Wendy, however, naturally anticipate that an ending will follow the beginning of a story. Alice continuously notices that characters cannot finish riddles, stories, or rhymes, and consequently begins to feel lost in a world that does not have a complete temporal structure. Wendy comes to Neverland as the designated storyteller since Peter Pan and the Lost Boys cannot tell stories themselves. They have become lost circling the island because they cannot grow to move forward in time.

Unlike the other characters in the stories, Wendy and Alice move through the worlds without becoming caught up in the repetitious movement between beginnings, connecting the character’s circular movements into a coherent story through their own overarching movement. Because Alice and Wendy understand the inextricable connection between a beginning and end, they escape from the repetitious movements of the mechanized characters around them. Like the Victorians, Alice and Wendy need to discover a teleological progression to their movement, looking for an end to their transition into the mechanized worlds of Neverland and Wonderland, and an end to the story.

The Victorians were on a similar journey to find a distinctive path into their future wanting to situate themselves in the new industrial world that had suddenly changed their landscape and way of living. In his book, The Sense of an Ending, Frank Kermode deems this state of living between the beginning and end as “in the middest,” or in constant transition. In tune with the feeling of the Victorians, he says, “there is a period which does not properly belong…to the saeculum preceding it”. Indeed, the anxiety that the Victorians felt with their industrial society was that they did not “properly belong.” Kermode theorizes that this is why cultures predict apocalypses: in order to resituate themselves in an unfamiliar time period, the culture needs to be able to restructure both a beginning and an end. Indeed, just as Kermode theorizes, the Victorians found relief from disorientation in their prediction of an approaching apocalypse.”

From manuals.Anna Freud.org on 30.1.15:

“Teleological thinking

This is one of three Pre-mentalistic stances – ways that the mind thinks when the mentalizing function has been overidden or switched off (the most common cause for this is high levels of Affect.

Teleological thinking effectively assumes that difficulties (ie unpleasant mental states) can be “solved by doing”; the person whose thinking has become teleological is focused entirely on the physical ends – the outcomes, not on what getting these might mean. The Telos in ancient greek is the “final/complete/perfect end.”


  • Anger may be resolved by destruction of property of violence
  • Grief or fear by use of substances
  • Self-hatred, or the confusion of dissociation, by cutting or other self-injurious behaviour

Equally, the ‘doing’ may be something that is to be done by another person:

  • I may decide that my partner can only really prove their love by doingsomething such as leaving work now because I am in a crisis.
  • I may be convinced that the only proof that my keyworker cares about me would be if they agree to see me this evening – even though this is out of their ordinary working hours.
  • I may believe that the only way my mother can show she loves me is for her to give me the £20 I need to go out with my friends – anything else would “prove” that she doesn’t really understand or care about my need to avoid losing face with my friends.”

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