chapter  5
22 Pages

Kierkegaard and a Period of Change

The association between psychology and Kierkegaard may be approached from at least two different standpoints. One is that he presented himself as being mentally unbalanced and therefore appeared as an individual with a serious need for psychological treatment. He himself regarded this as a consequence of his relationship with his father and what he had experienced as a terrible childhood. Although he loved his father, he later blamed him for not affording him a proper upbringing. His father’s fault, he said, was not lack of love but to “confuse an old man with a child” (Heiberg, 1895, p. 13), and there was no space for play and amusements. Thus there are obvious similarities between himself and the young man depicted in Repetition, who was described as “melancholy old” (p. 13). Many biographers have focused on these psychological aspects of his life. There are no doubts that his childhood was not particularly favorable, and both his brothers also had serious problems. His eldest brother, Peter Christian, lived an apparently successful life, but he finally ended up in a madhouse (Hannay, 2001). The next brother Niels, four years younger than Peter Christian and four years older than Søren, went to the USA and arrived in Boston in 1832. This emigration was not very successful, and he died in a hotel room in Paterson, New Jersey, in the fall of 1833. “A fictitious vignette of him during his stay in New York has him sitting in a bar, eyes shaded by the brim of a hat pulled well down over his eyes, feet resting on the edge of the gaming board. Niels is getting royal flushes all the time, and one after another his opponents give up. ‘What’s your name, stranger?’ they ask him. ‘Graveyard’ answers Niels with a self-ironic grin, pockets his winnings, washes down the whisky and goes out into the sunlight and freedom.” (Hannay, 2001, p. 32.) A literal translation of the Danish word kierkegaard is “churchyard,” and it is also the Nordic term for “graveyard.”74