The History of the “Black Dog” as Metaphor

Really interesting post. And no, Black Dog as metaphor for Depression did not originate with Winston Churchill.

Joshua Preston

“A light seen suddenly in the storm, snow/ Coming from all sides, like flakes/ Of sleep, and myself/ On the road to the dark barn,/ Halfway there, a black dog near me.” – Robert Bly, from “Melancholia” in The Light Around the Body (1967).

Albrecht Durer Melancholia Albrecht Durer’s “Melancholia,” 1514.

Famously, Winston Churchill referred to his depression as  “the black dog.” Sitting on his lap, it haunted him. Like in Bly’s poem, it followed him wherever he went, but even for hanging so close to his feet some say it helped him lead the nation through war. For being an image so closely associated with the former Prime Minister, it is surprising then that the image of “the black dog” goes back centuries.

In an essay published on the website of the Black Dog Institute, an Australian organization dedicated to “the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mood disorders,” Megan McKinlay traces…

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