We cannot say with certainty what would have helped van Gogh. We do not know what combination of alcoholism, epilepsy, and madness brought him down. The usual clinical picture offered is of a hypersensitive soul who was rejected by his father and who consequently suffered profound self-attack seizures. There is no question that self-hatred was a crucial element of his nature. But so was a deep faith in himself and, above all, the power of creation. Something in him persisted tenaciously with minimal encouragement and acceptance. He had to paint - and he did. It is often pointed out that his self-attacks and self-doubts slowed him down. He painted best when he felt good, or at least during periods of remission. But his stubbornness was the other side of his attacks and doubts. A rigidity and fixedness persevered with the same blind force as his attacks. It was as if his self-hatred fueled as well as suffocated him. Perhaps he needed the challenge of doing something against great and impossible odds in order to do anything at all. He needed debility as a foil to radiance.
Over and over his attacks sought to cancel him out and he emerged with fresh vision. He lived the rebirth archetype in a deformed and quasi-aborted way. He needed to break himself down in order to begin freshly and nakedly. If he could have found the help he needed, his self-attack system might have achieved its cleansing function more wholesomely. But given his temperament, family, and social conditions, he made use of the tools he had available. In his case, a distorted self-hate had to assume the function of ripping his personality apart in order to keep tapping into the primordial ground of his being. - Michael Eigen