Psychoanalytic Perspectives on a Turbulent World

Book

Title: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on a Turbulent World
Year: 2010
Authors: Brunning, H. Perini, M.
Abstract:

Psychoanalytic Perspectives on a turbulent world

EDITORS' NOTES

Although the initial idea of editing a book on this theme appeared separately in the mind of one of us (HB), this book actually originated from a couple of historical encounters between the two co-editors. The former occurred some years ago, when we met for the first time in Italy and agreed to run a workshop on executive coaching, which set the foundation of our enduring collaboration. The latter happened in the summer of 2009 when we both attended the annual meeting of ISPSO (International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organization), in Toledo, Spain, where we joined a broad community of colleagues to reflect on recent turbulent processes related to diversity, social complexity and global political instability.

In a way our book is in itself a challenge of diversity and a trans-cultural enterprise: two genders, two nationalities, two professions, two different mother tongues, close collaboration with a wide and diverse group of colleagues from six countries / four continents, all connected by one common idiom: a sort of merger, a cross-cultural fertilization and at the same time a complex migratory phenomenon (1) between psychoanalysis, systems theory, sociology, politics and economics.

As a matter of fact, migration is an inherent part of the history of psychoanalysis, from Freud's flight to London to escape from a Nazified Austria to the European analysts' mass movement to the United States or the exodus of many analysts from Argentina during the military dictatorship. Several fruitful developments within the analytic research and practice among which we could also consider the Tavistock tradition - might be seen as a consequence of this worldwide migratory process of people and ideas.

A less dramatic migration involved Italy where one of the co-editors (MP) was born, lives and works. From the eighteenth century onwards Italy was a traditional destination for European artists, for their cultural and 'inner' journeys. Freud himself often used to spend his summer holidays in Lavarone, near Trento, and many Italian analysts - like Musatti, Fachinelli, Fornari and others - dared to leave their secure rooms and settings to 'migrate' into the outer world and approach social institutions with their analytical lenses.

The central core of the book is of psychoanalysis 'leaning out of the consulting room window', so to speak, looking at the real external world. Firstly, we wanted to address a view that psychoanalysis and the analytic community had never been much interested in exploring the external reality, including issues concerned with social institutions, politics, work, money and so on, or that psychoanalysis had nothing to say about these issues and should not venture into this domain of thought or praxis. Historically, Freud did not seem that attracted by the idea of building a 'psychoanalytic sociology'. Though personally he was interested in cultural issues like war, education or religion, after his first, promising study of group processes and the dynamics of the leadership (Freud, 1921), he did not develop these views further, turning his attention more to the origins of human civilization and the taming of instinctual drives by education.

It is an established fact that Freud's conviction that the early experiences of seduction reported by his patients were just mere fantasies paved the way for a growing loss of relevance of external reality and the role it played in psychoanalytic thinking. Although in Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego Freud stated that from the very first individual psychology… is at the same time social psychology as well. (Freud, 1921, p. 69), with time psychoanalysis would appear less and less engaged in questioning human institutions and 'disturbing the universe'. Social phenomena would often be read under the reductionist perspective of the individual's subjectivity and personal life story, with a prevailing emphasis on the perceived over the real. Some anecdotal stories, most likely fake, circulated about analysts continuing to interpret fear of loss in their patients while thieves were breaking into their apartments; or an anecdotal report from the second world war period concerning a 'controversial discussion' between Kleinians and Anna Freud's followers on the theme of death instinct. It was said that Donald Winnicott warned his esteemed colleagues that in the real world outside real bombs were falling on London and they better seek immediate and real cover! (2)

On the other hand the attempts made in USA by Karen Horney, Eric Fromm, Harry Stack Sullivan and the Williams Alanson White Institute to set the foundations for a 'social psychoanalysis' were hastily knocked out by the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) as a 'watered-down' psychoanalysis, and a more or less explicit judgemental stance on psychoanalysis as applied to social and political life.

In her chapter 'Psychoanalysis and War' in Covington's volume Terrorism and War (2002) Diane Birkett notices that "psychoanalysis has curiously little to say about world events" and addresses them "almost exclusively in terms of the inner life of the individual" (Birkett, 2002). In the following chapter in the same volume Isabel Hunter-Brown replies to Birkett's argument, remarking that there is some evidence that psychoanalysis does take external world and actual traumatic experiences into account, and she quotes Freud's statement that "emphasis on an early experience does not imply underestimation of later ones" (Hunter-Brown, 2002).

Despite evidence that official psychoanalysis has had problems with resistance to addressing the question of external reality and to drawing a consistent theoretical and practical framework for a dynamic understanding of social processes and organizations, it is also true as Hunter-Brown points out - that several IPA analysts did try to cope with this avoidant attitude and launched brave explorations beyond its traditional borders.

Let us name a few important developments pointing to this trend, to begin with social experiments of Vera Schmidt and her Psychoanalytic Nursery in Moscow, the so called 'Freudian left' (Fenichel, Reich, and others), the developments originated within and around the Frankfurt School. A longer list of examples would include:

  • Bion, Sutherland, Rickman, Jaques, Menzies, Turquet and others working at the Tavistock on the frontier of groups, work and organizations;
  • Balint on family medicine;
  • Winnicott on child upbringing and the mothering environment;

*Kris on war propaganda;

  • Erikson on the impact of social structure on the development of the individual;
  • Segal and Fornari on war and nuclear threat;
  • Mitscherlich and the psycho-social research at the Sigmund-Freud-Institut in Frankfurt;
  • Money-Kyrle on politics;
  • Musatti and the industrial anthropology at Olivetti;
  • Foulkes and Kaes on group analysis and institutions;
  • Benedetti, Cremerius, Morgenthaler and others on psychotherapy and human sciences;
  • Main and Hinshelwood on therapeutic community;
  • Paumelle, Lebovici, Woodbury, Racamier, and the pioneering community psychiatry experiences of the French "Secteur", and the "institutional psychotherapy";
  • Moses, Erlich and other Jewish and German analysts on Holocaust and Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the light of the Nazareth/Cyprus Group Relations Conferences;
  • Volkan on ethnic conflicts and international relationships;
  • Viderman, Tuckett and others on money, economics and financial markets;
  • Amati Sas on torture and refugees;
  • Bauleo, Langer and other Argentinean analysts involved in the fight against dictatorship;
  • Kets de Vries, Obholzer, Shapiro and others on leadership, power and authority;

and many others, more or less renowned, within or outside the IPA, which space prevents us from mentioning.

On the threshold of the 21st Century, in a world increasingly traumatised and pressured by political and economic turbulence, the IPA decided to create an "Outreach Committee" (with many local committees established by its regional societies) with a specific mandate of building an interface with society at large.(3) The aim was to address the "problems of decreasing analytic practice", and also to explore the border territories of psychoanalysis. The idea was to include attempts at understanding and making thinkable catastrophic processes like post-9/11 terrorism, the globalisation, the ethnic, religious and commercial wars, the growing risks for the environment etc.

Two psychoanalytically-inspired organizations that have felt comfortable with this discourse for a quarter of century are in our view OPUS (Organisation for Promoting Understanding of Society) and ISPSO (International Society for Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations). We are both members of ISPSO and one of us is also a member of OPUS. It should therefore be of no surprise that, in planning this volume, we have invited colleagues associated with both organisations to contribute their thinking to this book.

Let us end by saying that in this turbulent world of ours, where recently we have all had to confront a number of exploding myths (like self-regulation of the free market, the West exporting democracy all over the world but with the help of tanks, the overall 'well-being and safety' ensured by technology etc etc, to mention but a few) has the time now come for psychoanalysis to renew its mission? Against this background, what might the mission of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic thinking be?

Not an easy one, really, nor a popular one: to bring "the plague" of uncomfortable truths in a world confused and terrified by reality, where feelings are uncontained, people abandoned to their own anxieties by uncertain or unreliable leaders and disappearing institutions. Against this background can psychoanalytic thinking help people to begin to trust their own minds, to encourage thinking beyond slogans, beyond sound bites and beyond the politically correct, to look for some solutions of the turbulence? If this is too lofty an expectation, can the psychoanalytic framework at least offer an alternative explanation of persistent troubling and turbulent phenomena and help us all, at least to contain the paralysing anxiety, to bring a fresh perspective to old troubles, and to offer some realistic hope?

With this in mind we are offering this volume to a reader.

Halina Brunning and Mario Perini

Editors

Notes

1. Actually one of us (Brunning, 1999) wrote a paper where merger is seen as a sort of migration process.

2. "As the legend goes, German bombs were pouring down on London while two of the three more or less formal groups of British psychoanalysts were fiercely battling each other in what were to be remembered in psychoanalytic history as the "Controversial Discussions". According to the same anecdote, while the discussions carried on, no less violent in a way than the bombing itself which in the meantime grew more intense member of the third group, D. W. Winnicott, would raise a timid hand and, when finally given the right to speak, he would suggest that they postpone whatever urgent theoretical issue they were debating and all go for shelter". (Scarfone, 2002)

3. Outreach activities are aimed "to interchange with and learn more about the surrounding culture; to develop interventions derived from psychoanalysis; to increase involvement with universities and mental health disciplines, social sciences and humanities; to establish international networks of analysts working in these settings; and to respond to negative views about psychoanalysis". (International Psychoanalysis, ed. A.Holder, Volume 14, Issue 1, June 2005, p. 17).

References

Birkett, D. (1992). Psychoanalysis and War. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 8, 1992; and in C.Covington et al. (eds) Terrorism and War: Unconscious dynamics of political violence. London, Karnac 2002.

Brunning, H. (1999). Merger as an Emigration -Towards the Psychology of Organisational Mergers. Organisations and People, Journal of the AMED, 6(4): 38-42.

Freud, S. (1921). Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII (1920-1922): Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works, 65-144

Hunter-Brown, I. (1992) 'Psychoanalysis and War' - Response to Diana Birkett. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 8, 1992; and in C.Covington et al. (eds) Terrorism and War: Unconscious dynamics of political violence. London, Karnac 2002.

Scarfone, D. (2002). 'Controversial Discussions' the Issue of Differences in Method. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83:453-456.

BOOK CONTENTS

Acknowledgements
About The Editors and Contributors
Notes from the Editors
by Halina Brunning and Mario Perini

Invitation to the Drama
by Olya Khaleelee

The Prologue
by Jim Krantz

ACT I - ON WAR AND CONFLICT

Scene 1.
A Beam of Darkness - Understanding the Terrorist Mind
Shmuel Erlich

Scene 2.
"Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum"- Psychoanalysis, Peace Education and Conflict Literacy
Mario Perini

Scene 3.
Psychoanalysis and International Relations: Large Group Identity, Trauma at the Hand of the 'Other' and Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma
Vamik D. Volkan

ACT II - ON THE FINANCIAL CRISIS AND THE DISAPPEARING CONTAINERS

Scene 4.
Oedipus Rex at Enron: Leadership, Oedipal Struggle and Organizational Collapse
Mark Stein

Scene 5.
Narcissism Project and Corporate Decay: the Case of General Motors
Howard S. Schwartz

Scene 6.
Beneath the Financial Crisis
Burkard Sievers

ACTIII - ON LEADERSHIP AND THE ILLUSION OF CONTAINMENT

Scene 7.
"The People's Princess": Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales
Wesley Carr

Scene 8.
Barak Obama's Postpartisan Dream: Leadership and the Limits of the Depressive Position
Laurence J. Gould

Scene 9.
Images of Leadership
Susan Long

The Epilogue
by Lionel Stapley

INDEX

Keywords: psychoanalysis - systems psychodynamics - war - conflict - terrorism - international relations - leadership - containment - economics - market meltdown
Language: English


Publisher: Karnac Books
Publisher Location: London UK
ISBN:

Submitted by:
Mario Perini
MD
IL NODO group
maper@tin.IT
Corresponding author:

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