Thoughts on DAPL and Siblicide

Yesterday I was in Knoxville all day for the Appalachian Psychoanalytic Society's fall conference with Jeanne Safer who spoke on Siblings -- the family members Freud forgot. Today I'm reading reports of ongoing over-the-top attacks by police against peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock. Mainstream media prefers to focus on Trump, journalists who try to document what's happening in North Dakota get arrested, and others at the camps report that they are under surveillance and that attempts to share reports with the world are being blocked. Many accounts of human and civil rights violations against water protectors who are being arrested -- 83 of them yesterday -- make some wonder why President Obama and the Department of Justice remain silent.

All of this has set me wondering today about parallels with sibling violence and siblicide. What connected me to Standing Rock news today was Dr. Safer's discussion on Saturday of siblings doing harm to other siblings, while, in some cases, parents make excuses for the abusive sibling or otherwise fail to intervene. (Sibling violence and siblicide have been studied in humans and animals.) Several times while writing this post I felt the undertow that taboos -- such as the power and influence of sibling relationships in our lives -- generate to keep us quiet about them.

When I see things happening out in the world that media, leaders and ordinary folks don't want to talk about, I sometimes forget to subject it all to a psychoanalytic lens. Such an omission is likely one way taboos work to shut me up, after all, psychoanalytic exploration has a pretty good track record for exposing what's unseen and unspoken.

I guess this brings up a question of how any subject gets to be taboo, and, understanding that, how to think about dismantling the ones that cause huge amounts of suffering by remaining hidden. These are questions that, when I can remember to think about them, have sustained my interest in social and environmental justice work, and using psychoanalytic thinking out in the world.

I read two books this past year that have significantly expanded my thinking about collective engagement to change oppressive systems, and, in this blog, I hope to write more about what they brought up for me: Toward Psychologies of Liberation (Watkins and Shulman) and Environmental Melancholia (Lertzman).

It's Lertzman's work that I'm especially connecting with today as I consider the situation at Standing Rock with the Dakota Access Pipeline as a siblicide-in-progress. While Lertzman uses psychoanalytic ideas to explore human response to environmental degradation, I suspect that many of her discoveries can inform new ways to think about human responses to oppression of other humans based on race, gender, class and a host of other -isms and -cides.

What's going on at Standing Rock is one of those all-of-the-above deals -- ecocide, siblicide, genocide. We, the people, need to break the taboos and bring to light all processes now operating in the shadows of psyches and systems that sabotage love and justice.

 

More stuff to read on this:

Protest Response Puts North Dakota on the Wrong Side of History (Grand Forks Herald, 10/22/16)

Human Rights Abuses Escalate at DAPL Prayer Services in North Dakota (Huffington Post, 10/21/16)

"It's time for a grand jury" (Tom Isern, Facebook post, 10/21/16)

Obama's Legacy Rests on Whether He Stops the Dakota Access Pipeline (Indian Country Today, 10/17/16)

Why Psychology Should Be Part of the Fight Against Climate Change (Huffington Post, 1/18/16)


Terrorism, Shared Trauma and Citizenship 2.0

Less than two months after 9/11, I had the opportunity to hear Vamik Volkan speak on terrorism, religious and ethnic identity issues, and mourning over loss in the wake of this shared national group trauma. So, I couldn't be happier that Dr. Volkan will be in Knoxville on October 26th to present a conference on Terrorism and Its Effects on Politics and Society – the morning session of which is open to the public. He will focus on topics from his latest book, Enemies on the Couch: A Psychopolitical Journey Through War and Peace.

The opening chapters of Enemies on the Couch trace the evolution of psychopolitical thought from its more narrow focus on individual growth and development to expansion of our understanding of large group trauma and international relations.

In his books, Volkan writes of both popular and professional resistance to ideas about how we come to identify others as enemies or friends, how we engage in relationships with them, and how the effects of external, historical trauma are passed on to the children of those who suffered the consequences directly. But the idea of historical trauma has, for some time, also been acknowledged among people and groups who have experienced its intergenerational effects.

I became aware of this when I practiced in New Mexico in the 1990's. There, many Native Americans were already working with the notion of historical trauma to heal themselves and their communities from traumatic effects of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual genocide, endured for more than 500 years, and imposed under European and American colonialist policy.

Here in the South (and elsewhere) descendants of both slaves and slave holders now use a "transforming historical harms" framework to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the history of slavery in the United States.

Professional attitudes began to change in a concrete way, says Volkan, with the initiation of a series of dialogues facilitated by the American Psychiatric Association's Committee on Psychiatry and Foreign Affairs between Egyptians and Israelis from 1980-1985. He describes the dialogue process, and his participation as a facilitator, in fascinating, inspiring detail.

After 9/11, the International Psychoanalytic Association formed a Terror and Terrorism Study Group. In 2011, the American Psychoanalytic Association's outgoing president Prudence Gourgeuchon urged psychoanalysts to be more active in providing information regarding the human behavior behind traumatic events lest statements by people with less knowledge prevail. 

In a 2007 essay about my own shift toward using psychoanalytic ideas to understand the world beyond the consulting room, I wrote: "The space between changing the world one consciousness at a time and influencing social change on a larger scale has always seemed like a huge leap." 

Hearing Dr. Volkan in 2001 (and several times thereafter), I have relied on his work as a major source of information for my continuing professional interest in the transformation and healing of collective trauma. I also use it to inform my day-to-day citizenship, and my participation in social and environmental justice projects.

So, yes, I see knowledge of political psychology as having very practical applications. What attracts me or you to a specific issue or political position? Why do political relationships become so polarized and unmovable? What are the psychological dynamics that shape and drive relationships between leaders and followers? It’s possible to shed more light on such questions when a psychological perspective becomes part of the exploration.

More and more it seems to me that the space between changing the world one consciousness at a time and social change on a larger scale isn't so huge after all.

If you can be in Knoxville on October 26th, I hope you will join my colleagues and me to hear what Vamik Volkan has to say about terrorism -- a topic about which many Americans have fearful concerns -- and how shared traumas such as 9/11 impact our politics and social fabric. 

For more information on the conference:

If you are on Facebook, you can go to the Appalachian Psychoanalytic Society's event page for Terrorism and Its Effects on Politics and Society. People may register at the door, but can take advantage of a lower registration fee if they sign up by October 22nd.

Download the registration form for the public session, or

Download the professional participant brochure and registration form at the APS website: scroll down to the link under Part 2. (CE's available for professionals attending the full conference!)

Here are some links to Dr. Volkan's earlier books:

The Need to Have Enemies and Allies: From Clinical Practice to International Relationships (1988),

Bloodlines: From Ethnic Pride to Ethnic Terrorism (1998),

Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis and Terror (2004), and

Killing in the Name of Identity: A Study of Bloody Conflicts (2006).

 

Embedded link correction, January 24, 2015.


Bursting the Neuro-Utopian Bubble - NYTimes.com

An interesting article in the New York Times by Benjamin Y. Fong, a Harper Fellow at the University of Chicago, who is working on a manuscript on psychoanalysis and critical theory.

By humbly claiming ignorance about the “causes” of mental problems, and thus the need for a project like the Brain Initiative, neuroscientists unconsciously repress all that we know about the alienating, unequal, and dissatisfying world in which we live and the harmful effects it has on the psyche, thus unwittingly foreclosing the kind of communicative work that could alleviate mental disorder.

via opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com


Frank Summers: Psychoanalysis in the Age of "Just Do It" | Psychology Today

I found a link to this great piece by Frank Summers on Facebook today. The post is his presidential address to APA Division 39's Spring Meeting in Boston. Here's an excerpt:

The analytic stance and Nikeism stand in stark opposition, and to see who is more popular one need only contrast Nike’s undisputed perch at the top of the shoe sales pyramid with the paucity of clinical psychology programs offering any meaningful representation of psychoanalytic ideas.  As analysts we do not “Just do it” nor are we “faster;” in fact, little is slower than a psychoanalysis.  The essence of analysis is not quick action, but the use of affective and cognitive depth to initiate meaningful action.  Psychoanalysis is a rare contra-position to Nikeism, and the Nike slogan exhorts op-position to psychoanalytic thinking.  Akin to Heidegger’s call to listen to Being, psychoanalysis is likewise a call, a call to listen to oneself, to explore the Being given to us in our experience.  Where Nikeism says ignore the world of one’s experience, psychoanalysis says that is all we have, the beacon that can be ignored only at our peril.  In psychoanalysis, one learns to listen to one’s experience in all its complexity, to explore the thought and feeling as the basis for our very human way of acting.

Read the whole post at www.psychologytoday.com

I just started reading Frank's new book, The Psychoanalytic Vision, which contrasts psychoanalytic psychotherapy's focus on the world of the experiencing subject with an American culture that seems to prefer and occupy -- ever more tightly -- objectivist, materialistic and quantifiable spaces.

The tension between these worldviews feels so present in the world right now. I sense it both inside the consulting room and out in the world as I try to apply what I've learned through psychoanalytic study and practice to conscious evolution, social healing, and transformation at personal and planetary scales.

I feel my own sensitivities to being objectified -- or pressures to objectify somebody else -- becoming more fine-tuned. I love that Summers hears the voice of the rebel in psychoanalysis. Already I have been able to bring some gnarly questions from my work in social, racial and environmental justice into a new light by thinking of my experiences in terms of subjective versus objective privilege. I have suspected for some years now that psychoanalysis has much to offer those who seek love, justice and liberation for all sentient beings.

So far, Summers' book is helping me to bring some of my understanding about such things into a more symbolic order.


"Dakota 38" calls from the shadows to move us toward the light of peace, love and reconciliation on Earth

Dakota 38 is one of the most profound and beautiful films I have ever seen and I wanted to share it today, Christmas Eve 2012. For me it reflects the spirit of the season, the year ahead, and what I hope will be a more conscious, intentional focus of the human collective for many years to come.

In 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, had a dream in which he was riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. In the dream, he came to a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time of his dream, Jim didn't know that on December 26, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln had ordered the largest mass execution in US history in the town of Mankato, Minnesota.

Four years later, Jim and a group of riders planned a 330-mile horeseback ride from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato. They planned to reach the site of the hanging on the anniversary of the execution. The film -- Dakota 38 -- is the story of their healing journey.

I find this story timely and remarkable for several reasons.

Closest to home is the spotlight on the culture of violence in the United States, illuminated by the events in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th. The massacre in Newtown has drawn global support and solidarity for the healing process that is now underway. As the national discussion grows, many articles reflect that at least some Americans (including me) place this tragedy in a larger context of the violence that we as a nation perpetrated against Native Americans, and Africans torn from their homeland and forced to become slaves to European colonials in the New World.

Consider also the emergence of the Idle No More movement just four days earlier on December 10, 2012. Four women from Saskatchewan -- Indigenous and non Indigenous -- decided that they could no longer be silent about Bill C 45, legislation (later passed by the Canadian Senate on the same day as the Newtown massacre) that they consider an attack on First Nation people and the lands and waters across Canada. This grassroots movement aims to "repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth". In just a short time, the Idle No More has also attracted support and solidarity from people around the world.

As I queud up Dakota 38, I was not certain I would end up sharing it, at least not until after Christmas. In the face of so much national trauma lately, I have mainly been listening to as many voices as possible. I brought my sharing on social networks under the scrutiny of "right speech" -- a principle that considers, among other things, the right time and place to speak or be silent and just listen, witness, and hold the field steady as people come to grips with its horror, try to sort things out.

What became clear in my heart during the first few minutes of the film, hearing people speak of their experience, is that sharing Dakota 38 on Christmas Eve felt right. This mass execution spoke to the shadow, the darkness I feel as a descendant of European colonists. But as I listened, I could hear the profound gifts of peace, love and reconciliation that these descendents of the Dakota 38 have to offer all of us.

What they speak to is not just an "Indian thing". It reflects a process of healing and transformation that is at the core of celebrations like Christmas, a process that I see spreading across the global range of the human family. It requires reconnecting with our dark and painful past to find what was lost or forgotten so that we can move forward or birth something new in the present with greater peace and wisdom.

In African culture this is the concept of Sankofa. It is also an idea found in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and other psychological models of healing.

Sankofa_bird
Sankofa Bird street painting in Kumasi, Ghana [Photo credit: Gorodilova]

So, in the spirit of the season, however you celebrate and understand it, I offer this gift via Chief Phil Lane who first shared a related link, and Jim Miller, and Smooth Feather Productions who offered the full movie to everyone at no charge:

 

 

Also see:

The Light of Humanity in the Darkness: Reflections in the Shadow of Sandy Hook (Phillip Hellmich, 12/20/12 at Huffington Post)

Idle No More is not just an "Indian Thing" (Wab Kinew, 12/17/12 at Huffington Post)

First Nations prepared to fight Harper , Enbridge in international court (Erin Flegg, 12/23/12 in the Vancouver Observer)

Idle No More: On the meaning of Chief Therese Spence's hunger strike (Greg Macdougall, 12/22/12 at rabble.ca)

New documentary remembers largest mass execution in US history (December 23, 2010, Minnesota Public Radio)

 


Daniel Stern, Who Studied Babies’ World, Dies at 78 - NYTimes.com

Sad news...I read Dr. Stern's Interpersonal World of the Infant very early in my graduate work and psychoanalytic training, and continue to appreciate his work...

Dr. Daniel Stern, a psychiatrist who increased the understanding of early human development by scrutinizing the most minute interactions between mothers and babies, died on Nov. 12 in Geneva. He was 78.

The cause was heart failure, said his wife, Dr. Nadia Bruschweiler Stern.

Dr. Stern was noted for his often poetic language in describing how children respond to their world — how they feel, think and see. He wrote one of his half-dozen books in the form of a diary by a baby. In another book, he told how mothers differ psychologically from women who do not have children. He coined the term “motherese” to describe a form of communication in which mothers are able to read even the slightest of babies’ emotional signals.

Read more at www.nytimes.com


IN MEMORIAM: ELISABETH YOUNG-BRUEHL

Ouch! I had really enjoyed reading Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's blog -- Who's Afraid of Social Democracy? -- for the past year or so, and had subscribed to it via email to be notified of new posts. She wrote about politics and culture in our modern world with a psychoanalytic eye on things. It also seemed to me that she managed to embed a clear, vital spirit in her writing, which is why the news of her death took me so much by surprise, I think. Today, Dominique Browning cross-posted a tribute on Young-Bruehl's own blog, and I thought I'd share it here.

On Thursday night I went to a performance of Philip Glass' opera Satyagraha, about the early life of Gandhi. I left in a trance, spellbound by the music and the puppetry. In front of Lincoln Center a large crowd had gathered; it took me a moment to recognize the barricades, the police vans lining Broadway, the gorgeous blue-green sheen of a large puppet of the Statue of Liberty, covering her eyes in shame, or was it misery? It was a peaceful demonstration; the protestors were chanting; it seemed as if sidewalk had become proscenium. The audience surged forward for another performance. Several people were standing at the entrance to the opera house, giving away copies of a broadsheet: The Occupied Wall Street Journal. I took one, and went home.

I was restless that night, even though it was late; I couldn't sleep. Glass's music is lyrical and lulling and I kept humming fragments that bubbled up. So I sat and read The Occupied Journal. I began thinking, intensely, of my friend Elisabeth, who has written so much about revolution and democracy. Elisabeth was due to arrive on Sunday for a week of lectures and research work in the Winnicott archives, an enormous project into which she had just thrown herself with her usual whole-hearted, single-minded absorption. I kept thinking, as I read the Occupied, how much she would enjoy the essays in the paper--the entire movement--and how much I would enjoy talking to her about its profound significance. I set the old-fashioned broadsheet on top of a pile of books and magazines I had put aside to share with her when she arrived.

Early the next morning came the terrible, choked phone call from Elisabeth's beloved spouse, Christine Dunbar, that Elisabeth had suddenly collapsed and died as they were walking home from a concert.

Read the whole post at www.slowlovelife.com

You can also read Browning's tribute at Who's Afraid of Social Democracy?

 


Hanna Segal obituary | The Guardian

Hanna Segal, one of the psyhoanalytic elders whose work I admired, has moved on. Here's the photo and brief excerpt of the article that appeared in the Guardian:

Hanna Segal, who has died aged 93, was among a handful of psychoanalysts whose international pre-eminence was unquestioned. She made fundamental contributions to psychoanalytic theory and practice and, over a career of more than 60 years, was the leading exponent of the ideas of Melanie Klein.

Segal developed the theory of symbolism, the understanding of the nature of creativity, and the establishment of a psychoanalytic approach to severe disturbance, including psychosis. She was also known for her exploration of the functioning of phantasy (unconscious fantasy) and for her detailed elaboration of the inner struggle between forces that strive towards living and development, and those that pull towards destruction.

via www.guardian.co.uk


Joel Weinberger: The Dark Side of the Political Personality Redux: Weiner, Schwarzenegger, and Edwards

I haven't had time to post much lately, but questions about political personalities have certainly have certainly been on my mind the past few weeks. I generally find the media's obsession with stories such as Donald Trump, Sara Palin, Newt Gingrich, John Edwards and Anthony Weiner have recently inspired annoying. But looking at such things from a perspective of psyche and culture is much less so for me. That's why I found this piece by Joel Weinberger--in response to the coverage of Schwarzeneggar, Edwards and Weiner--interesting enough to post as a link:

Let me briefly review the psychological and emotional reasons that can lead to this kind of behavior and why politicians are more likely to have these characteristics. The interested reader is also referred to my previous column for a bit more detail. Space prevented then and prevents now a comprehensive review but here it is in a nutshell: There are four psychological factors that make this behavior likely; politicians are likely to have all four. These are: Narcissism, Power Motivation, High Risk Taking, and a False Self.

via www.huffingtonpost.com

When I'm thinking about behavior of leaders and those who follow them, I find the works of Kohut, Winnicott (quoted by Weinberger in his article) and Lacan (now that I've thought more about his theories) to help organize my contemplations.

Weinberger does not include a link to his earlier article on John Edwards, so I'll include it  here.


Resistance to Change: a key from cognitive neuroscience (and psychoanalysis!)

I got some links from Joe Brewer at Cognitive Policy Works today that included this video presentation on what needs to happen in order to bring about change in behaviors that are harming people and nature. Joe focuses on some key ideas from cognitive neuroscience that I'll be weaving in with whatever I write about my earth and psyche research project. I decided to post this so I can link back to it in future posts.

Joe's video is brief but has some really fundamental info that, sooner or later, activists, healers, policy makers and just about everybody else I can think of will need to be aware of:

 


Cross-posted from Earth and Psyche