Black Psychoanalysts Speak

Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (PEP Web) has made an important film available without subscription on their website. In Black Psychoanalysts Speak, participants -- primarily 11 Black psychoanalysts who participated in two conferences focusing on diversity in psychoanalysis (2012, 2013) -- contend that psychoanalysis has a long history as a progressive movement devoted to the common good.

BlackPsyA screenshot

Screenshot from the film, Black Psyschoanalysts Speak.

Psychoanalysis, they say, asks us to look at processes of self deception that not only perpetuate individual unhappiness, but also oppressive and inequitable social structures. Psychoanalysis has for the most part, however, focused on training students and treating patients who are relatively privileged. As I have discovered, there is a fair amount of resistance to exploring what light psychoanalysis can shed at intersections with race, class and culture outside the consulting room. Hearing similar experiences expressed in this film, I felt very inspired to continue my own explorations.

Finding this film coincided with my launch of a new series of posts at another blog. As I mentioned in my initial post there, events that have that have unfolded or intensified in the past few months -- police brutality and resistance to it emerging with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Native American and First Nations resistance to the KXL Pipeline, corporate land grabs and other challenges to sovereignty and protection of sacred lands -- have inspired me to explore my connections to these issues beyond those that have naturally come as a result of involvement in social and environmental justice work:

Among my ancestors were settlers who arrived here on the Mayflower. And some who were slave holders. I am a descendant of colonists, people who anchored ideas and values of white supremacy into this land and built a nation upon them. Sometimes it's difficult, in light of ongoing oppression and exploitation in the United States and elsewhere, to integrate the realities of my lineage. But for reasons that I’ll explore in a future post, distancing from ancestors delays transformation and healing -- for everyone.

I'll probably cross-post or at least link to this series on this blog, since some of posts will reflect my experiences of psychoanalysis and my interest in the intergenerational transmission of trauma and social healing that has deepened over the past few years.

So, here's the first one: Truth and reconciliation, honor and healing, and another leap into the deep end of the pool


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)

 


David Palumbo-Liu: The need for the other narrative in Gaza

Cross-posted from my Raising Cain blog.

I keep a framed print in my office: It depicts a cat just sitting peacefully (I can't remember the artist). The caption is: "What people need is a good listening to."

I have proven this true time and again -- at least for myself -- not only in my healing practice but in the practice of peace work and justice activism out in the troubled world beyond my quiet holler here in Tennessee. Thus, I was happy to find an amazing OpEd by David Palumbo-Liu at truthout.org yesterday.

Since then, I've spent quite some time deciding where to share it. The thoughts and feelings that have prevented a quicker sharing relate to an indepth (and ongoing) contemplation of the fractured communities, the violence, anger and hate that currently blinds us as a human collective to our essential oneness, our peaceful, loving and cooperative nature.

I think a lot about how we can ever heal all the wounds that keep us from a reunion with the Self and the Source that we as a human race abandoned so long ago. I think we will figure it out. Social healing is a complex process, but I am confident that one of the skills we'll all need is an ability to listen through the heart first, and only then let the words pass on to the head through that powerful field of compassion that allows us to hold extremes simultaneously in one center.

Palumbo-Liu's article offers an opportunity to practice such a thing and to learn more about it, I think. He speaks here about young people in Gaza, but it's clear to me that we could take such an invitation to deep listening anywhere on Earth right now and move ourselves toward something better:

Believing their story is never allowed to be heard, Palestinians have a feeling of dispossession described most eloquently by the late Edward Saidi.  Now Gazan youth are pleading for the world to listen to their rage, sorrow and frustration, and their commitment to a cultural and political project that will endow them with rights and possibilities for life.

via truth-out.org

I discovered more great posts at David Palumbo-Liu's website. He also has a Twitter feed @palumboliu. When I get a minute, I'll add his website URL to Raising Cain's News and Blogroll in the sidebar.

 


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