The First Ambush: Hijacking the Human Brain
‘Unbeknown to me at the time, the army’s training and/or indoctrination would come to shape my life, my decisions and my neurological processes for years to come. I suppose at the time we took it all in our stride and laughed it off. But we as people and in particular our brains were being prepared for the inhuman rigours and demands of traditional war fighting, closing with and engaging the enemy and by extension modern international conflicts’ – Ryan Hall, British infantry, 2000-2008
A major new report has just been published drawing on veterans’ testimony and around 200 studies from the last half-century to explore for the first time the effects of modern army employment on soldiers, particularly their initial training. The studies are mainly the work of military academic research departments in the UK and US, supplemented by research in other countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, and Norway. The report finds that army employment has a significant detrimental impact on soldiers’ attitudes, health, behaviour, and financial prospects. This is partly due to soldiers’ war experiences, but also to how they are recruited and trained, how they are conditioned by military culture, and how they re-adjust to civilian life afterwards.
It reveals how in the process of transforming civilians into soldiers, army training and culture forcibly alter recruits’ attitudes under conditions of sustained stress, leading to harmful health effects even before they are sent to war. Among the consequences are elevated rates of mental health problems, heavy drinking, violent behaviour, and unemployment after discharge, as well as poorer general health in later life.
Psychoanalytic Beauty and the Unborn Self
I remember the first one-on-one session I had with a patient when I began training. I felt I could breathe in an emotional atmosphere I had been looking for without knowing it. A new kind of atmosphere to live in, mind to mind, heart to heart, soul to soul, psyche to psyche, with all the quagmires, blocks, furies, longings and beauty therapy gives birth to. Therapy wombs filled with therapy births and persistent conflict whether to be born or not, in what ways, with what price. It can be confusing to be in and out of womb at the same time, but to be so, I feel, is a basic structure of our existence.
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From January 2017 all of the articles, interviews, reviews, and resources from Karnacology will be available direct from Karnac: please click here.
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The Origins of Permission to Narrate
I’d just finished The World Within the Group (2014) and had several lines of research and chapter drafts that did not find a home in that book. So, without too much of a leap, I thought, why not give birth to a new set of essays? The more I looked over what I had, I saw an emergent theme, that of human narration and voice, both within psychotherapy, and without, in the wider domain of culture. I just love the general idea that human beings are inherently literary creatures, whose motives, passions, and reasons are expressed in wonderful spontaneous metaphors, analogies, speech acts and stories. So, I guess, I granted myself ‘permission to narrate’, to explore such questions.
How Society Shapes Who We Are
The Political Self explores how our social and economic contexts profoundly affect our mental health and well-being, and how modern neuroscientific and psychodynamic research can both contribute to and enrich our understanding of these wider discussions. It therefore looks both inside and outside—indeed one of the main themes of the book is that the conceptually discrete categories of “inner” and “outer” in reality constantly interact, shape, and inform each other. Severing these two worlds, it suggests, has led both to a devitalised and dissociated form of politics, and to a disengaged and disempowering form of therapy and analysis.
Top Karnacology Blogs of the Year
Thanks so much to everyone who’s supported Karnacology in 2016. It’s been another remarkable year both in terms of the breadth and the quality of posts – a huge thank you to all of the therapists, analysts, and mental health professionals who have very kindly written such compelling and original pieces for us. Posts have covered everything from the scientific status of psychoanalysis and the transgenerational inheritance of trauma, to Brexit, child sexual abuse, boarding school syndrome, mentalizing in arts therapy, and why Oedipus didn’t have an Oedipus complex. Visitors to the site more have more than doubled over the last year – with site views also doubling from 45,506 in 2015 to a mighty 84,685 in 2016. With our recent move to the main Karnac domain website we’re hoping that 2017 will be even more exciting – and as always, please let us know if there are particular subjects or therapies that you’d like to see covered. Or if you’d like to write for us yourself, simply drop us a line at
How images and symbols can create profound and illuminating insights
“I’ve been to see lots of therapists in the past and none of them have ever helped me.” This was the opening statement of my new client Melissa, a successful accountant in her late forties who came to visit my practice one afternoon.
“What is it that you need help with?” I asked her.
“I can’t speak about it,” she said, “I’ve never told anyone before and it’s just too terrible to speak about”.