Ever since my undergraduate days, I’ve been interested in the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion, delving deeply into the competing perspectives of Freud and Jung, and later, of Erich Fromm, Erik Erikson, and R.D. Laing. Between 1986 and 1999, I published two books and many papers that deal with these issues, and in July of 2000, found myself at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA, researching Erik Erikson and the American Psyche: Ego, Ethics and Evolution. Being Jewish myself, I was interested in exploring Erikson’s sense of dual religious identity, as a Jew and a Christian simultaneously, and in assessing the extent of the damage done by the personal and professional crisis that enveloped Erikson when his near-conversion and ultimate refusal to repudiate either faith came to the attention of his (mostly Jewish) critics in the 1970s.
In 2009 when I was invited to become the facilitator of Schwartz Rounds at the Royal Free Hospital in London I felt I had a real and exciting chance to bring two strands of my life, and my work together. I’d long been interested in storytelling. My first degree was in English literature, and I loved writing. I also loved being a psychologist and I had often thought about trying to write creatively about the experience of having this role in a hectic organisation, sitting on the blurred interface between professional and personal experience, wondering about the similarities and differences between “patients “and staff. I had had “True Tales of Organisational Life” as a possible title in my mind for this story, for a number of years before I began my work on Rounds.
As is well known, each specialist approaches his patients concentrating on his particular field of work. If his investigations result negative, he can only try to reassure the patient or, if considered appropriate, refer him/her to another specialist – where the same clinical principles will be followed. General practitioners, paediatricians and various other specialists will often find themselves struggling with children or adolescents who present physical complaints that do not respond to words of reassurance or to multiple treatment attempts, even though all laboratory investigations fail to identify any underlying physical abnormality. My new book, The Language of Distress, describes a particular approach to such cases, where the consultation led to the finding that the response given by the parents to their child’s symptoms was, in fact, perpetuating their presence.
In 1969 Ian Mucklejohn went as a supply teacher to Crookham Court School, a private boys’ school in Berkshire, where he kept a diary of its eccentricities and odd characters. But it became clear that these peculiarities disguised a sinister undercurrent. Years later, he helped to expose one of the biggest scandals in modern British education, as evidence emerged of the sexual abuse by teachers of dozens of boys at the school. He writes here about the book recounting how the abuse came to light and the lessons that need to be learned.
We live in fascinating times, where recent advances in trauma theory, attachment theory, relational psychoanalysis, and infant research not only allow us, but require us, to revisit and reconsider the fundamental tenets of our theory and practice.
The aim of my new book, Racist States of Mind: Understanding the Perversion of Curiosity and Concern, was to observe and understand racism as a psychological phenomenon – what I refer to as a ‘state of mind’ as it emerges in individuals, groups, organisations, and societal life.
Are we headed toward human extinction? All inhabited continents are engaged in military conflict, and there is no foreseeable end in sight. World superpowers, rogue nations, and international politics fuel existing warfare, leading to repetitive cycles of death, despair, transgenerational trauma, and systemic ruin.