Migration and its vicissitudes

The life cycle

The life cycle is an important framework that has been used and can be used by different theoretical perspectives and from various disciplines. The concept ‘life cycle’ was developed by Erik Erikson, in terms of chronological phases from infancy onwards, connecting the emotional and biological development of the individual and socio-cultural factors.

The psychoanalytic perspective focuses on the chronological age of the individual and his/her emotional development. From birth onwards the individual is expected to develop in order to deal with emotional and biological changes and external needs and pressures. The life cycle allows horizontal and vertical exploration of the individual’s present situation: the individual’s history (vertical) and their present emotional state (horizontal) and, in addition, the external and internal pressures coming from families, friends and socio-cultural contexts.

We decided to use the life cycle in our books on Trauma and Migration as we considered there to be significant differences at each stage of the life cycle. From birth onwards the individual is never alone or in total isolation; what is digestible by some may not be by others. To come to grips with the vicissitudes of life requires the capacity to work through the various stages of the life cycle. We wanted to draw attention to the complexities of these issues. 

From a psychoanalytic perspective, the early years and early development in terms of attachment and separation are especially important in relation to future developments. How they are worked through will affect future developmental stages and conflicts. We have used an object relations approach developed by Melanie Klein and her followers, but we also stressed the importance of different contributions from a psychodynamic perspective. We also are aware that there are different ethnic, cultural, social and gender contexts which have an effect on the various phases of the life cycle. It is important to be aware of these contexts and their effect on the patient and on the therapist.

The theory of the Oedipus complex was developed by Freud, who considered it central in exploring and understanding the mind’s functioning. I want to underline the importance of exploring the variations of the Oedipus complex at different stages of the life cycle. 

It is well-known that emotional difficulties or trauma in early childhood tend to be reactivated and affect the individual’s capacity to work through stresses that may appear at later stages of the life cycle. As I mentioned above, it is important to locate the stage of the life cycle when the individual is experiencing considerable anxieties or stress due to some form of migration or trauma, because the meaning of what is happening and how it is happening can be significantly different according to that stage.

Each stage confronts the individual with significant changes and often activates stress and anxiety. Basically, these stresses refer to conscious or unconscious awareness about the individual’s own life, in terms of biological, emotional and interactive situations. Of course there are external situations in life, and some quite stressful ones, and all of them can reactivate oedipal anxieties in a very intense way.

It is also important to emphasise that men and women will have different symptoms and responses to trauma and stress, due to the biological and psychological differences between them.  There are changes in their bodies, and in their lives according to external and internal expectations, which are affected by their emotional development and social and ethnic and religious backgrounds. For instance, an Asian adolescent living in the Eastern world will have a very different experience from an adolescent from the Eastern world living in an Asian country.  All this suggests a multiplicity of factors that activate and shape different aspects of the life cycle from birth to death.

Internal and external migration

Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise , Masaccio (1401-1428).

Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, Masaccio (1401-1428).

The Bible refers to the first migration, when Adam and Eve were seduced by the tree of knowledge. When their eyes were opened, they were able to see that the materials that make up life are good and evil. Their acquired knowledge had a high price: leaving Paradise. ‘Paradise’, meaning that everything is provided in terms of goodness and pleasure.

Life confronts us with migration from birth to death. We can say that the baby inside the womb lives in a different world. It is a habitat that resembles a paradise where everything flows without an effort. To be born is to enter a world of early attachments and frustrations that require external and internal help to work through. Therefore, we can consider that the first migration occurs when the baby is born. Coming out of the womb is a form of migration into a different world.  Of course we sometimes long for a ‘paradise experience’ and on some occasions individuals can recreate illusions or delusions in which some form of paradise can be re-installed.

We can define migration in everyday language as a forced or voluntary move whereby the individual changes his habitat. How he leaves, how he lands and how he is received play an important part in a successful outcome.

Migration is a complex phenomenon and I focused on certain aspects that I consider important from a psychoanalytic perspective. I consider migration from a dual perspective: the external change of habitat and the internal change of habitat or mental change. This mental change is connected to the vicissitudes that the external change brings about, but I also suggest that the concept of internal migration can be applied to the emotional conscious and unconscious changes and its vicissitudes associated to development. Internal migration is very much linked to different aspects of the Oedipus complex and when we consider a successful internal migration we are referring to the ability to work though the anxieties aroused by the Oedipus complex. 

As I mentioned, to locate internal migration at different stages of the life cycle is important; especially if we want to find out its meaning and how they affect the individual’s capacity to deal with them.

Arturo Varchevker
Co-Editor of Enduring Migration Through the Life Cycle and Enduring Trauma Through the Life Cycle (Karnac Books, 2013).


Human canvas

\u200BDr. Paul Magee, Associate Professor of Poetry at The University of Canberra, presents 'Human Canvas', an in-depth review of Invention in the Real: Papers of the Freudian School of Melbourne, edited by Linda Clifton (Karnac Books, 2012).

Among others, the points raised by Dr. Magee include:
  • Lacan and the question of tradition and authority;
  • issues concerning child analysis;
  • the status of translated texts and the analysis of art.
Download and view: 'Human Canvas' by Dr. Paul Magee [PDF file, 84Kb].\u200B


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Dr. Paul Magee, Associate Professor of Poetry at The University of Canberra, presents 'Human Canvas', an in-depth review of Invention in the Real: Papers of the Freudian School of Melbourne, edited by Linda Clifton (Karnac Books, 2012).

Among others, the points raised by Dr. Magee include:
  • Lacan and the question of tradition and authority;
  • issues concerning child analysis;
  • the status of translated texts and the analysis of art.
Download and view: 'Human Canvas' by Dr. Paul Magee [PDF file, 84Kb].

A demented beehive

Brent Potter, author of Elements of Self Destruction, engages with the works of Wilfred Bion and Martin Heidegger to explore the sometimes horrifying manifestations of 'mass hallucinosis' in contemporary culture and our everyday lives.

The sound of Sigmund Freud

This is the only known audio recording of Sigmund Freud, made by the BBC and broadcast in December, 1938. Freud was ill with throat cancer at the time. A transcript of his words is supplied below.

I started my professional activity as a neurologist trying to bring relief to my neurotic patients. Under the influence of an older friend and by my own efforts, I discovered some important new facts about the unconscious in psychic life, the role of instinctual urges, and so on. Out of these findings grew a new science, psychoanalysis, a part of psychology, and a new method of treatment of the neuroses. I had to pay heavily for this bit of good luck. People did not believe in my facts and thought my theories unsavory. Resistance was strong and unrelenting. In the end I succeeded in acquiring pupils and building up an International Psychoanalytic Association. But the struggle is not yet over.
— Sigmund Freud

Foreshocks of the mind

John Michael Greer, whose powerful new book explores the psychological and social consequences of the peak oil crisis (Not the Future We Ordered) reflects on how signs of catastrophic upheaval often firstly manifest in the minds of individuals.

Marcel Proust: the making of a sadomasochist

Hendrika C. Freud, author of Men and Mothers: The Lifelong Struggle of Sons and Their Mothers, reflects on Marcel Proust's relationship with his mother, and its impact on his sexuality and writing.

The England riots of August 2011

'It would be wrong to claim that riots were inevitable. But it was hardly surprising to say the least when, one day, large swathes of the population who could not afford the consumer goods suddenly discovered that, if enough of them simultaneously smashed the windows of the shops and just took what they wanted, it was possible.'

Oliver James, author of Affluenza, explores the real reasons for the England Riots of 2011.​

The Signifier Pointing at the Moon: Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism - Author's notes

'I wrote this book to help clarify some misconceptions about Zen and psychoanalysis and particularly to explore the relationship between Zen and Lacanian psychoanalysis.'
Raul Moncayo explores the common ground and disagreements between Lacan and the teachings of Zen Buddhism.

Minding the Markets: An Emotional Finance View of Financial Instability - Publisher's notes

Based on candid, in-depth interviews with over 50 international money managers, David Tuckett brings psychoanalytic theories of finance and the markets bang up to date.

The Constitution of the Psychoanalytic Clinic: A History of its Structure and Power - Interview

'I situate psychoanalysis as a practice through a kind of archaeology of the social contexts and practices that give rise to psychoanalytic treatment, and trace this from Ancient Greece to the twenty-first century.'

Christian Dunker talks about the realisation of his ambitious study, which documents the history of the practices that gave rise to psychoanalysis.