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.
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.
The psychological and neurobiological characteristics of the ‘unrepressed unconscious’ and the role of the right hemisphere
What do we mean by “unrepressed unconscious”? Are there differences between the so-called “unrepressed unconscious” identified by some authors, and the “repressed unconscious”, which has generally been the object of the psychoanalytical investigations of theoreticians and clinicians, starting with Freud himself? How do we understand the relationship of this “unrepressed unconscious” with the modes of implicit memory? What is the role of the unrepressed unconscious in the most recent clinical work? These are some of the questions the contributors to this volume have tried to debate and exemplify.
How the ongoing dialogue between the left and right hemispheres constitutes our mental reality
My book The Wisdom of Lived Experience explores various aspects of the nature of reality and more specifically that of lived experience. In recent years I have become aware that my efforts to learn from theory and from noted colleagues have often meant closing down my experiencing mind and focussing upon the intellectual and the theoretical, rather that upon the more three-dimensional lived experience with my patients and within myself.
Objective Subjectivity: A Basic Theory of Neuropsychoanalysis
Freud’s ideas about the mind, evolution, and culture were revolutionary. Psychoanalytic theory was brought into service to treat mental illness because it was developed in a medical context. But the methods of psychoanalytic investigation, especially ‘free association’ and dream analysis, were most suited for learning about the mind, not ‘fixing’ the mind. The theory involved thinking objectively and scientifically about normal and pathological subjective experiences such as ‘feeling anxious’ and ‘feeling depressed’. Psychoanalytic ‘therapy’ involves largely telling a patient “this is how your mind works” and “this is why it works this way”.
Going beneath the skin of the contemporary fascination with serial killers: the Allure of Power, Control, Dominance
‘I hadn’t started out per se to ‘study’ serial murderers, now many years ago. I was doing neurological research on the NASA Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Increasingly I was becoming interested in neuropathology of primitive personalities. In biochemistry we go to the molecular structure of a compound to see what its chemical signature is composed of. What then was the signature of what may be the most primitive form of man; who represented man at his serially worst: A murderer who killed for seemingly pleasurable gain and who used power, control and dominance, as a way of torturing his victims before he murdered them. In those days the term ‘serial killer’ was not yet in the public sector as it resides today nor did the idea of a serial killer carry the current voyeuristic allure.