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.
Every day on the internet we look for information, play videogames, chat, work, or buy something. But what exactly is the nature of the ‘space’ we surf in and through? Is it virtual or real? What is the actual relation between the ‘virtual’ reality we inhabit in a videogame, or a film, or on the internet and the invisible ‘psychic’ reality which is the main focus of psychoanalysis? How does cyberspace affect issues of corporeality, or time and space, that traditionally constitute subjective experience? What happens to the embodied relationships between people? In Psychoanalysis, Identity and the Internet I suggest that psychoanalytical theory is the best – most appropriate – way for us to understand the nature of the new ‘subjects’ and subjective presences that appear in the modern world of the internet and cyberspace.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘At present, it has been estimated that over 200 million people are considered to be migrants. The reasons for having left their homes are wide-ranging: escaping from war, persecution, discrimination and exploitation, at one extreme; seeking better living conditions and opportunities for work, at the other. Some migrants end up having to perform jobs that are dirty, dangerous and degrading. For others, migrating can become a positive and creative experience, contributing to the economic growth of the new country and enriching societies through cultural diversity. In all cases, the changes profoundly affect individuals, couples and families.Varchevker and McGinley have put together a collection of papers dealing, not only with external migration, but also with the consequences of internal migration. The individual’s life cycle is here used as a valuable frame for the understanding of those changes and their sequels. From a broad psychoanalytical perspective, the different authors included in this book describe the multiple problems presented by migration in its complex contemporary dimension.’– Gregorio Kohon, Fellow and Training Analyst, The British Psychoanalytical Society