How It All Began …

It was back in 1973, and the Sao Paulo Society had newly emerged and was in the process of consolidating its own unique psychoanalytic identity. Dr. Frank Julian Philips took the initiative. Trained in London, analyzed by both Melanie Klein and Bion, he was at that time analyzing many others who would become the pioneering analysts in São Paulo and help spread analysis and Bion’s ideas throughout Brazil. Together with Professor Virgínia Leone Bicudo, director of the Sao Paulo Institute, Phillips organized the first of Bion’s four visits to Brazil in 1973 (the other three were in 1974, 1975, and 1978). The impact of those visits was to prove enormously influential, both in Sao Paulo and in many other Brazilian psychoanalytic Societies that the Sao Paulo group went on to help develop.

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Understanding the Changing Social Contexts for Fathering

Staying Attached: Fathers and Children in Troubled Times is a book about fathers who want to be present in their children’s lives; but who find it hard to be so.  It is based on both research with fathers and their life stories, and also clinical experience of work alongside fathers through family mental health care and family court systems.

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Speech from the 17th International Symposium of the Group Analytic Society International  Berlin, 15- 19 August 2017

As the Editor of the New International Library of Group Analysis (NILGA) I am very pleased to help launch several new books, perhaps especially because I am a co-Editor of one of them and a co-author of chapters in it, and have also been extremely involved in the preparation of the final drafts of the other two books.

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Life, but not as we know it

“In man, creature and creator are united: in man there is not only matter, fragment, excess, clay, mud, madness, chaos; but in man there is also creator, sculptor, the hardness of the hammer, the divine spectator and the seventh day” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

 

The fabrication of human life disrupted by contemporary technologies

Where do children come from?  That is the impossible question par excellence.   Why am I me and not someone else?  Why was I born here, rather than somewhere else?  Why now, rather than at another time?  Whatever the explanation may be, origin remains something that cannot be represented, cannot be thought, inaccessible, ungraspable – as is revealed with such clarity through the question of a little girl to her pregnant mother, once the mother had exhausted all manner of explanations, without any of them answering the question: “Yes, I know all of that, but my question is a different one: me, before I was in your belly, where was I?”

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An Introduction for Health Professionals

This is the third book that I have had published as an author since I began writing again in 2013.  Nevertheless, I had always intended to write this book.  The systematic desensitisation programme that it the subject matter of this book made such a difference to my life when I was only 23 years of age, that I have felt it is imperative that I make some effort to publicise this brilliant method of helping those who suffer the extremely disabling effects of panic disorder or phobia.

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Copyright © 2016, 2017, by Brett Kahr. Please do not quote without the permission of the author.

On 8th November, 2014, the distinguished and pioneering American physician, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Joseph Langs died at his home in New York City, New York, at the age of eighty-six years, from amyloidosis, a rare blood disease.  One of the most prolific authors in the entire history of psychoanalysis, Langs produced enough published works to fill a whole library wall.  In sheer quantity alone, as author or editor of over fifty books, he certainly rivalled, and even exceeded, the output of Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, and Donald Winnicott.

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How psychoanalysis can be applied to our understanding of disability

The publication of The Clinic of Disability: Psychoanalytical Approaches affords English speaking readers access to what we refer to as “French disability studies”, which are relatively unknown outside France. Our aim is to promote French psychoanalytical thinking in English speaking countries and pave the way for dialogue with our counterparts internationally.

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How dramatherapy can help improve self-image and self-esteem

Working with overweight and obese women in dramatherapy groups was the theme of my PhD research. Initially, I had considered tackling the problem of eating disorders, but being too broad a subject area I narrowed it down to overweight and obese women. I gave it no more thought until my supervisor asked me why, on a personal level, I had chosen this subject. My immediate answer had been that I have always considered myself slightly overweight. However, this did not seem to be a good enough reason. Then, it occurred to me. My English grandmother, Granny Molly! She had been overweight and had died in her early sixties from a heart attack, possibly as a result of being overweight. My granny Molly was ‘larger than life’, boisterous, outrageous and bustling with life, and was always pressing the most delicious food on everyone. And, of course, I loved her, and her food, dearly.

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Key Ingredients of Change

Stepping into Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Key Ingredients of Change provides an accessible introduction to Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) as articulated by Dr. Sue Johnson. It introduces therapists unfamiliar with the model the theory and practice of EFT from the clients’ and therapist’s points of view. It also gives practitioners already familiar with the model a practical overview to augment their facility and engagement with the model. Process and outcome research testifies that EFT is arguably the most effective model of couple therapy available. We know not only that EFT works but we know how it works.

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The Making of a Marriage

In 1980, Harley SwiftDeer Reagan was authorised by the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society to publish ‘Shamanic Wheels and Keys’, thus making the teaching of the shamanic Medicine Wheel, held in secret by Native Americans for millennia, available to a wider world. During the 1980s, Nick Headley, a teacher at The Institute of Psychosynthesis London, and Leo Rutherford, founder of Eagle’s Wing College of Contemporary Shamanism, received a shamanic training from SwiftDeer. 

Harley SwiftDeer Reagan

My Foundation Year of Psychosynthesis psychotherapy training included a six day introduction to the shamanic Medicine Wheel, led by Nick Headley. I qualified as a psychotherapist in 1998. My continued interest in shamanism culminated in a practitioner training with Eagle’s Wing, under Leo Rutherford, where I qualified in 2014.

I am now faced with a dilemma. Should I keep my work as a Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist separate from my work as a Shamanic Practitioner, or should I seek to combine the two? The resolution of this dilemma, and its relevance to today’s world, is the subject of this article. A description of the content of the ensuing book is outside the scope of the present article, but is available on the Soulfulness page of Karnac’s website.

Psychosynthesis is a mainstream psychology concerned with the impact of past experiences upon the present. At the same time, Psychosynthesis is a psychospiritual psychology, concerned with the future, what may be emerging in a person’s life, its purpose, meaning and values. As I come to realise: a psychospiritual psychology which looks at the future as well as the past has a close affinity with shamanic practice, both being committed to the Care of Soul, the healing of Soul, and the expansion of Soul.

This realisation seems to be pointing me towards bringing together psychotherapy and shamanism. However, I can’t get away with throwing around ‘Soul’ without placing it on solid ground within mainstream psychology, lest I face a justifiable charge of supernatural belief. The definition of ‘Soul’ in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary is, ‘The principle of life ..; animate existence’. I extend this to form my own simple, rational definition of ‘Soul’, ‘The principle of life, being alive, and our experience of being alive’. In the light of this definition, the expressions Care of Soul, healing of Soul, and expansion Soul – of a person’s experience of being alive – make sense in a psychotherapeutic, psychospiritual context.

I am now hooked, facing an extensive research project, which I formulated as: to determine how to bring the wisdom of the ancient healing practice of shamanism together with the insights of contemporary psychology to provide an integrated approach to the treatment of developmental trauma. The research comprises two distinct shamanic threads: Shamanic Psychology, as expressed in the many aspects of the Medicine Wheel, the wheel of wholeness and energy for life, an ancient system of understanding the human condition that is highly pertinent in today’s world; the Shamanic Journey, a form of conscious dreaming, to the beat of a medicine drum, focusing on gaining insight into some personal concern that the person making the journey has.

Shamanic Wheel

To provide focus to my research project, I decide to write a book. I read up on key aspects of contemporary psychological thinking – infant and adult attachment patterns, developmental trauma, the survival personality, imagination and dreams, the inner child, the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy – and relate these subjects to the teachings of Shamanic Psychology and the practice of the Shamanic Journey. Finally, I bring everything together by formulating a detailed, practical, and psychospiritual approach to the integration of psychotherapeutic thought and  practice with an understanding of shamanic teaching and practice that is congruent with today’s world. I call the book ‘Soulfulness’, because I view psychotherapy as being fundamentally about a person gradually expanding their experience of being alive in today’s world.

Finally, I need to put my research into action, over a period of time: I have been introducing Medicine Wheel teachings into my Psychosynthesis psychotherapy practice; I have been teaching my psychotherapy clients how to make shamanic journeys and to benefit from them; the full realisation of the marriage of shamanic and contemporary psychology and practice, as I have formulated it, is work in progress. In line with these developments: I have renamed my Psychosynthesis psychotherapy practice ‘Psychotherapy for Soul’; I have created a new Psychosynthesis psychotherapy website, soulfulness.co.uk.

Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis ‘Egg’ Diagram

The culmination of my research project is a contract with Karnac for the publication of the Soulfulnessbook. As a highly respected, academic publisher of psychological works, Karnac is the ideal publisher for a book which needs to establish solid ground for the inclusion of something so apparently way out as shamanism into the mainstream of psychotherapeutic endeavour.

Whilst the psychotherapy aspect of Soulfulness is the main theme of the book, there is a further theme that is worthy of mention, and which to my mind fits Assagioli’s commitment to the widest possible application of Psychosynthesis. Soulfulness can be part of a spiritual practice, enhancing our experience of living and enabling us to live more abundant and fulfilled lives. The Medicine Wheel, in its many aspects, provides boundless scope as a subject of focused reflection and meditation. Also, once familiar with shamanic journeying, a person can journey at home to explore day-to-day issues of concern. As a simple, personal example, whenever I feel blocked in my writing work, a shamanic journey into my current subject matter helps me to unravel and understand what it is that I am seeking to express.

David England is a Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist and Counsellor in private practice. He trained at the Institute of Psychosynthesis, where he worked for seven years as a course tutor. For five years, working alongside a Psychosynthesis colleague, (Simon Smith, author of Inner Leadership), David undertook Psychosynthesis-based business coaching and personal development work with business managers. David trained as a Shamanic Practitioner at Eagle’s Wing College of Contemporary Shamanism. He is also a workshop leader, professional storyteller, and public speaker.

His book, Soulfulness: The Marriage of Shamanic and Contemporary Psychology, has recently been published by Karnac.

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This is What a Psychoanalyst Looks Like

According to the comedian Eddie Izzard there is a thing called the ‘Circle of Cool’ and each of us is situated somewhere on its circumference. There’s looking utterly dreary, then further around things get marginally more interesting, gradually edging towards quite-cool-actually before reaching ‘hip and groovy’, which is then liable to tip over into ‘looking like a dickhead’. If you wear the same style of clothes your whole life you may find yourself inadvertently moving around the circle; your checked suits take you from looking conventional to eccentric and then back again, ad infinitum. Each cycle takes about twenty years.

 

In Nina Coltart’s classic book, How to Survive as a Psychotherapist, she advises fellow therapists on their choice of work clothes; nothing too extreme, apparently. The point is to look ‘regular’ and, most importantly, not too narcissistic. Female therapists mustn’t appear sexy. Make-up needs to be kept to a minimum and skirts should fall below the knee. You’re there to listen, not to seduce your patients, nor to make them envious. Portrayals of therapists in films tend to fall in line with this advice. For men the choice is between looking like Freud (Spellbound) or going smart-casual (Hope Springs), perhaps straying into eccentric knitwear if you work with more creative clients (Some Kind of Monster). For women the trajectory is much the same, from utterly-drab-but-affluent (Get Out) to droopy-wacky (Meet the Fockers), either option being purchasable at Hampstead Bazaar.
 

My first interest in psychoanalysis was very much bound up with an interest in fashion. While studying Fine Art at Goldsmiths’ I had the double pleasure of being encouraged to study Freud, and never being discouraged from looking like a dickhead. The two weren’t seen as contradictory. Using psychoanalytic ideas to think about fashion, and what people might be trying to do with clothes, had a venerable history. Not only had the subject of fashion been discussed at Freud’s Wednesday meetings, but there was J.C. Flügel’s brilliant Psychology of Clothes, and even Edmund Bergler’s Fashion and the Unconscious (if you were able to stomach his ludicrous ideas about ‘curing’ homosexuals).  

The first point of conflict between my two big areas of interest came when I started to see a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in my third year of college. He was pretty forthright about viewing my outfits as a symptom in need of fixing, and recommended that I try dressing ‘more normally’ for a week or two ‘to see what kinds of feelings it brought out’. The idea was horrific. Fashion, it seemed, was functioning like a drug for me, buffering unbearable thoughts and sensations, absorbing libido, and intermittently making it enjoyable to inhabit a body. Perhaps it was even warding off self-destructive impulses — I certainly spent huge amounts of time doing vicious things to clothes, cutting them, dying them and generally tormenting them. If I hadn’t been doing that I dread to think what I might have done instead. It was a symptom I didn’t feel I could afford to drop. The therapist himself was wholly committed to the ‘smart casual’ option, and I eventually decided I’d like to remain as far away from his position on the circle of cool as possible. The therapy ended with me feeling like a ‘bad patient’ who was choosing not to get better. 
 

A few years later, my interest in both fields still intact, I found myself choosing between working in fashion — as either a stylist or journalist — or thinking about psychoanalysis more seriously. I offered myself as an unpaid slave to Katie Grand, went to meet a scary woman upstairs at Vogue House, found a lacanian analyst (who looked like Freud in a big way), and started going to psychoanalytic events. The first of these was a Christopher Bollas talk at Regent’s College, and it was one of the worst visual shocks of my life. I had never seen so much soft, bland-coloured fabric in one room. The overwhelming neutrality made me nauseous. How could anything be differentiated from anything else in this space? Perhaps one at a time these therapists might have appeared calm, trustworthy and admirably lacking vanity but, en masse, they just looked spooky. (It’s incredible to think that, around two decades later, in 2016, these people might have found themselves firmly in the hip and groovy zone, comfy neutrals being the core concept of Kanye West’s ‘Yeezy Season 2’…) 

A visit to a lacanian conference in Paris a couple of years later proved decisive. The analysts were unapologetically dickheaded. (Lacanians are famous for this.) They wore brightly coloured dresses, vintage kimonos, sunglasses indoors, there were men in McQueen skulls, and some of them smoked some kind of prototype e-cigarettes during lectures. They were also completely uninterested in ‘curing’ people if curing meant bringing them into line with some kind of social norm. I had been warned off these dangerous types by a pair of dour beige-wearers at a West London psychotherapy clinic, and their spitting disapproval probably clinched the deal. It had to be possible to use psychoanalytic ideas to think and to write, and to have dynamic dialogues with people who were suffering, without dressing up as a human blur. I even wondered whether this purposeful dowdiness made patients’ fantasies about their therapists more lurid, as if the too-obvious mask of respectability was a veritable provocation.
 
Of course the world of fashion can be cruel. Its capriciousness, its treatment of women’s bodies, its snobbishness, its encouragement of unnecessary expenditure, and its production of waste, are all appalling. But then again it can be incredibly tolerant, welcoming a huge array of people, many of whom might be seen as misfits elsewhere. While it has a reputation for valorising a narrow vision of beauty, it also celebrates difference, lauding people and things that the rest of the world may consider ugly. As my first, dear object relations therapist might have understood, fashion is both good and bad. 
 
For Freud, the thing that was striking about fashion was its hold over otherwise sensible women, who appeared to be defenceless against it. (Perhaps a disavowal of his own investment in fine clothes?) This idea is very much reflected in both Zoolander films, where everyone’s in thrall to a huge, spooky system. The films present the most idiotic face of fashion — literally — but are much loved by people in the industry. (Or at least the first one was; Zoolander 2 apparently seemed a bit passé.) The ‘copying’ aspect of fashion suggests something mindless; you wear something because other people are wearing it. Fashion involves a kind of cloning. This unquestioning suggestibility is perhaps not the quality one might expect to find in a therapist, who maybe ought to exhibit more independence of thought. But how strange that therapists’ traditional insistence on a disinvestment of one’s own image produces yet another series of clones…
 

Last year I found myself regularly wearing a mushroom coloured wool sack dress without the slightest hint of irony. I wondered what it meant. Was I finally cured of my symptom? Had I become a ‘proper’ therapist? Or was it just that I had had the good fortune to stumble across this brutally minimalist Margiela dress in the New Cross TKMaxx? The answer remains unclear. 

Anouchka Grose is a psychoanalyst and writer practising in London. She is a member of CFAR and The College of Psychoanalysts-UK. She has written non-fiction: No More Silly Love Songs: A Realist’s Guide to Romance (Portobello, 2010) and Are you Considering Therapy (Karnac, 2011), as well as writing fiction: Ringing for You (Harper Collins, 1999) and Darling Daisy (Harper Collins, 2000). She is the editor of Hysteria Today (2015), a collection of essays on hysteria in the contemporary psychoanalytic clinic. Her journalism is published in The Guardian, and she also writes for numerous art and fashion publications. She has taught at Camberwell School of Art and gives talks on art and psychoanalysis in museums and galleries, as well as sometimes speaking on the radio. .

Her latest book, From Anxiety to Zoolander: Notes on Psychoanalysis, has recently been published by Karnac.

 
 
 

The book will also be available to buy at the forthcoming Fashion and Psychoanalysis International Conference on Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th October 2017, at Freud Museum London. This conference brings together psychoanalytic thinkers and fashion experts to offer fresh perspectives in fashion thinking. Speakers will address a wide range of themes connecting fashion, clothing, style and the body to psychoanalysis, creativity and unconscious emotional life. The conference will also explore the largely neglected role of fashion in clinical and mental health settings – aiming to address the many idiosyncrasies, taboos and paradoxes involved.

The second day will be dedicated to wellbeing and mental health in the context of fashion. Through research and clinical perspectives, it will invite you to unravel two rather paradoxical phenomena: the relative absence of psychology in the fashion world and the apparent absence of fashion in the clinical encounter. The conference will end with a panel discussion on ‘Enclothed cognition’. The panel will include Carolyn Mair, Anouchka Grose, Katerina Fotopoulou, Claire Pajaczkowska and others. To buy tickets for the event, please click here.

 

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A New Metapsychology Consistent with Neuroscience

Antonio Imbasciati is an Italian psychologist and infant neuropsychiatrist and Training Analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society, who has dedicated his life to both clinics and research. He has written hundreds of scientific papers and sixty-four books: his first book was published in 1964 (see  www.imbasciati.it). In the last twenty years he has outlined and developed a ‘Perinatal Clinical Psychology’, which has led him to write many theoretical works in a clear criticism against current theories in psychoanalytical Institutions.

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