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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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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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 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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Teletherapy, by Jill Savege Scharff

Posted on Aug 29, 2017

The Teleanalytic Setting

Families with scattered members stay in touch, thanks to WeChat, Facetime or Skype.  Why not use the same technology to give patients access to a good analyst?  That is not so simple.  Insurance companies may not reimburse for teletherapy. States may not grant an exceptional license to an out-of-state provider for one patient (although many states are now forming an interstate licensure compact).  Skype and Facetime cannot claim to be HIPPA-competent: A breach in confidentiality could occur.  We could do harm.  These are all real concerns and could lead therapists to say no to a patient’s request for treatment at a distance.

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Telling the Story of the Linked Self: A Journey in Psychoanalysis

IPI faculty members presented a number of panels, presentations, and precongress workshops at the International Psychoanalytical Congress in Buenos Aires in July 2017.  At one of those panels, David Scharff and Lea Setton invited Roberto Losso, Juan Tubert-Oklander and Joachim Pichon-Rivière, to join them in presenting the ideas and applications of the late Enrique Pichon-Rivière.  Later they gathered to celebrate the launch of their edited book The Linked Self in Psychoanalysis: The Pioneering Work of Enrique Pichon-Rivière edited by Roberto Losso, Lea Setton, and David Scharff, in English for the first time (London: Karnac 2017). Enrique’s ideas are so original, and his early development so fascinating, that I wanted to share them widely, especially with young people who haven’t a clue about what a therapist or psychoanalyst actually does, or how an analytic approach can help.  So I got the idea of writing the story of Enrique as a story to read to our children and grandchildren.

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An Analytic Journey into New Psychic Terrains

This book is a collection of texts written between 1983 and 2017. They could be read as a diary, the private diary of my life as a psychoanalyst. The texts in the book are all responses to questions that I have asked myself or that were sometimes put to me. They are thus inner dialogues, often with imaginary interlocutors. Others may well know how to write differently, but for me writing is always addressed to someone else, sometimes in order to contradict them. I have always had a rebellious spirit, as I was told even when I was a child. Later on, Pierre Marty, with whom I worked from the creation of the Paris Day Hospital for Psychosomatics until his death in 1993 used to call me ‘Mrs “Yes, Sir, but…” ‘.

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The Greening of Psychoanalysis

In a paper written in 2011 for the Revue Française de Psychanalyse, André Green (2011b) traces the trajectory of his own work in his quest to understand the borderline patient—from the book On Private Madness (which in the French edition was subtitled: “Psychoanalysis of Borderline States”) to his last book, Illusions and Disillusions of Psychoanalytic Work . In the first, the concept of the death instinct had not been mentioned. In-between the two books lies the nine-hour weekend seminar given by Green in Paris on the death instinct, published under the title: Pourquoi les pulsions de destruction ou de mort?

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Exploring the Family and Couple State of Mind


The psychoanalytic treatment of families and couples has long been relegated to second class status, thought by psychoanalysts to be a lesser, distant cousin of “the real deal” of individual analysis. But there are many of us who feel that psychoanalysis is first and foremost a working theory, a set of ideas towards understanding the human condition, and then, secondarily, a set of applications to various modes of therapy – individual analytic therapy done mostly once or twice weekly, intensive psychoanalysis usually employing the couch with a frequency of three to five times a week – and family and couple psychoanalysis (or psychoanalytic therapy), along with a number of other equally important applications such as group analysis. All these are legitimate modes of application of psychoanalysis.

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Good People, Bad Politics

Last week I went to a conference about the most radical shift in the NHS you’ve never heard of. A conference about Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), held by a well-known health policy and research foundation populated by the new generation of blue-suited corporate account managers and a few good people of a clinical persuasion. The beards have gone, but a glance around the room is sober confirmation about the consequences of ‘strong and stable’ leadership on diversity and class participation in public service debates.

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Creativity, Psychoanalysis, and the Unconscious

Celebrating the launch of Writing on the Moon at the Creative Salon

Writing on the Moon is an innovative collection of creative writings by psychotherapists – poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction. The themes tap into our most passionate and spontaneous selves, raiding the inarticulate, as we hear the creative voices of psychotherapists as never before. Two questions are implicitly addressed: Why is creativity important to psychoanalysis? And how can a therapist’s analytic mind be receptive to the artistic voice?

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Dreams, Storytelling, and the Birth of Literature

“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep”
– Shakespeare, The Tempest

Dreams and literature are closely related. The dream’s essence lies in its storytelling capacity. Dreams are autobiographical fictions that tell the story of the dreamer’s life history, her role in transgenerational family themes, and her ethnic and cultural identity. In that sense dreams are psychosocial depositories and makers, not unlike world literature, which recreates interiority and historicity of a given time period. Literature is a dream gone solid. And the process of fiction writing duplicates the dream’s inherent narrative facility. 

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The Interrelatedness of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Thinking Disorders, and Depression


Psychiatric classification

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition, 2013), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the fourth most common mental disorder after depression, alcohol/substance misuse, and social phobia, with a lifetime prevalence in community surveys of 1.6%. The World Health Organization ranks OCD as one of the ten most handicapping conditions by lost income and decreased quality of life (Murray & Lopez, 1996). When the disorder starts in childhood or adolescence, young people may avoid socialising with peers or become unable to live independently.

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How Mind is Embedded in Body which in turn is Embedded in the Interactive Social World

Enrique Pichon Rivière is probably the most important psychoanalyst most of us have never heard of. He wrote little, and all he did publish or that was recorded in the notes of his students and published by them was only – until now – published in Spanish. With the publication of this collection that Roberto Losso of Argentina, Lea Setton of Panama, and I have labored to make available in English, and with the introduction of one of his papers for the first time in English in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis immediately preceding the publication of this book, we hope that Pichon’s prescient and globally influential ideas will be restored to the recognition they so richly deserve.

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Understanding Winnicott’s unique contribution to psychoanalytic theory and practice

During the 1980s, three critically ill patients from my private practice forced me to acknowledge, to my dismay, that traditional psychoanalytic theory did not provide sufficient support for their cases. They were an anorexic girl whose lack of hope prevented anything from flourishing in her life; a professionally successful woman, who nevertheless saw no meaning in life and whose brilliant mental performance, I later realized, was split off from psycho-somatic living; and a 23-year-old man, who presented the greatest psychic devastation I had ever witnessed, a mixture of dread, despair, and violence. 

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What Psychoanalytical Theory can contribute to a clinical approach to Delirium

The population of people over 65 is estimated to double every twenty years and with it the prevalence of dementia, and hence risk of delirium, will continue to escalate (Prince et al.). In light of this burgeoning health care crisis, former President Obama announced in 2013 the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative to support the development of new research to revolutionise the management of brain disorders that have a major epidemiological impact.

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Deconstructing the Psychoanalytic Thinking concerning sexuality

Contemporary societies are dealing with enormous challenges related to the increasing presence of new family configurations, sexual and gender migrations, as well as questioning of the classical categories on women and the feminine. These challenges become visible in a context of significant advances concerning biotechnology and informatics, within a world that oscillates between globalization and multiculturalism, between discrimination and inclusion.

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Is there a way of promoting or instituting better integrated services?

This March will see the publication of a timely and significant book illustrating the distinctive contribution psychoanalytic thinking brings to our mental health services. Psychoanalysis, the NHS, and Mental Health Work Today (Karnac, March 2017, part of their Psychoanalytic Ideas Series, edited by James Rose, former Chair of the BPC) features contributions from psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, organisational consultants, consultant psychiatrists, and a leading practitioner in the field of primary care.

Between them, they address a wide range of contemporary issues, including the complexity of work with traumatised individuals, including refugees; the wide-ranging psychoanalytic contribution to child and adolescent services; the impact on commissioning of a market culture skewed towards targets and quick wins; and the working conditions that can cause staff to neglect and abuse their patients, and/or become ill themselves.

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Interview with Professor Brett Kahr, conducted at Karnac Books, London on 10th March 2017


KN [Karnacology]: Congratulations on the recent publication of Coffee with Freud.  It seems like only a short while ago that we spoke together about your earlier book Tea with Winnicott.

BK [Brett Kahr]: Thank you.  Yes, Karnac Books very kindly published Tea with Winnicott last year, in 2016, and now, I thank you all, once again, for Coffee with Freud.

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Revising our theoretical and clinical concepts in the light of evolving sexualities

This book is a many-voiced volume describing different approaches in Latin America towards a fuller understanding of female sexuality. As the  former overall chair of the Committee on Women and Psychoanalysis of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), I’ve always been struck by the buzz and energy at Latin American conferences around topics of sexuality, sexual identity, and gender constructs compared with many other countries of the world, which was hindered from being known more widely because of the language barrier. 

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Carved by Experience


Strange though it may sound, I clearly remember coming across the notion of projective identification for the first time. I was in my early twenties, coping as best  I could with the stream of life, thinking and feeling a lot, understanding little, mainly blind; and the notion that my mental reality wasn’t mine alone, that it didn’t simply consist of just me, that materials passed through which were not “I” – was both eye-opening and therapeutic.  For a thin-skinned person like me, so exposed to her surroundings, it was a good thing to start finding out how these exchanges between inside and outside worked – when they caused suffering and when they brought growth. 

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How Projective Identification is an integral aspect of the Sociopathic Narcissist


With all of the discussions going on about Donald Trump’s ‘narcissism’, I thought I might offer a broader clinical perspective regarding sociopathic narcissism. Clearly there is great ongoing discussion about Donald Trump’s ‘narcissism’, however, I believe what has been errant in the discussion is that Trump is by definition not just ‘narcissistic.’  Trump’s narcissistic manifestations also appear to be well entrenched in sociopathy.

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How the Psychological and the Somatic Interact and Play Off Each Other


This book explores how we think about and understand sport from the perspective of psychoanalysis. As a cultural product, sport constitutes an entertainment and a pastime – a break that acts like a “psychological moratorium”. It breaks us away from the miseries of everyday realities and worries, transporting us to another reality—that of the ‘game’. Sport also represents a transaction through which personal and social feelings of aggression can be constructively released and harnessed in a controlled and contained space.

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A Psychoanalytic Study of Pervasive Developmental Disorders


What To Do If the Mind Does Not Develop is a psychoanalytic study of pervasive developmental disorders, based on what I have been able to learn in my work with children and adolescents, as a child and adolescence therapist in the course of about thirty years.

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Addressing the Gap Between the Psychological Needs of Children and the Services Provided

In a world where the torture, maltreatment, and neglect of children shamefully persist, it is incumbent upon all of us to intervene appropriately to put a stop to it – whether in refugee and displaced camps, conference rooms, or through developing more comprehensive campaigns and policies to hold perpetrators accountable (whether governments or rebels opposing governments), or indeed working in clinics where traumatised children and their families seek help. The manner in which we act to improve the opportunity for recovery in children and young people subjected to torture and other inhumane violent treatment should be our primary concern.

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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.

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Foraging Film is as Pleasant as a Writer’s Work Gets


You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to recognize a stalker or to read or write a book about stalking. I hope the readers of Karnacology will indulge me by accompanying me through some selected personal highlights of my journey in preparing this volume, which is not, I believe, your typical experience of a psychoanalyst attempting to break new ground via writing. 

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The Debate about the Training Analyst System


The Future of Psychoanalysis is a call to action with the aim of reaching a fundamental discussion within our worldwide psychoanalytic community about one question: How do we want to train?  

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Psychological and Behavioural Assessment and Treatment Strategies for People with Sleeping Problems and Insomnia


Teaching the World to Sleep was written on the back of a presentation delivered to a group of around 120 psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and others in London in December 2014.  This presentation had been delivered many times over the previous decade, mostly to healthcare professionals and, on occasion, to members of the public and other interested parties.  At the event in London in December 2014 there was, sitting in the audience, an associate editor from Karnac. After the event Rod Tweedy, editor-in-chief at Karnac, contacted me and suggested that I might consider translating the presentation that his associate had heard into a book for Karnac to publish.  I roughed-out an outline for the book and, in due course, contracts were signed and the work was commissioned by Karnac in February 2015. Writing took one-year and the final manuscript went to publication in November 2016, after some great support from Rod Tweedy, Constance Godolvin, Cecily Blench, Kate Pearce, Oliver Rathbone and the rest of the team at Karnac.

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Hanging between Heaven and Hell: Jung’s Pioneering Understanding of Integration


Jung’s Red Book records an extraordinary series of self-induced visions that Jung experienced between 1913 and 1917, together with his reflections and interpretations of them, which he continued to reinterpret and refine until about 1930. The book, which was only publicly published in 2009, takes us to the core of the personal experience on which Jung drew more circumspectly in his psychological works.

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Entering the Analytic Frame: Psychoanalysis as Romantic Science


Following the talk I gave at the Freud Museum on October 6 to celebrate the publication of Portraits of the Insane. Théodore Géricault and the Subject of Psychotherapy, a couple of new thoughts have emerged, connections implicit in the book that I now feel I can make more explicitly. It is unsettling but satisfying too to have to acknowledge that writing and thinking are processes over which I have but limited control – like patient and therapist, who are similarly subject to larger processes. 

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Publishing a Book About Psychoanalysis and Movies


I have been a psychoanalyst for about 45 years, and a writer all of my life. Conducted seriously, both practices impart a degree of personal pride that sometimes verges on self importance. Long ago, I began to be chastened of such inclinations with regard to the practice of clinical psychoanalysis: the non-negotiable price of growth as an analyst is a systematic diminution of omnipotence. Likewise with writing: you learn soon enough that you have overestimated the distance that talent, alone, will take you. All this is painful, but necessary, if you intend to persist.

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The further we go, the more there is to go


Totem conveys spirit, a sense of the sacred. Freud attempted to get under the totem and explore psychic forces and pressures below the surface. Jung opened further depths in exploration of the sacred. Engagement with a sense of mystery that permeates existence lives in many quarters, including art, music, religion and depth psychologies.

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Containing the Containers:  The Evolution of the Analytic Space


All photographs © Sebastian Zimmermann, ‘Fifty Shrinks

The quality of the analytic relationship and the space in which such a relationship occurs are constituted not only by the cognitive context but also by the immediate and pervasive physical context. “The analytic room should have the capacity to evoke different kinds of associations and be able to accommodate richly variegated desires of the occupants. The effect of the architecture on the analytic relationship, and hence the analysis, in direct and indirect awareness, is profound” (Danze).

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Oedipus and the Oedipus Complex: A Revision


During his work on the concept of the Oedipus complex in 1910 Freud took recourse to a literary highlight of early European culture, Sophocles’ drama “Oedipus Tyrannus”. In so doing he unfolded a perspective unfamiliar to contemporary science of the day, and which to the present day remains disturbing in nature whilst at the same time allowing greater access and lucidity to the concept. Despite the fact that the classical conception of the Oedipus complex has undergone modifications it still influences present day psychoanalytic understanding and clinical work.

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Why Mentalization is a gift for anyone working with Trauma and Neglect


The interest in mentalization as a concept has been steadily on the rise over the last decades. Mentalization and mentalization-based theory aimed at collecting different schools of thought and years of research, and by doing that has succeeded in describing complex phenomena in relation to interaction between people – both when it is successful and when high emotional arousal prevents the ability to mentalize. 

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Explorations into Cyberspace


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. 

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How Psychoanalysis is Taking Root in South Africa

Brewin, Sarah: Brilliant, Dazzling, Magnificent Baobab Tree

The history of psychoanalysis in South Africa is a story of tenaciousness. It began after Wulf Sachs emigrated there in 1922 with his family. Born in Lithuania in1893, he had trained at the Psycho-Neurological Institute in St. Petersburg (under Pavlova and Bechterev), at the University of Cologne, and at London University, where he took a degree in medicine. He began as a General Practitioner in Johannesburg but his interest in psychology was intensified by the experience of working with black schizophrenic patients at the Pretoria Mental Hospital from 1928.

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Breaking the Silence


There is internationally the deep power of music, dance, and art with all the meta-understandings and meaning that come from them. However, our species depends on speech, on a voice to communicate. If a baby’s cry did not resonate at a profound level, the baby would die, incapable of attending to its needs. We are constructed in a relational way, primed to hear and be heard. All around the world we are still dealing with the generational pain which was transmitted when a culture developed in which “children should be seen and not heard”, where the unmet need of wounded adults meant there was no space for the actual child. And all around the world we are witnessing groups who cannot bear to hear the pain of others. Subjects are turned into objects by silencing them, not allowing them a voice. Sometimes “the other” is a child, sometimes the other is defined by gender, race, religion, sexuality, class, or politics.

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Corresponding Lives: Mabel Dodge Luhan’s letters to A.A. Brill, the first American psychoanalyst


Mabel Dodge Sterne in Taos (c. 1918) and A. A. Brill (c. 1936)

This book of letters between a spirited and cultured woman and her prominent New York psychoanalyst came unbearably close to never existing—literally saved from the fire by a mysterious decision.  My communications with the analyst’s daughter on the fate of her father’s papers revealed that, after he died, his wife “collected all correspondence between my father & his patients & had it all destroyed.  Many of his patients were still living at the time & worried about their histories being exposed.”  His daughter, in fact, said her husband took “tons of cartons over to his tannery in Hoboken N.J. where they were destroyed in large ovens that were used to tan leather.  Thus a lot of important material was destroyed” (Gioia Bernheim, personal communications, November 31, 1996; July 2, 2000). 

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Of Things Invisible to Mortal Sight


Of Things Invisible to Mortal Sight: Celebrating The Work of James S. Grotstein honors the long and illustrious psychoanalytic career of Dr James Grotstein, one of the most internationally esteemed analysts and scholars in psychoanalysis. His prolific works span over 40 years, and a great part of them were dedicated to exploring the revolutionary contributions of Wilfred Bion.

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Adolescent sexuality, aesthetic conflict, and the importance of case discussions


Meltzer in Venice: Seminars with the Racker Group of Venice demonstrates how in psychoanalytical psychotherapy work groups, seminars, and case discussion are a fundamental element in transmitting and developing ideas. This was the method employed by Dr Meltzer for many years in a highly personalised way as a kind of psychoanalytical laboratory. Such a method enhances the context of the therapeutic relationship: it helps to engage the therapist’s mind with the patient’s, the clinical material naturally expands into the search for meaning, and a situation evolves in which psychoanalytical knowledge is both discovered and rediscovered. The Racker Group turned to Dr Meltzer with intellectual challenges and stimuli that facilitated a process of what he calls ‘inspired learning’. We might venture to say that just as we felt the need to discuss the cases with the maestro, so did Meltzer equally rely on the work group with its clinical material and questionings.

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A snapshot of how psychoanalysts are thinking about psychoanalysis

Patrick-Mahony1 (1)

One of the most productively disruptive events of my adult life was my move from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Dublin, four years ago. While psychoanalytic lore and literature is full of analysts’ migrations from one place to another  (think of the exodus from Vienna and Berlin and Budapest to London and New York; or of Bion’s late-life move to Los Angeles), the assumption is that the shape, understanding, and articulation of clinical psychoanalysis, of what we do, remain constant.

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How Intercultural Understanding Enriches the Coaching Relationship

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My book, The Cross-Cultural Kaleidoscope, was written over a period of four years, in a pre-Brexit world.  This called for an increase in cultural understanding, thanks to the forces of globalisation, increased mobility and the impact of technology, bringing about multi-cultural societies and new ways of working.

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Regressing to move forwards


My search for healing began many years ago, when I was experiencing unhappiness and extreme anxiety with panic attacks. I entered into a therapeutic relationship which at the time was supportive and useful and helped me through some difficult times.  Some years later I trained in psychotherapy, partly to understand myself, and entered into therapy again. This time the work was at greater depth and began to address the source of my pain, my early infancy and the relationships in my family. During my training I came to understand my object relations and the failed dependency I had experienced in infancy and so continued to search for. Fortunately for me, my therapist was open to wherever I wanted to go and was not afraid of my developing dependency. This relationship and my response to it has healed me. My personal interest and my need to develop my practice to aid clients with similar difficulties led to my research into this area, and to my book – Better Late Than Never.

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The Psychoanalytic Understanding of Psychotic Communication


In her foreword of my book, Edna O’Shaughnessy says ‘that the psychoanalytic method does not keep insanity out of view, but tries to offer madness a habitat for human understanding’.  In this book I have tried to demonstrate how psychoanalytic thinking can make ‘Room for Madness in Mental Health’. One of the issues the book tries to address is the challenge of madness – both that which is identifiable as being madness and also madness that is disguised.

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‘Once Upon An Analysis…’

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The psychoanalytic voyage of discovery is probably impossible to capture in words.  If every analysis is unique, the signature of each human mind more identity-laden and whorled than any thumbprint, a verbal account of the process must fall short of its mark.  Rensal the Redbit addresses the complex innocence of communication as two beings, a “tall one” and a “small one” fling the bridge of language across the chasm that separates them. 

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Psychoanalytic thinking through three prisms: person, group, and society


The chapters of this book were written throughout a period of many years. The ideas they present are grounded in the thinking of Wilfred Bion. Bion has always been an inspiration to me. His books are thought-provoking and conducive to playfulness and elaboration. His writing is an exquisite combination of poetry and science. It draws on intuition, a unique life experience, and profound knowledge of psychoanalysis and other disciplines.

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The Space of Shared Experience and the Art of Couplehood


I would like to invite you to delve right in and explore the enigma of the art of couplehood and happiness. You may find you are one of those people who succeed in the practice of this universal art, or alternatively, discover you may resist it, unwittingly blemishing or spoiling your relationships with your children or spouse, or even with your co-workers, when part of a team. 

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Depositing, Transgenerational Transmission, Dissociation  and Remembering through Action


As a psychoanalyst, I have been actively involved in international relations since 1979 and have visited many areas where wars and war-like situations existed just prior to my visits or even during my visits. I observed children with or without parents in such locations, places like South Ossetia and Kuwait. I also participated in projects designed to help children traumatized by wars or war-like conditions, and last year I was invited to a meeting in France to deliver a paper on the children of war with whom I had worked. 

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How a greater understanding of unconscious processes in relationships benefits all of us

spotlight on a black background

Recently I attended an academic research conference at which the subject under discussion was mental health difficulties and treatment programmes. It was an interesting conference in many respects, and as always one of the most interesting aspects of it was the diversity of the academic research interests in this area and the variety of disciplines who are making a contribution to the field. It was the conversations that took place at coffee, lunch and tea that were equally as engaging as the more formal timetable.

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Patrick Casement’s moving account of being diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma



Ever since I came out of hospital (three years ago) I have several times been asked if I would be writing up my experience of cancer. Until now I have always said that I would not do that, for several reasons. Although I have no problem in talking about my experience, my reluctance had mainly been because I did not want to alarm people. Not all cancer patients go through what I went through.

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Life after Loss: The Lessons of Grief

Cyprus 1964, printed 2013 Don McCullin born 1935 ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Purchased with the assistance of the ARTIST ROOMS Endowment, supported by the Henry Moore Foundation and Tate Members 2013

I was born in Cyprus, a Mediterranean island, when it was a British colony. After completing my high school education there I went to Turkey for my medical education. In the summer of 1956 I finished Ankara University’s School of Medicine and six months later I came to the United States of America where I remained. During the last two and a half years of my life in Ankara, first as a rather poor medical student and then as a newly graduated physician, I shared a small room in an apartment complex with another Cypriot Turk named Erol. He had come to Ankara, as had I, for his medical education and was two classes below me at the same medical school. He called me “abi,” meaning“my big brother.” Since I only had sisters and no brother, I considered him to be my brother. During the time we were roommates, ethnic conflict began between the Cypriot Turks and Cypriot Greeks. 

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Technology, teleanalysis and teletherapy


How does technology impact the human mind?  Developmental, neuroscientific research and clinical experience confirm our personal impressions that all-embracing communication technologies are reshaping our ways of thinking and relating.  Some of us worry about the widespread use of the internet changing our capacity to connect, create, and love.  We have seen young adults who would rather interact on text with many people via a hand-held device than relate intimately to those who are present at the dinner table. They find others with shared experience and perspectives, indulge in sexual fantasy, and find a space for belonging.  Has undivided attention lost its value?

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Retrieval, Recovery, and Renewal


“What have we done to you – poor child?”- Sigmund Freud (1897)

There is an important irony in psychoanalysis that our book, Analysis of the Incest Trauma: Retrieval, Recovery, Renewal, attempts to address.

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Models of the Mind, and Models in the Mind


“In every writer on philosophy there is a concealed metaphysic, usually unconscious; even if his subject is metaphysics, he is almost certain to have an uncritically believed system which underlies his specific arguments” (Bertrand Russell).

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On Latency: Individual Development, Narcissistic Impulse, Reminiscence, and Cultural Ideal

In psychoanalytical terms latency is defined as a developmental period in which psychosexual maturation marks time – it occurs after the oedipal phase and ends with the beginning of puberty, and is a period of emotional abeyance between the confusion and dramas of childhood and adolescence.

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The Universal Refusal: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of the Feminine Sphere and its Repudiation


Faced with the difficulties and setbacks that he was encountering in his psychoanalytical work, Freud, by then (1937) in his twilight years, felt the need to theorize the “underlying bedrock” of the “repudiation of femininity” in both sexes. This new pitfall, a Scylla following on from the Charybdis of the death drive, was, in my view, one way of reintroducing the sexual dimension and of giving back to the sex drive the diabolical quality that he had taken away from it – thereby attributing to it the same kind of disruptive potentiality as the death drive. It is this enigma that I have chosen to explore in my book. 

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Confessions of a psychoanalyst who has not forgotten how to play


There I was, walking along the streets of Buenos Aires in the early 1950s, when I ran into Alexander, an old childhood friend of mine. I had not seen him for many a long year. We had first met in primary school, and had spent some years together in high school. Later, I learned that, like me, he had gone on to study medicine, but in a different medical school.

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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”. 

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The Eve of Destruction: Germanwings flight 4U 9525 and Pilot Suicide


A popular but dated image of pilots probably derives from war movies showing scenes in which they wrestle with the controls of a damaged aircraft to avoid catastrophe. Modern aviation is far removed from what are now outdated Hollywood depictions of pilots.  Wrestling at the controls to save the aircraft is hardly in a day’s work.  Planes now fly via computers following the calm and well-rehearsed inputs from pilots.  The recent Germanwings pilot suicide crash, however, highlights that there are a rare few pilots who do not wrestle with the flight controls to save their aircraft, but they may wrestle with very powerful and destructive forces within their minds.

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On Psychoanalysis and the Politics of Representation


Thinking psychoanalytically about a phenomenon involves conceiving of it in a way that takes account of a dynamic unconscious, which can be understood differently within different psychoanalytic paradigms. It means reflecting on how we experience everything on an unconscious as well as on a conscious level, what Bion referred to as ‘bifocal vision’. When the object of reflection is social and cultural phenomena, unconscious representation of experience can be both individual and shared by several people in a social system, unit or subculture. Unconscious symbolisation and patterns of affect are always already marked by external others and by fantasies about these others. Human beings relate to others even when we are alone, as enemies, supporters, objects of desire, rivals and sympathisers. At the same time, unconscious fantasy has a capacity to transcend fixed patterns of identification, thereby challenging established social arrangements. Think of how in our dreams we can be young or old, big or small, or take various animal or human shapes; these rich identifications transcend fixed social categories and hegemonic ideas, thus carrying an emancipatory potential.

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A New Therapy for Politics?


Andrew’s new book, A New Therapy for Politics?, will be published by Karnac this year. Here he trails some of the ideas that are developed in the book.

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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.

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Eigen in Seoul: Volume One – Madness and Murder


Many years ago a man came up to me after a talk at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis and gave me a book he authored on the malady of the Korean soul. The book addressed soul sickness that can deplete the personality, sink a life, but also lead to creative work, poetry, dance, perhaps the very book this man gave me. Such a deep malady linked to the pain of existence, the pain of living, endless longing, loss, joy, overlapping with Garcia Lorca’s “Duende”. 

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Mapping Psychic Reality: Triangulation, Communication, and Insight


This book arose out of the convergence in my mind of two strands of thought. The first concerned the abiding problem of a scientific psychology, which is how to be objective about subjectivity. The second arose from my experience as a psychoanalyst in which I had observed repeatedly someone “become a subject” and had participated in the process through which they arrived at this achievement. The confluence of these meant that it was incumbent upon me to respond to those who regard psycho-analysis as impossibly unscientific to the point that it is not worth taking seriously.

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Freud’s Schreber: Between Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis


This book is not another general exploration of Freud’s 1911 Schreber text or yet another account of newly discovered historical facts about Daniel Paul Schreber, still the most famous case in the history of psychiatry. It is a clinical study of what was distinctive about Freud’s 1911 conception of disposition to psychosis in relation to the views of his psychiatrist contemporaries and of psychoanalysts after him. What moved me to write the book was a growing conviction that psychiatry and psychoanalysis need to remember their common history, that they have much more in common than they realise. 

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Love: Bondage or Liberation? The Meaning, Values, and Dangers of Falling in Love


In the history of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy as we know, falling in love was first examined as an important event within the context of the therapeutic work. Freud and his contemporaries found that their analysands often developed passionate attachments to them. This formed the basis for Freud’s idea of the transference.

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The Harris Meltzer Trust, by Meg Harris Williams


Donald Meltzer, who died in 2004, wished that the educational work disseminated over the course of over 30 years by the publications of the Clunie Press should continue to benefit both psychoanalysis and its applications in the world outside the consulting room. Clunie Press was started originally by Meltzer and his wife Martha Harris (Mattie) in memory of Roland Harris (a poet and teacher, who died in 1969). The new educational charity, the Harris Meltzer Trust, has been founded to continue the publishing work of the original Trust, in the spirit of these three widely loved and inspirational figures. 

Donald Meltzer

Donald Meltzer

It seems fitting therefore that it was launched by two books associated with Martha Harris and spanning the period of her publishing career. They are books which in complementary ways present Mattie’s legacy as an educator. 
The first book, Your Teenager, reprints in a single volume three small books originally published in 1969 that were designed for “ordinary beautiful devoted parents” (to adapt Winnicott’s well known phrase), to help them cope with their child during the turbulent secondary school years. The language is straightforward yet elegant and concise, revealing Mattie’s talent for expressing complicated thoughts in simple everyday terms. For if we look a little beyond the surface prescription, we realise the primary interest of the books is really in helping parents cope with their own turbulent emotions, which are aroused in response to their child’s adolescence. The structural hinge of her approach is her empathy with the struggling child in all of us; it shows in the gently piercing, detective quality of her location of the root of the trouble – namely, the difficulty of becoming educated, in the deepest and widest sense of that term. If the “central task of the adolescent” is defined as one of “finding their individual identity”, then the task of parents is a reciprocal one: it is to “re-educate themselves” through questioning their own relationships, values, emotions and principles, which will inevitably be stirred up and flung into the melting pot by their normally aggravating teenager. Her aim is that children and parents may make the most of this opportunity to develop in tandem, with a view to ultimately taking their place in “the great social class of the truly educated people, the people who are still learning”. 
Martha Harris

Martha Harris

At the same time these are also practical books, rooted in the everyday life without which no principle can find a local habitation and a name. A child develops mentally in the context of real failures and achievements, at the core of his or her personal solar system (in the analogy of Money-Kyrle and Meltzer), whose waves ripple outwards from a “little society” of expanding diameter. This relates to another interesting aspect of the books: namely the opportunity for comparison between the social context of today and that of 40 years ago, which is in various ways both surprisingly different and surprisingly similar; we have both progressed and regressed. Also this is probably about the minimum passage of time required before it is feasible to inquire whether a work has any “classic” or enduring qualities. In my view it is Mattie’s consistent focus on the growth of self-knowledge and on the very principle of education as something that takes place between an inner child and an inner parental object, that gives these books their classic – and deeply psychoanalytic – quality. Interestingly, they have remained in print in foreign translations despite being out of print here for many years.

The second book published by the Trust is very different in format and content, and yet, as readers new to Mattie will discover, it is essentially the same in spirit. It consists of her supervisions (recorded on tape) of infant and young child observations made by Romana Negri in Italy during the 70’s and early 80’s. The major part of the book concerns one particular child, observed from birth till age three, who delighted Mattie as representing a model for normal infant development, as distinct from the pathological or disturbed. She was among those who emphatically maintain it is impossible to help disturbed children (or adults) without having a clear conception of the thread of normal development with its mingled joys and sorrows, triumphs and frustrations, at the forefront of one’s mind. For this reason the book has been titled The Story of Infant Development
As with the Teenager book, what we may learn from reading The Story is something more than the pattern of development. We also learn about the process of observing itself and the pattern of symbol-making that it engenders. Bion describes the two equally difficult mental exercises that are required in the process of symbol-formation:
– firstly the necessity of perceiving the “facts” on the sounding-board of one’s emotionality;
– secondly, allowing this overwhelming amount of confusing information to find a pattern in one’s mind without imposing one’s preconceptions (memory and desire) upon it. 
These two processes interdigitate in the partnership between the two authors of this book. Many readers will be familiar with Romana Negri’s work with premature infants (The Newborn in the Intensive Care Unit, Karnac 1994); the later book demonstrates how to acquire those essential sensitive observational skills with the aid of a teacher who also becomes an internal teacher. For as Bion says: “Who is to put all this material in order?” In Mattie’s speaking voice there will be found none of those words that Bion objected to so vehemently as being “long, ugly, impressive and devoid of meaning” (his example being “psychoanalysis” itself!). 
More work will subsequently be published from amongst the wide repertoire of Meltzer’s and Harris’s teachings abroad. The Series’s latest book, Teaching Meltzer: Modes and Approaches (edited by Meg Harris Williams) will be published in March 2015. 


Meg Harris Williams
Discover Meg Harris Williams’ other books:

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Paradigms in Psychoanalysis

At nearly 80, I thought it could be useful to share with readers my experience of nearly fifty years in the field of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.  In addition to my clinical work, four basic experiences converge in this book.

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Bion and Being: Passion and the Creative Mind


The central focus of my new book, Bion And Being: Passion and the Creative Mind, is Wilfred Bion’s concept of O. It is the most mysterious and controversial of his ideas, although the controversy has often lived beneath the radar.

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A demented beehive


Early in my career during the 1990s, I recall occasionally looking up from my discussion with a so-called chronically mentally ill patient to look around the office. Invariably, there was outdated (usually 1970s-era) wall art, a desk lamp lighting the small room, a dead office plant in the corner and some abandoned dusty books next to the plant.

The community mental health clinic where I cut my teeth was a massive, labyrinthine structure with an awkward combination of large cubical-laden expanses for clinicians and tiny consultation rooms. The clinic was the eighth largest employer in the county and each clinician had roughly 80-100 patients on his or her caseload. It reminded me of some kind of demented beehive abuzz with overworked, underpaid clinicians frantically running around completing paperwork, making copies and answering a backlog of voicemails. And the ‘patients’—always one or two screaming and/or throwing things in the lobby—wandering around, usually disoriented in the befuddling hall network. Supervisors and administrators wisely locked themselves in their offices or were otherwise quietly absent.

I think, in my eight years working there, I saw the clinical director twice. To add to the confused and confusing environment, the clinic had a 50% annual employee turnover. So, I may have seen a clinical director on more than two occasions but wouldn’t necessarily know. Patient suicides, clinician suicides, government cut-backs in spending, heartless human resources personnel; the patients’ chaos and the agency’s chaos seemed to reflect each other. It was Kafkaesque, as if the atmosphere itself was saturated with unwellness and us, collectively, attempting to give it shape and meaning. During this time, I asked my analyst what the real difference, if any, there was between the patients and clinicians. “Keys,” he answered quickly. “What?” I asked. “The clinicians are the ones with the keys to the building,” he said with a smile.

Where was the disease? I was reminded of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, where Oedipus “is the land’s pollution” and the polis is the body with the “pollution grown ingrained within.” Oedipus and the polis mutually reflect each other’s pathology. I realized early on that pathology is constructed and contextual. It is in this spirit that I wrote Elements of Self-Destruction.
In its pages, I attempted to show that the alleged diseases outlined in the DSM are contextual and meaningful phenomena. This stands in contrast to the (presently failing) hypothesis that such conditions are biological diseases centered in chemically imbalanced brain organs. Focusing in on the destructive capacity of the psyche, I utilized Bionian psychoanalysis and Heideggerian phenomenology as hermeneutic keys. While taking to heart Bion’s seminal contributions to psychoanalytic treatment, these tenets also hold true for aspects of our contemporary society. Psychoanalyst and Bionian scholar, Michael Eigen, points out today’s mass hallucinosis that has:

“become part of the cotton fuzz that makes for a kind of psycho-social soundproofing, dulling, numbing. Part of the hallucinatory nexus involves a mechanism reaching deep into infancy. In psychoanalytic language: “identification with the aggressor” … A strong leader or group identification finds alternate pathways for fears, hates, and criticism, often deflected towards a designated enemy … People in power intuitively know how to throw small bones for constituents to gnaw, keeping minds occupied, while grander destructive scenarios unfold … a hallucinated election. A hallucinated democracy … A hallucinated identity, a hallucinated life, a hallucinated death.”

Taking Bion’s notions of dynamic psychotic processes in psychic reality and applying them to social reality yields much. From this broader perspective, it is easy to see the hallucinatory spell cast in much of the world to be ‘successful’, to be ‘Number One’, to vanquish the ‘evil doers’, to establish a moral super-ego across the lands. A superficial (or no) sense of consequences is near to the essence of much contemporary psychopathic hallucinosis.

Martin Heidegger, following a phenomenological hermeneutic path, reached many of the same conclusions. He spoke of a world caught under the spell, a “delusion”, of unfettered control of the earth and its inhabitants as resources to be calculated, ordered and used.  The collective hallucinosis to which Eigen refers, Heidegger dubbed the Enframing, a mode of revealing the world where nothing appears in its essential character. It veils its truth as a presencing of Being by appearing as though it is a product of human making. We become convinced that the only mode of disclosing the world is through quantitative calculation.

“As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectivelessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall; that is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve.”


Martin Heidegger
Heidegger asserts that once humankind is set upon this course of disclosure, the world becomes an “unworld” in which humanity engages in a “circularity of consumption for the sake of consumption.” In 1969 Heidegger used the image of Nature as a gigantic gas station with humanity at the pump—a disposable earth. Now, in 2013, we can see the haunting accuracy of this image.
Medard Boss, who was analyzed by Freud and studied under Heidegger, said, “today, people [are] horribly depressed by the meaninglessness and tedium of their lives. Suffering as they do, these people often try to drown out their desperation through addiction to work, pleasure, or drugs.” J.H. van den Berg suggests that the name neurosis is no longer an appropriate label to describe the disturbed human relations of our technological age. Placing neurosis in the realms of the individual and the anatomical ignores the underlying sociological character is illness. “No one is neurotic unless made neurotic by society. In a neurosis is an individual’s reaction to the conflicting and complicating demands made by society.”
Today, we have a plurality of selves. We possess a self for every group we belong to. Though we all suffer from this, the neurotic is unable to maintain a unified identity in various contexts. Van den Berg believes that it is more appropriate to speak of sociosis than neurosis. Our relationships are the pre-conditions of sociosis. This multitude of functional contexts cannot be quantitatively ordered so we lead a divided existence in a complex society. Those who can cope with these factors suffer the least.
So, quite briefly, these are some of the pathways explored in Elements of Self-Destruction, from the theoretical to the horrifyingly real manifestations in contemporary culture and as reported concretely from people’s own experience. Through these explorations, I hope to name some of the challenges of destructiveness and hope also to uncover a contextual pathway, open a path of the heart and mind, in negotiating this most difficult terrain.

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.


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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

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 or her habitat. How he/she leaves, lands, or 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
'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

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‘The Dark Continent’: Myths of Femininity


According to Freud (1933) the theory of the instincts is so to say our mythology. Instincts are mythical entities, magnificent in their indefiniteness. In our work we cannot for a moment disregard them, yet we are never sure that we are seeing them clearly. They can conceal something serious and powerful. Freud understood how significant the fantasy world is to us.

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The Bedrock of Therapy is our Shared Humanity


As professions that are now firmly entrenched in society, psychotherapy and counselling are relative newcomers. However, wanting to help another in difficulty must surely have ancient roots. Indeed, our success as an evolving species may have been due to our propensity to bond with others and work on shared challenges. We take for granted that it is normal to listen to the problem of a close friend and offer advice or support. For millennia, writers have praised the virtues of friendship, even regarding a person’s friend as their ‘second self’.

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‘On the seashore of endless worlds, children play’


I have been fascinated by images ever since I can remember. How embarrassing for my mother, proudly introducing her three-year-old son to the principal of the school at which she taught only to have the little one say, “You’re a whale.”  To this moment, I can see myself seeing this good man as a whale as vividly as the instant it happened. His body and demeanour became a prompt for a waking dream image selected from swarms of inner possibilities, seas of images within. For the little boy, people were not only people. They also were these images and, at times, this led to trouble.

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That’s the catch when you stop eating food starts to eat you


Writing The Rustle of a Wing: Finding Hope Beyond Anorexia has been both a challenge and a chance to take something good out of the misery inflicted by my anorexia.  I want it to reach out to sufferers, those that care for them and also professionals involved in treating this wretched addiction.

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We’re teaching our kids not how to Remember, but how to Kill



Why should we study killing? One might just as readily ask, Why study sex? The two questions have much in common. Every society has a blind spot, an area into which it has great difficulty looking. Today that blind spot is killing. A century ago it was sex.

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Plato, Lacan, and the Myth of Incompletion


According to Plato, in Greek mythology humans originally had four arms, four legs, and a head with two faces. Fearful that such humans would become too powerful for the gods to control, Zeus split humans into two halves, each with two arms and two legs and one face.

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How our attachment experiences determine our response to unresolved oedipal issues

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I always think it is fascinating to discover what makes a particular author write about a particular subject, whether that individual has a predilection for fiction or non-fiction. It is all a part of one’s central curiosity as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, I dare say, to want to discover “what makes an individual tick”.  We analysts function in many ways rather like detectives – detectives with empathy (hopefully)!  And so you may wonder what led me to write a book about the Oedipus complex, and its relationship with attachment theory.  So I will tell you the story. 

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It is not the pain we suffer, but our relationship to it that makes life complicated

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My book The Psychomatrix began with just a shadow of an idea that had haunted me for many years.

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Parents are increasingly turning to private practitioners for therapy for their children

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Therapeutic work with children, young people and their families in private practice can be complex and challenging while differing significantly from therapeutic work in other contexts, such as education or CAMHS.

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Everything That is Left Unsaid Ties up Energy


Therapy with Infants outlines a form of psychotherapy aimed at infants and young children who have experienced traumatic events before the age of three. With inspiration from French therapists, the specific method was developed by the book’s authors, Inger Thormann and Inger Poulsen, who discuss here the origins and key themes of the work. Both are experienced therapists who have practiced in private and public settings for more than twenty years. 

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How the poetic and psychoanalytic processes illuminate each other


The Motive for Metaphor can be thought of as a small anthology: each chapter a kind of meditation (perhaps to start the reader on a longer meditation). Each focuses on a poem, sometimes two; on poetry in general; on poetry and psychoanalysis; on thought itself. The poems are beautiful and would be even in the absence of discussion.  But I hope the discussion will deepen the reader’s appreciation – of both the poems themselves and of the way the poetry sheds light on the psychoanalytic process.

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Refining the Spectrum: We Need Better Diagnostic Distinctions for Children with AS

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Lonely, isolated, unwanted, mocked, shunned, rejected, denigrated, despised, ostracized, misunderstood and friendless: stringing together so many negative adjectives may seem a little bit exaggerated – but that’s exactly the point I am trying to make. My recent book, Asperger’s Children: Psychodynamics, Aetiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment shows how Asperger’s children have exactly these kinds of negatively ‘exaggerated’ perceptions and feelings. Adjectives like these have been applied to these children many times over the years. This is the way they most frequently describe and experience themselves. Their inner experience of the social world can with few exceptions be summarized in three words – untrustworthy, unjust and unfair.

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Psychoanalytic perspectives in work with the individuals, the couple, and the group

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This book presents psychoanalytic thinking about the phenomenon of the couple and couple dynamics in internal and external reality and at different levels of organisation: the ‘couple’ in the individual’s internal world, the dynamics between partners in a couple relationship, and the dynamics between the couple and the group. It will interest professionals from different disciplines who find couple dynamics relevant in their work.

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Write or Wrong: What Patients Tell Me About Dignity and Psychoanalytic Treatment


“The talking cure.”  These words were first uttered by Bertha Pappenheim, Anna O., and adapted by Freud to refer to the basic method of psychoanalysis. The patient’s free associations must be paired with the analyst’s evenly hovering attention: loose, flexible listening characterized by deep concentration. It is this combination of talking and listening that results in the magnification of signification – and in its dignification.

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Therapeutic atmospheres can be created anywhere

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One flew into the cuckoo’s nest—but how do we help them get out?  We are all familiar with the usual images of the film and many of us have worked in mental health units and found wanting the knowledge base we have been presented with to help patients recover from mental ill health and get out of ‘the nest’ (hospital).

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How to Understand Institutions that Care for Patients

There are many paths that offer an understanding of the experience of people with psychosis, and numerous ways to consider the nature of institutional treatment approaches.  This book presents psychoanalysis as one path that provides a conceptual foundation for both the treatment of psychotic conditions and how to understand institutions that care for patients. It focuses on the priority that psychoanalysis places on the individual, how the treatment is conceived theoretically and the ways it can be incorporated in the overall organisation of an institution.

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Testing Freud: Evidence and Confirmation


It was 1986 and I was taking a course with Henry Kyburg, Jr at the University of Rochester where I was enrolled to do my PhD in philosophy. One day Henry gave me a book which was titled Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique authored by Adolf Grünbaum.  Henry said to me, “You are a psychoanalyst. See, what you can do with this book.”

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The Pillar of Fire: Psychoanalysis and Religion


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.

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The Tragedy of Crookham Court School

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. 


Crookham-2-005 (2)‘How’ I asked a Norwegian client last summer, ‘can Norway exist as the incredibly open society it is?’  I asked because, within a minute of tapping his name into a search engine, I had discovered not only a Norwegian enquirer’s full address, but also his landline number, his mobile number, his date of birth, his wife’s name and date of birth, his salary, the tax he paid and what that tax was spent on.  My client looked me in the eye.  ‘I think,’ he mused ‘It’s because we trust each other.’

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How therapy can transform marital miscommunication into constructive communication

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Marital therapy has developed significantly in the last few decades and fulfils a very important role in helping disturbed couples in the process of understanding their difficulties. My new book, Married Life and its Vicissitudes: A Therapeutic Approach, provides an experienced and humane exploration of marital vicissitudes, and shows that in many cases pathological development is an unavoidable development that requires a sensitive and effective therapeutic input for successful resolution.

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Moralizing Evil

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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. 

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Rationalism and Racism: how modern racism has its roots in the Enlightenment

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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. 

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Freud and War, by Marlène Belilos

Posted on Jul 28, 2016

Thoughts for the Times on War and Death


War is obviously still a core issue for us today – just as it was for Freud, as Eugenie Lemoine-Luccioni observes in the title of her article (‘War: A core issue for Freud’) for this book. 

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The Future of Psychoanalysis


Today in the Babelisation and disorder of the psychoanalytic movement, the Lacanian theory constitutes the open reformulation of the psychoanalytic theory invented by Freud. It is a reformulation which takes into account the transformation of scientific epistemology and progress of mathematics.

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Forging a link between arts therapies and mentalization-based treatment

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When clients work with nonverbal means such as art, movement or music in a way that focuses specifically on affect regulation and mentalization, it gives them an opportunity to grow mentally. 

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 Sexuality, Ethics, Psychoanalysis

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Many deny that perversions exist.  Even despite the fact that today’s dominant psychiatry has re-baptized them as paraphilias — a name change attributable to political correctness, since calling someone a “pervert” today is an insult. In Greek, paraphilia means “wrong love”. It’s better to insult a pervert in Ancient Greek than in Modern English.


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The Therapist as Therapon: A Healing Sancho Panzo

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The success of Cervantes’ classic novel Don Quixote - reputed to be the second bestselling book after the Bible - is no doubt due in large part to the author’s remarkable skill in telling a story, as he puts it, "to fight melancholia". Indeed, the original idea for the eponymous hero first appeared to Cervantes while he was himself imprisoned in Sevilla, on a false accusation - a melancholy experience that triggered memories of a previous traumatic incarceration, when twenty years earlier he had been captured by Barbary pirates (as a soldier fighting against the Ottoman empire) and spent five years as a slave in Algiers.

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Psychoanalysis is a psychic pilgrimage that reveals the depths of our loves and our depravities


I thought long and hard about what to write for Karnacology regarding my book, Clinical Dicta and Contra Dicta and kept struggling how to introduce a book that, even though I wrote still do not fully know how to describe it.  So I thought I would write a clinical vignette that may offer the reader a glimpse into the clinical vignettes in the book.

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Perversion serves a Purpose

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Helene, an intelligent hardworking woman in her mid forties, mother of three, twice divorced, seeks treatment. She considers herself ‘unable to grow up’. Notwithstanding her low self-esteem, she mostly behaves quasi self-assured. She can flare up in unreasonable rages. Helene has had many boyfriends, some of them aggressive or even criminal types. Recently she met an intelligent and decent man with an excellent job. It so happens that Robert also seeks therapy. They both come once a week separately.

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