‘English’ or ‘European’? The trauma behind Brexit

Special guest posting by Sarai Allen The previous post on the subject of right-wing populism discussed and critiqued Jay Frankel’s paper that made the argument for right wing working class Americans identifying with the aggressor.  This was based on Frankel’s reading of Ferenczi’s paper on this subject.  In this post I would like to develop […]

The psychopathology of Brexit (part 2): restless ghosts

Is Brexit  the manifestation of a right-wing populism?  Certainly, some of the key motivations that appear to stand behind Brexit, which include concerns about immigration, a desire to see Britain ‘great’ again, xenophobia (especially towards ‘Europeans’), a distrust of (liberal) political elites, social conservatism veering towards authoritarianism, and so on, are all characteristics of right-wing […]

‘Father, don’t you see I’m burning?’

One of the lesser known things about the Real, and its manifestation through trauma, is its appearance in dreams. Of course, Freud himself did not have a concept of the Real, and neither did he have the concepts of Symbolic and Imaginary. Thus it was for Lacan to formalise what was already implicit but not […]

Psychotherapy and the NHS: time for a rethink?

In the early 2000s I spent three years working as an honorary psychoanalytic psychotherapist in an NHS mental health trust as part of my analytic training. Back then, this was the time-honoured route to becoming a psychotherapist. What was particularly interesting about this experience was that I saw my first patient for three years and […]

Peter Sutcliffe: mad or/and bad?

Last Thursday a mental health tribunal ruled that Peter Sutcliffe (aka ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’ and now know as Peter Coonan) no longer required clinical treatment and could be moved back to a mainstream prison. 1  Some in the tabloid media have inferred from this decision that this means that Sutcliffe is ‘bad’ rather than ‘mad’; in […]

Culture and mental health

There was an interesting article in the Healthcare Network section of yesterday’s Guardian by Yasir Abbasi, a British south Asian Muslim psychiatrist working in the NHS, regarding the importance of recognising and understanding different cultural beliefs and how these can become intertwined with mental health problems. 1 Abbasi gave two examples of patients he had worked […]

Mad, bad, or…..?

What was rather striking about the (British) media’s response to the recent knife attack in Russell Square, London, where a nineteen year old Norwegian national of Somali origin murdered an American woman and injured five others1 was that as soon as it became apparent that the perpetrator was suffering from mental health problems the story […]

The ideology of Brexit

In my previous post on this subject I briefly explored the ideas of Robert Ford and Mathew Goodwin as laid out in their book on the growth of UKIP and the radical right in Britain.1 As I noted in that post, Ford and Goodwin’s argument was essentially that, contrary to received wisdom, UKIP was gaining […]

In search of the lost future

The ‘classical’ view of trauma is that [i] it is based on experiences which cannot be assimilated, made sense of, by the individual; and [ii] originates in the (early) past of the individual.  Of course, such a traumatic experience need not occur in infancy or childhood; Freud himself recognised that some psychopathologies (the ‘actual neuroses’) […]

Understanding depression

Along with anxiety, depression is probably one of most common mental health problems in this country. It is estimated that over 6 million people suffer from depression and/or anxiety in England.  However, these numbers tell us little about the true nature of depression. In other words, what it is to be depressed; how each individual […]

In search of lost time

The concept of Nachträglichkeit is probably one of the most misunderstood of a long list of Freud’s misunderstood concepts, not helped by Strachey’s mistranslation of the German word as ‘deferred action’.  At the same time I would argue that it is probably one of Freud’s most radical ideas, and perhaps should be added to Lacan’s […]

In search of the lost past

According to Zachary Schiffman, ‘the past’ as we understand it is an invention of the Renaissance.1  This may seem a somewhat surprising assertion, and it may also beg the question regarding its relevance to psychoanalysis, and especially to the work of the psychoanalytic clinic.  After all, isn’t psychoanalysis all about ‘the past’, about tracing the […]

Imaginary histories?

One of the problems with any form of history, be it personal, social, or political, is how the historical narrative, the story told by the historian, relates to ‘what really happened’.  As the quotation marks suggest, the status of this ‘what really happened’ is itself problematic.  In semiotic terms we could perhaps pose the question […]

A culture of madness?

In the 1960s and into the 1970s the psychotic individual increasingly became positioned both as ‘victim’ and ‘anti-hero’.  Psychiatrists such as Ronald Laing and his colleagues argued that schizophrenia was caused by dysfunctional (if not outright pathological) family relationships, in which the schizophrenic subject found themselves in an impossible, no-win situation.  And although the proponents […]

Psychosomatics: when the soul meets the body

A while ago I posted a piece on medically unexplained symptoms.1 This was in response to an article by Louise Atkinson in the Daily Mail on chronic back pain and how this might be caused by stress and tension rather than any underlying physical problem.2 One of the reasons I wanted to write this current […]

Ideology and (de)radicalisation (part 1)

In the wake of the recent Paris attacks there has been a lot of soul searching regarding the state of readiness of Western capitals to both prevent and respond to such events.  And part of this soul searching has focused on the question of radicalisation and de-radicalisation.  In other words, what makes (predominately but not […]

Physician, heal thyself?

For a while now The Guardian has been running a blog entitled Views from the NHS frontline in which a range of health professionals comment upon their experiences of working in the NHS.  What’s quite telling is that a significant number of these articles relate to the mental health problems experienced by such professionals.  These […]

A new (dis)order?

I recently posted a piece on depersonalisation and conversion disorders.  The post initially focused on an article in The Guardian which looked at  the phenomena of depersonalisation, and had interviewed three people who had experienced a sense of feeling estranged in some way from their bodies and from the world.  The post then briefly touched […]

Depersonalisation and conversion disorders: old wine in new bottles?

There have been a couple of interesting articles relating to mental health that have caught my eye recently.  They both highlight a longstanding trend within psychiatry (and, unfortunately in some parts of the psychoanalytic world) to redefine various forms of human suffering and disturbance as ‘disorders’.   This seems to directly correlate with what might be […]

The riddle of transference

Transference is one of the cornerstones of psychoanalysis, and yet at the same time it always seems to present itself as something of a puzzle, a riddle.1  In the world of ‘pop-psychology’ (and, for that matter, pop-psychoanalysis and psychotherapy) transference is often viewed as the patient/client ‘mistaking’ their therapist or another person in a position […]

That royal ‘Nazi’ salute

Perhaps what’s most fascinating about the furore surrounding the Sun’s acquisition of film footage1 from the early 1930s which appears to show the future queen Elizabeth, her sister Margaret, their mother, and their uncle Edward giving Nazi salutes is not so much the ‘revelation’ that Edward was an admirer of Hitler, but that it has […]

What is psychosis?

The term ‘psychosis’ has a number of connotations, all of them negative. It’s often used in place of the word ‘madness’. It is also used as a term for schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder (manic depression), and paranoia. There is also a fairly widely held, though mistaken, view that psychotic individuals cannot be treated by psychoanalysis or […]

Andreas Lubitz and mental illness

In the wake of the horrific crash of the Germanwings Flight 4U9525 which killed 150 people on 24 March there has been mounting speculation and anger about the mental state of the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who was responsible for this act of mass murder.  The more that is discovered about him, the more it becomes […]

Digimodernism, social media and the (apparently) Real

Alan Kirby’s book, Digimodernism, is interesting for a number of reasons1, not least that it’s published in paper format.  I say this because, like so many publications related to social media, there seems to something rather ironic in that the author still relies on the ‘traditional’ hardcopy format to put across his arguments, even though […]

Why PTSD?

Research by the mental health charity Mind has shown that people working in the emergency (”blue light’) services are more likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than the rest of the population.1 Perhaps this is hardly surprising bearing in mind the types of situations and sights that many emergency services workers encounter […]

ME: all in the body?

There’s been yet another news story that purports to ‘prove’ that myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME, otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is a ‘real’ illness rather than being ‘all in the mind’.1  To quote from the story: The researchers, from Columbia University in New York, analysed hundreds of blood samples taken from ME patients and healthy […]

Should talking treatments aim to cure people?

One of the current obsessions in the world of talking treatments is the notion of ‘outcomes’ – preferably measurable ones. In the UK this is being led by the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme and is closely linked to the ideology of evidence-based practice. I use the term ‘ideology’ deliberately because there is […]

What is psychotherapy?

If you had asked this question one hundred years ago the answer would have been simple: psychotherapy was just another term for psychoanalysis – Freud’s ‘talking cure’.  Since that time, however it’s become increasingly difficult to define psychoanalysis itself let alone psychotherapy, of which there are now literally hundreds of variants, and most of which […]

Time, history and the Holocaust

I’ve just been reading Lawrence Langer’s essay Memory’s Time: Chronology and Duration in Holocaust Testimonies  in which he makes a distinction between chronological and durational time.1  Chronological time presumes a ‘before, during and after’, whereas in durational time there is only now, and therefore there can be no sense of ‘what next?’ or an ‘afterwards’. […]