Freud Conference 2017

8.30 – 18.00 Saturday 20th May
The Melbourne Brain Centre
Kenneth Myer Building
30 Royal Parade, Parkville

EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION
cut-off date: Wednesday March 22, 2017

a day with

PROF ALESSANDRA LEMMA (via videolink)
The Black Mirror: Body, Technology, Sexuality

DR HEATHER WOOD
• The Unconscious Allure of Internet Sex
• Paedophilia, or paedophilic breakdown?
The impetus to seek illegal images online

ANNIVERSARY LUNCH
12.30 – 4pm, Sunday 21st May, 2017

The Committee would be delighted if you, and your partners, join us to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Melbourne Freud Conference.

Venue: The Boulevard Restaurant
121 Studley Park Rd, Kew 3101
Free parking available on grounds
Cost: $90.00 per person, including drinks on arrival.

Enquiries to Gurli Hughes
g.hughes@ iinet.net.au
0405025366

If intending to come we would appreciate notification to Gurli, with payment, by EarlyBird cutoff point, 22nd March. Definite numbers are required by the Restaurant well in advance of the anniversary lunch.

Let Them Drown… Naomi Klein

 Let Them Drown – The Violence of Othering in a Warming World 
by Naomi Klein

Edward Said was no tree-hugger. Descended from traders, artisans and professionals, he once described himself as ‘an extreme case of an urban Palestinian whose relationship to the land is basically metaphorical’. In After the Last Sky, his meditation on the photographs of Jean Mohr, he explored the most intimate aspects of Palestinian lives, from hospitality to sports to home décor. The tiniest detail – the placing of a picture frame, the defiant posture of a child – provoked a torrent of insight from Said. Yet when confronted with images of Palestinian farmers – tending their flocks, working the fields – the specificity suddenly evaporated. Which crops were being cultivated? What was the state of the soil? The availability of water? Nothing was forthcoming. ‘I continue to perceive a population of poor, suffering, occasionally colourful peasants, unchanging and collective,’ Said confessed. This perception was ‘mythic’, he acknowledged – yet it remained.

click to read full article

 

Feedback on the seminars and radio programmes in an email  from a banker.

Dear David ,

Thank you for you and your colleagues talks.

I am interested in how society impacts individuals, i.e. the bit from the macro/societal level back to the micro/individual.

It seems that this is what you are doing in these talks to some extent, though typically
the analysis moves from analysis of the individual traits and then to how these play out
at large in society. There is then a feedback loop – how the society itself then impacts back to the individual – and it is this what I would like to understand more.

e.g. When we work to pay off a mortgage, take on debt, spend so much time working through meaningless processes (I’m thinking bureaucracy/ forms/meetings in work/travel, automated phone systems etc) – it seems to me that these human created processes in themselves can damage us. What does the ‘drip drip’ of existence within the modern world do to us, the non-billionaires? So, I’m raising a point about how society acts on us, rather than how we have created it. What might it do instead?

Many say that they are unhappy the way society seems to have inflicted itself upon me –
a meaningless job, time away from family, serving a cause I did not think enhanced the world to pay for my existence, training my kids in school for more of the same, etc.

 However, I have tried/am trying to respond positively to this – I’m consciously taking time away from my previous work (as a London banker) to ‘de-institutionalise’ I’m lucky as I can fund such a break, for a while at least. I accept that my previous job/effort would be by and large what Dr Bell would calls ‘superfluous’ (though for me this was framed by David Graeber’s article: http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs).

It seems to me that you and your panellists also feel inflicted upon by modern society too – I think, the talks on radio and the seminars may be therapy for us all – but I wonder if you could be even more explicit on what this society does to us, perhaps it is long-term boredom, un-creativity, low level violence, etc.

Another thought I have – is it possible to put our current society into some sort of historical/temporal context?

 A consensus with your panellists seems to be that financialisation/neoliberalisation of modern life fosters greater uncaring. People nowadays are more depressed/harassed and that then only serves to make things worse. I don’t actually disagree – but, as we are within the society itself, are we actually able to know that? It may be that we are experiencing as much (or less) depression, anxiety, etc as a society as we always were.
Dr Bell mentions the poor explanations on the origins of Nazism and that the multiple aspirations of that society may have played a role in bringing this about.
Are we somewhere similar now, and there may be a lesson to learn?
Do we know – were the of German society in a fundamentalist mindset, anxious, depressed, something else?
Another interesting point in time is when we moved into the industrial age.
Perhaps there’s no chance of getting an answer to this sort of ‘psychoanalytical + anthropological/historical’ questions -the past is a different country and perhaps we can’t make a meaningful comparisons.. But if there’s a chance of a better explanation/analysis
of the past, I’d love to hear more.Finally, to play devil’s advocate, perhaps there is an alternative view to the ‘uncaring’ undercurrent that frames the shows so far…? Is it possible that something different is occurring, or that uncaring is only half the story? Perhaps, we are going through ‘growing pains’ as we move into an information age. So, as a once in a generation change, there is unsettling disruption in all levels; but there are positives too – with more information, greater interaction between people and greater understanding of ourselves. Your show itself might be considered as a product of this new improved age – ie we have greater engagement and accessibility to information relating to the internal world; we can increase our understanding of our own mental landscapes. It does not seem that this was so in my parents age.

An Answer to the Banker DM

The separation between the person and society is utterly untenable. It’s like detaching the air inside the football from the air, its got a surface which holds it together, gives it form, allowing it to be acted upon and have motion, but it is air and is in the air.
Psychoanalysis’s greatest gift could be the deflation of the illusions of the self-centred individual and a recognition of our consubstantionalness with world and others.
From this insubstantial ground we can recognise sensations and perceptions flowing through us as we grasp the illusions of self and exhale “this is me’, “this is me”.

Whistleblowers: Moral Good Or Self Interest what are the psychological dimensions of defying a perverse or corrupt authority?

Whistleblowers: Moral Good Or Self Interest what are the psychological dimensions of defying a perverse or corrupt authority?
David Morgan
Psychoanalyst
Freud Memorial Lecturer
Do not trust the Horse, Trojans, Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks bearing gifts.
(Laocoon 1188.BC)
The first whistleblower was Laocoon, who, 3,000 years ago, tried to tip off the authorities in ancient Troy that the Greeks and their ‘gift horse’ was a trick. He was later murdered
for his pains, ‘when it comes to speaking out, one man’s whistleblower can be another man’s traitor.’
Failure to blow the whistle is famously illustrated in “First they came…”, a provocative poem attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the sloth of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their targets, group after group.
First they came for the dissidents
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a dissident.
 
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
 
Then they came for the trade unionists,
 and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
 
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
 
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.
 
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
1 This paper was originally presented at the Freud Museum on 25th July 2013. It will be presented at the Applied Section meeting of the Society on Wednesday 26th March f2014.
Films are made about famous whistleblowers and their place as A-list celebrities seems assured to us on-lookers. Through their disclosing acts they, rather than governments
and leaders, become the important ones it could seem to us.
But for most of the people I have seen since becoming a consultant for a whistleblowing organisation it is a very different story.
Everyday whistleblowers, those whose name does not become a public entity, mainly experience loss, not gain, through their decision to disclose. And whatever it is that they disclose, in all the many fields these people emerge from, armed forces, banking, law, politics, ship building, health, police force, church, psychoanalysis (see BPC New Associations 12, article by Onel Brooks),  whistleblowers that I have met are waiting to have their lives turned upside down, their comfortable places of esteem in their communities dismantled, and, equally importantly, from a psychological point of view, they have lost their peace of mind and quite often their own faith in their own and others value and motives.
What motivates a whistleblower and what is the psychological profile of people who risk, or gain – depending on where we stand – so much? Also what does it tell us about society and our own organisations if we fear the message whistleblowers try to communicate?
Whistleblowing as a term sounds vaguely pejorative, like snitch, so I favour the term social disclosure because it gives the clue to what altruistically motivated disclosure is really about. Traitor or whistleblower, trouble maker or idealist, these are the poles of our discussion.
We expect, in Nazi Germany, Pinochet’s Chile, or North Korea for there to be hideous consequences for any perceived betrayal, we know that terrorist states do all they can to stamp out any dissent, and we like the idea that different mores apply here, that we live in a land of freedom and protection for human rights and in comparison with the totalitarian states I have mentioned, we do of course enjoy significant freedom.
But what I have discovered is how tough and suspicious our societal attitudes are to people we perceive as different, those who break free from not only our public laws and standards but who undermine all our cosy assumptions about the safety of our world. When a whistle is blown we all listen and we all have to decide how we react to the people who tell us things we may not want to know. As with Snowden and Assange it has been the subject of many a supper table conversation.
Even in Britain, criticism or threat to the social order is muted, or seen as anti-authoritarian, naive, an attack on the parental authority, the status quo. Compliance, playing the game and loyalty to one’s organization is often seen as a sign of psychological health. Sometimes of course it is.
What countless less famous whistleblowers discover is that the same blocks to speaking about problems, betrayals, failures and exploitation apply here in Britain albeit more subtly. We all bring powerful pressures to bear on those who risk speaking out, challenging the prevailing mythology. As in the fairytale ‘The King’s New Clothes’. Unlike the child in the story, few are rewarded.
I am thinking of people I have spoken to in the last year like:
The vehicle manufacturer, who discovers that his factory has been using seriously sub-standard materials, is in a position to create unemployment for himself and everyone he knows. The economic impact of a scandal to his company, already on the brink of economic collapse, would be disastrous. But he is also aware that the lives of the product’s users are at risk. He goes to and is shunned by his union and bosses. But still he speaks out. He receives death threats in the post and loses his job. His health begins to deteriorate. He is accused of having mental health problems, which of course he now does and probably did before in an everyday sort of way. He goes to his MP and is told that there is no evidence. The MP and local newspapers are funded by interested parties.
The judicial person, who discovers the conglomeration of Freemasons in her chosen profession and believes that they have operated a cover up over a certain case.
And decides to tell the story. She loses her position.
The banker, who discovers that in the house of mammon all that matters is profit, and sees that as a consequence of dodgy auditing that his mother’s pension company (and mine it turns out!) is diminished by sharp practice.
In the field of state provision, in hospitals and social services, even today when people speak out over damaging cuts, or mis-management or the appalling culture of un-care, say at Stafford Hospital, or neglect in Elderly Care teams they are liable to be disbelieved, humiliated and dismissed.
As I listen to the many stories of painful internal conflict, fear, anger and sometimes bitterness and regret, I think to myself would I, an NHS worker for 25 years, without a financial cushion to fall back on in my private life, have stood up and been counted, risked my mortgage and children’s futures, putting my own self-interest and survival above the other considerations? If I had been at the Bristol Children’s Hospital, would I have said anything, in the interest of the greater good?
In terms of thinking about the psychological pre-cursors and sequelae of the disclosers
I have met, I do ask myself; does real idealism exist? Is disclosure just a trouble making act or an altruistic act? Driven by grievance, envy, a repetition of early Oedipal issues? Avoidance of their own internal corruption? Does it matter?
The first comment from my first ever assessment with an established and successful discloser was, “Is this place (my consulting room) bugged?”
It would be easy to see this as paranoia, as we are used to working with people with these sort of psychological issues and we might see this sort of communication as a projected form of aggression, externalised onto the outside world, where it then persecutes the originator, from outside in the minds of others or through delusions and hallucinations. Through externalisation the internal aggressive impulses are thus reduced and put out
to tender.
But with this group, the feeling has remained for weeks…..and the question “is my room bugged?” no longer seems so delusional. I tell myself that I’m not that important in the scheme of things but the stories I hear are compelling and mostly feel genuine.
An interesting state of counter-transference. For instance I have become fairly convinced that David Kelly’s death was probably not suicide. These are dangerous waters in which
to paddle. At least with my training I am able to pick through the evidence, like a dream the patient is presenting, to see what, their contribution is, whilst respecting
their perspective.
Undoubtedly many of the people I see do exist in paranoid states of mind and some must definitely have had traces of these states before they disclosed. Afterwards they feel watched, their level of trust is low and it is easy to write them all off as vexatious litigants and troublemakers. A small minority may indeed be less than idealistically motivated, but even they may have something important to say; like victims of abuse it is essential that we find ways to hear it. Reminds me of clinicians who hear stories of abuse and say ‘we only have the patient’s word it happened’. I think this is a way that we manage traumatic information that threatens our own equilibrium.
Traumatising as it is to hear and seductive as it is to turn a blind eye or just pathologies, the ultimate defence of the cushioned clinician. I have become convinced that the psychological profile of the whistleblower is not different from that of anyone else.
Although rather like Leslie Sohn’s paper on ‘Unprovoked Assault’ (1995), something is often waiting to be enacted, if the circumstances conspire to trigger them. Like the aggressive man who asks for a light, but is refused, and attacks the withholding other. There is often a history of grievance of some kind that is triggered by an apparently unrelated external event. But this could be true for all of us. Acquiescing to corruption or turning a blind eye could be similarly pre-disposed.
Of course, not all whistleblowing is benign or altruistically motivated. HMRC has an anonymous phone line for people to report tax evasion and it is apparently consistently used to denounce neighbours and family members.
While disclosure can be an altruistic act it can all too easily be used for revenge and humiliation. At times, some whistleblowers are clearly eager to attack authorities through resentment. Stalled careers, failed love affairs and no pay rise can see increases in some individual’s willingness to shame or punish their communities, employers or families.
The organization, however, as an institution seems to appear at times, in phantasy or reality, dedicated to the destruction of the moral individualist. Frequently the organization succeeds. Which means that whistleblowers are broken, unable to reconcile their actions and beliefs with the responses they receive from others (Alford 2002).
Understandably, many people who disclose should reasonably expect some reward, praise, respect. They often have to face disappointment. We don’t very often want to know.
In order to make sense of their stories some whistleblowers must set aside the things they have always believed: that truth is larger than the herd instinct, that someone in charge will do the right thing, that the family is a haven from a heartless world. Naive beliefs that may have made them more vulnerable to a cynical world. Many come from a background espousing moral rectitude, such as religion or other belief systems.
Any old psychoanalyst can tell you that we project onto external authorities our internal versions of parental figures. When those parental figures are benign and fair minded the failure of external authorities to live up to the projection can be devastating. Many whistleblowers recover from their experience but even then they live in a world very different from the one they knew before their confrontation with the organisation.
One aspect of social disclosure that is under estimated is some of the emotional fall-out that is occasioned by revealing truths that other people prefer to keep hidden. Shooting the messenger. Disclosers of uncomfortable truths can become the recipient of a great deal of ambivalence from a variety of quarters. Like the analyst, disclosers threaten to make something conscious and known that has either been hidden or brushed under the carpet through a range of people turning a blind eye (Alford 2002).
There will be powerful forces ranged against the discloser in order to maintain the status quo. Disclosers can threaten whatever defences and belief systems institutions have developed, maybe necessarily, as is argued with security breaches and Snowden’s disclosures. This permits the behaviour that is being exposed. How can a security service proceed without secrecy?
Revelations can be experienced by the institution and colleagues as humiliating and attacking and others will see themselves as justified in retaliating against a whistle blower and there may be a concerted to discredit or pathologise them (Alford 2002).
Having an understanding of the group hostility to revelations that are threatening to cohesion can be or considerable use to an individual who needs to find a way to maintain their self-belief at times of personal stress and marginalization. E.g. “You don’t have to become what people project into you”. Also it is important that they recognise their own guilt and responsibility, even if they have a justifiable cause for grievance.
Part of this in my experience is getting help to understand the unconscious reasons for putting themselves in this situation in the first place. And that takes us to the heart of individual psychology, personal experience and unconscious motivation. Any previous emotional and psychological difficulties will be exacerbated or if not evident before, brought to the surface. Motives and personal integrity will be publicly questioned so that through reversal and projection the institution that is being questioned can evade any sense of responsibility for wrong doing. The discloser is therefore made to feel the wrongdoer arousing serious self-doubt and depression.
However it’s also important to recognise that most turn a blind eye.
Fred Alford in his book (2002), talks of Orwell in his book, 1984, who used the term double-think. The psychological phenomenon behind it is called doubling. E.g. You are a middle level functionary in a bureaucracy or corporation and you possess some truth you know does not conform to your institution or boss’s agenda. Doubling, splitting as we might call it, means you can hold true to your personal morality while maintaining a separate public or institutional morality. At home you may never behave this way but at work telling the truth may hurt not only your boss but your institution, your livelihood and the health and safety of your family. In such situations it is helpful to be able to hold contradictory positions to separate out your different selves and different loyalty structures (Alford 2002).
So why do whistleblowers do it?
First of all they may be unable to double or split themselves.
The inherent contradiction would be too great and too painful.
They may fit in with Hannah Arendt’s idea of the heroic men and women, people who talk seriously with themselves about what they are doing, people who cannot double, or do double speak. They feel a compulsion to do the “right thing”. As one person in analysis said, “I had to do it; I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak up.” They can’t not choose to abide by their conscience.
But the operative phrase here might be ‘I could not live with myself’. The need to externalise unbearable truths about the self may also be a strong motivating factor. Unlocking the secrets of others may be easier than looking at one’s own repressed issues.
The trouble is blowing the whistle separates whistleblowers from their former lives. Organisations constrained by law not to fire or retaliate against whistle blowers find a way of doing it. E.g. Julian Assange is currently resident in a small office in the Embassy of a South American state in London. Snowden is equally imprisoned in Russia, arguably now helping them with their enquiries, a nuclear scientist after whistleblowing about security risks finds herself assigned to making copies or emptying waste paper baskets. For the first time her reports are negatives and she is passed over for her long awaited promotion.
Global capitalism does create problems and it’s one that affects us all in different ways, it unites a lot of protest going on in the world and I would include whistleblowing as one of those protests, they might be seen as reactions against different facets of capitalist globalisation. The idea that there might be something more important than financial expansionism and genuflection to those in power.
This was brought home to me recently when someone I saw, who was a head of a global bank, was able to pay literally millions of pounds to get his mother the best medical treatment in the world for breast cancer, whilst a close relative of mine with the same illness was treated at a good but under-funded NHS hospital. The former patient’s mother extended her life by several years due to ground breaking treatment she was able to purchase. The latter didn’t. What gaineth a man if he inherits the world and loses his soul? Well good health care actually!
Let’s face it, who hasn’t lost a bit of social conscience in the name of self interest in the years of total market economy?
We are currently confronted by further expansion of the market, creeping enclosure of public space, reduction of public services, healthcare, education, culture and increasing authoritarian power led by the buck (Zizek 2013).
All whistleblowers are dealing with a specific combination of factors, one economic (from corruption to inefficiency in the market itself), the other a demand that individual morality can make a stand against organisational might, how else can we fight the excesses of the market place (Zizek 2013).
“A market economy thrives on inequality so self-interest will always triumph over the moral good. Think of the violent reaction to Obama’s universal health care plans (Zizek 2013).”
Just as a whistleblower has to be vilified lest he expose the rottenness that we might accept, to maintain our lifestyles that are quite often based or reliant the suffering
of others.
We all want to believe in a rational world of logic but the excavations of the whistleblowers are so disturbing to our structured lives that we prefer not to know. By its very nature it’s about unveiling painful things and our theories of life can be so comfortable that we can all find ourselves not wanting to know.
There is the lone voice, which may be at times one motivated by repressed internal secrets, but still fulfilling a role in society that we are too afraid to do. We often want to kill the messenger because he makes us uncomfortably aware of our own compliance.
David Bell in his important paper ‘Primitive Mind of State’ (1996) says “The introduction of the Market into the National Health Service could be seen within the perspective of the destruction of the Welfare consensus.”
“The ideology of the Market and the attack on welfare-ism derives considerable support from their appeal to primitive parts of the personality that view dependency or vulnerability as weakness, the process originally described by Rosenfeld who termed it ‘destructive narcissism’.” (Bell 1996)
“NHS reforms create fragmentation and alienation. This has led to primitive survivalism, such as competition between clinics, modalities, although a natural outcome of the process described, is proving very costly in terms of its effects on staff morale an essential component of adequate health-care delivery.” (Bell 1996)
Very few of us in the NHS have said much; in the face of these changes in fact I think to protect our jobs we have colluded quite often with the process, to the extent that I attended a meeting toward the end of my time, where the patient had become talked about as if a commodity.
Again bowing to Orwell, it was becoming difficult to perceive any difference between the businessmen and the health worker. They had become the same. This included colleagues doing their MBA’s; if you can’t beat them join them.
As the scandals of mid-Staffordshire, so ably disclosed by the courageous Kay Sheldon, who was described as a paranoid schizophrenic by her enemies, and even the terrible tragedy of baby P, again brought to light by the equally courageous Dr Kim Holt, or Margy Haywood, a nurse who covertly filmed the abuse and neglect of elderly patients in an NHS Hospital for BBC Panorama, and lost her nursing registration for ‘breaching confidentiality’, whilst the staff who were abusing the patients were allowed to carry on working.
These are the symptoms of this ‘mind of state’. Where the individual is sacrificed to market forces and the welfare state suffers (Bell 1996).
This is clearly not just in the field of medicine but also many other fields, such as the destruction of the legal aid service.
Consultation to a  Whistleblowing  Organisation.
David Morgan
Most of the people in the organisation  to whom I consult have been involved in whistleblowing and often experience loss, not gain, through their decision to disclose. They lose their jobs and feel victims of an uncaring society.
Whatever  it is that they have disclosed, , in the many fields they   emerge from, a general from the  armed forces( exposure of illicit arms dealing),  banking-director  ( dodgy deals and cover ups), judge- law( power of the freemasonry and cover up) politics(public good v individual interest) ship building( dangerous practice)  health-consultants( south staffs and Baby P) police force( corruption) church(abuse) , experience their lives being turned upside down, their places of esteem in their communities dismantled, and importantly, from a psychological point of view, they  lose their peace of mind and faith in their own and  others value and motives.
How tough and suspicious societal attitudes are to people perceived as ,  breaking  free from not only our public laws and standards but who threaten assumptions about the safety of our world. When a whistle is blown we have to decide how we react to the people who tell us things we may not want to know.
Their criticism is a threat to the social order or seen as anti-authoritarian, naive,reduced to an attack on the parental authority. Compliance, playing the game and loyalty to one’s organization is often seen as a sign of psychological health.
So there are real blocks to speaking about problems, betrayals, failures and exploitation due to powerful pressures to bear on those who risk speaking out.
Eg a member of the group Is s vehicle manufacturer who discovers that his factory has been using seriously sub-standard materials, he is in a position to create unemployment for himself and everyone he knows. The economic impact of a scandal to his company, already on the brink of economic collapse, would be disastrous. But he is also aware that the lives of the product’s users, involved in rescue work,  are at risk. He goes to and is shunned by his union and bosses. But still he speaks out. He receives death threats in the post and loses his job. His health begins to deteriorate. He is accused of having mental health problems, which of course he now does and probably did before in a everyday sort of way. He goes to his MP and is told that there is no evidence. The MP and local newspapers are funded by interested parties.
The  judicial person who discovers the conglomeration of Freemasons in her chosen profession and believes that they have operated a cover up over a certain case. And decides to tell the story.
The banker who discovers that in the house of mammon all that matters is profit, ( why the surprise?) and sees that as a consequence of dodgy auditing that his mother’s pension company, and I discover mine,  is eaten up by sharp practice.
In the field of state provision, in hospitals and social services, even today when people speak out over damaging cuts, or mis-management or the appalling culture of un-care at Stafford Hospital or neglect in Social Care teams they are liable to be disbelieved, humiliated and dismissed.
The many stories of painful internal conflict, fear, anger and sometimes bitterness and regret,in contrast to self   interest and survival, even  above the altruism of revealing neglect and incompetence, eg. Bristol Children’s or Haringey Social Services.
Is disclosure a troublemaking act or an altruistic act?
Working as a consultant for this organisationI have worked in person or on the phone with many disclosers or potential disclosers and it’s a fascinating but a paranoid inducing job.
The consultation  group.
The first comment from my first group consultation with a very established and successful discloser was,”Is this place,( my consulting room,) bugged? “
Working with people with these sort of psychological issues and I see this sort of fantasy as a projected form of aggression, externalised onto the outside world, where it then persecutes the originator, from outside in the minds of others or through delusions and hallucinations.
Through externalisation the internal aggressive impulses are thus reduced and put out to tender.
But with this group  I see it does  not seem delusional at all. Their narratives are compelling and feel genuine. Undoubtedly many of the people I see do exist in anxious states of mind and some must surely have had traces of these states before they disclosed. Indeed there is a sub group who are clearly trying undermine every organisation that they belong to e en this one, Its also true that afterwards they feel watched, their level of trust is low and it is easy for some,  to write them all off as vexatious litigants and troublemakers. A very very small minority may indeed be less than idealistically motivated.
Traumatising as it is to hear and seductive as it is to turn a blind eye I have become convinced that the psychological profile of the whistleblower is a complex mix of exposing the parents and people driven to behave morally in an immoral organisation.
While disclosure can be an altruistic act it can all too easily be used for revenge and humiliation. At times, some whistle blowers are clearly eager to attack authorities through resentment. Stalled careers, failed love affairs and no pay rise can see increases in some individual’s willingness to shame or punish their communities, employers or families.
But also  its the organisation as an institution that seems to appear at times dedicated to the destruction of the moral individualist. Frequently the organization succeeds. Which means that Whistle Blowers are attacked , and unable to reconcile their actions and beliefs with the responses they receive from others. Many people in the consultation group who have disclosed might have reasonably expected  some reward, praise and respect,  often have to face.end,,,,,,,
In order to make sense of their stories they realise that truth is not larger than the herd instinct, that someone in charge will do the right thing, that the family is a haven from a heartless world. The projection onto external authorities of our internal versions of parental figures. but when those parental figures are benign and fair minded the failure of external authorities to live up to their expectations.
One aspect of social disclosure that is under estimated is some of the emotional fall-out that is occasioned by revealing truths that other people prefer to keep hidden. “Shooting the messenger”. Disclosers of uncomfortable truths can become the recipient of a great deal of ambivalence from a variety of quarters. Like the therapist disclosers threaten to make something conscious and known that has either been hidden or brushed under the carpet through a range of people turning a blind eye.
Its has been important to understand the powerful forces ranged against the discloser in order to maintain the status quo. Like in the ‘Emperors New Clothes’  the young man in the story pointing out the conmen disclosers can threaten whatever defences and belief systems institutions have developed to permit the behaviour that is being exposed. Revelations can be experienced by the institution and colleagues as humiliating and attacking and others will see themselves as justified in retaliating against a whistle blower and they may be a concerted to discredit or pathologise them.
Its been important to  understand the group hostility to revelations that are threatening to cohesion and this  can be of considerable use to an individual who needs to find a way to maintain their self belief at times of personal stress and marginalization.
Previous emotional and psychological difficulties are exacerbated, if not evident before, brought to the surface. Motives and personal integrity are publicly questioned so the institution that is being questioned can evade any sense of responsibility for wrong doing. The discloser is therefore made to feel the wrongdoer arousing serious self doubt and depression.
The psychological phenomenon behind it is called doubling. E.G. You are a middle level functionary in a bureaucracy or corporation and you possess some truth you know does not conform to your institution or boss’s agenda.
Doubling or  splitting as I would call it as a psychoanalyst means you can hold true to your personal morality while maintaining a separate public or institutional morality.
At home you may never behave this way  but at work telling the truth may hurt not only your boss but your institution, your livliehood and the health and safety of your family. In such situations it is helpful to be able to hold contradictory positions to separate out your different selves and different loyalty structures. (Alford 2002)
Blowing the whistle separates whistle blowers from their former lives. Organisations constrained by law not to fire or retaliate against whistle blowers find a way of doing it. E.G. Julian Assange is currently resident in a small office in the Embassy of a South American state in London. Snowden was equally imprisoned in a Russian airport, and a nuclear scientist after whistle blowing about security risks finds herself assigned to making copies or emptying waste paper baskets. For the first time her reports are negatives and she is passed over for her long awaited promotion.
Global capitalism does create problems and its one that effects us all in different ways,  WB is one of those protest a reaction against the idea that there might be something more important than financial expansionism. This was brought home to me recently when some an ex-head of a global bank was told the group I consult to how he was able to pay millions of pounds to get his mother the best medical treatment in the world, whilst a relative of mine with the same illness was treated at a good but under-funded NHS hospital. The former patient extended her life by several years due to ground breaking treatment she was able to purchase.
Losing social conscience in the name of self interest in these  years of total market economy and austerity is quite tempting.
We are currently confronted by further expansion of the market, abd the accompanying  creeping enclosure of public space, reduction of public services, healthcare, education, culture and increasing authoritarian power led by the buck.
All Whistleblowers seem to deal with a specific combination of factors one economic ( from corruption to inefficiency in the market itself). The other a demand that individual morality can make a stand against organisational might, how else can we fight the excesses of the market place.
” A market economy thrives on inequality so self interest will always triumph over the moral good. Think of the violent reaction to Obamas universal health care plans. (Zizek 2013).”
I think whistleblowers have to be vilified lest he expose the rottenness that we accept, to maintain our lifestyles that are quite often based on the suffering of others.
We all want to believe in a rational world of logic but the excavations of the WB are so disturbing to our structured lives that we prefer not to know. By its very nature it’s about unveiling deceit, and our theories of life can be so comfortable that we can all find ourselves not wanting to know.
As the scandals of mid-Staffordshire so ably disclosed by D who was described as a paranoid schizophrenic by her enemies , and even the terrible tragedy of baby P again brought to light by  E or F a nurse who covertly filmed the abuse and neglect of elderly patients in an NHS Hospital for BBC Panorama, lost her nursing registration for ‘breaching confidentiality’. whilst the staff who were abusing the patients where allowed to carry on working.
These are the symptoms of this ‘mind of state’. Where the individual is sacrificed to market forces and the welfare of others suffers. (Bell)
This is clearly not just in the field of medicine but also many other fields , such as the destruction of the legal aid service.
Individual Case study
A consultant psychiatrist I see for depression who has no office, has to hot desk with four other consultants, and is having to meet a patient appointment target that compensates for the fact that he is now the only consultant in a dept that has been decimated by cuts reliant on cheaper locum doctors who do not have the same commitment.
The depression does represent an aspect of his early experience as a child where achievement mattered more than emotional involvement.
The health authority he works, as a result of swingeing cuts, expects him to do the impossible , recreating his early experience , so my helping him separate his own issues, disappointment with authority from the disappointing parental authority, and his fear that I will let him down has been important as has been his exploration that maybe this time he should stand up for himself and patients .
He both has to deal with his own problems and the failings of others who might blame him to avoid their own faults.
The Group 
I was asked to provide a consultation to the whistleblower group due to the
following crisis.
The  group has been  in difficulty from the beginning, it is made up of people who have
WB from various agencies.  There  has always been an uncomfortable relationship  between security services WB and social concern WB. The crisis came to ahead when
A (army) gives an interview to the press where he criticises a leading public WB Snowden, in the security services, saying he should have gone to his head of command, rather than violate the undertaking he took, having agreed too sign the secrecy agreement required for security services. This was only part of the interview. But it deviated from official policy of the whistleblower groups policy of inclusiveness for all. The socially concerned WB involved in the health and social services are were now threatening to resign,
one very important person representing the elderly has.
The threat of division is very disturbing to some of the new members who have suffered a lot at the hands of their respective organisations and saw the new organisation as a new hopeful start.
From a member of the consultation group Ms E
“I Have no idea where we are anymore with the group! Getting quite uninspired by it all.
I’ve been playing out the arguments in my head like you do when you’ve had a fight with your mum and are trying to explain the case to the other side – silently! I should probably put things down on paper! But don’t know if that’s a good idea as too many emails flying around already!
From another important founder and member Mr B
“Sadly in recent weeks all of us have been experiencing factional behaviour, and some of us insults, and name calling as well which none of us signed up for and want no part of. It has caused significant damage to the organization including the resignation of one of our most valued members and the loss of many supporting her.
The reasons for her resignation were prompted by these unfortunate circumstances:
Mr A was initially asked to step down because of his remarks in a newspaper interview in June this year against the policies of inclusively accepting all whistleblowers, specifically people from security  services, his  remarks provoked threats of resignation from many members. When repeatedly challenged, He refused to withdraw his remarks or to apologize for the offence he caused. None of us who were party to this wanted to publicize it for fear of damaging the organisation.”
David Morgans intervention
“We are losing the common cause  that united the organisation, its breaking down into the single causes that brought you all together in the first place,  the armed forces, banking, the right of the aged, Baby P, social services, managing together in one group, thus avoided the split in our society.
Maybe a divorce is inevitable, the male bankers and armed forces  separating from the health and social care services,  but try not to forget the personal victimisation and the trauma that everyone, regardless of which sector they belong to, has experienced..
It is this that united us and falling back into  your individual sectors means that  this common cause is lost it does weaken our strength.
Intervention
I am wanting to offer a potential understanding of the current state of play with whistleblower.
As we all know any group has to address what their core interests are, what they have in common, it is important at the moment for us to address what these core interests are and whether a divorce would be harmful to those core interests that we all hold dear.
Can we create a space to examine with an open mind  what our differences are? Sometimes as we know a divorce can be the best approach to differences, however by opening our minds to so called irreparable differences, conflict of interest,  personalities, and politics with a small p., and recognising these tensions are normal in all organisations, something other than divorce maybe achieved.
If there are real reasons to work together they need to be addressed and to sustain the group there has to be some discipline about it, there is a need for a work group to avoid the splits into factions and parental like quarrels. Everyone has a reason to feel abused or hurt because this is the way of human nature and organisations.
I would like to suggest in this meeting we attempt to  discover if there really is a different interest and the best way forward.
To discuss whether its best to stay together for our common interests and goals, or have an amicable divorce which as we know is sometimes better for the children. If its the latter people can then choose to be in one or the other or both groups.
Question; Can we identify these common interests and avoid the small ‘p’ politics? 
It is probably true that A went out on a limb in the interview he did,  it is true that people like him who represent the armed forces are likely to have much stronger  feelings about security issues, than some, he may indeed have broken ranks and he will be the first to know that this is a serious issue and something to recognise and reflect on.
Are general A and journalist B  to discover whether there are two incompatible points of view, we know to achieve a goal we have put aside things that may impede that achievement.
A would have his say then B and then we would see if we can reach a conclusion.
The conclusion being we might stay together or divorce into two separate organisations which never-the-less support each other, as in divorce.
I would ask that to allow this to happen all hostilities come to a halt.
As you can see conflict otherwise just escalates, especially with dreaded email exchanges.
There has to be a generosity toward each other, a gentleman’s agreement rather than various accusations which are the small ‘p’ politics I am talking about.
We remain one organisation in the interest of us all or we become two organisations that come together for certain things, that allows people to join with either.
As you all know voluntary organisations  are often full of resentments as they can feel there is no reward for hard work and they can become dysfunctional. Can we sort out these differences before we divorce, is the common interest we all share, worth staying together for.
Regarding the hot topic of Snowden, Assange etc
Regarding WB and security issues eg . If we want a good security service the reality is that having a fully supportive public,  that support what the security services are doing is important. I think of the British hearts and minds approach in Malaya.
Crowd sourcing is a form of WB were one uses the people inside the organisation to provide information to maximise the objective. This technology of crowd sourcing is always at the cost of command and control. See how happy people working at
Waitrose are!
Whistleblowers are a version of crowd sourcing albeit a conflict version, the challenge is to make use of it. General A has been whistleblowed by B and C. Others are now blowing the whistle on them. The information from these crowd sourcing initiatives could be used to strengthen our  organisation bring about an amicable separation were we still work toward a common goal.
I would suggest that we have a conciliation meeting to discuss the issues and see what transpires. I am objective and would offer to chair it.”
End of consultants statement 
Mean times new people are wanting help.
From Mr G
” I hope that you do not mind me writing to you as I found your contact . I am an ex whistleblower who was/is involved in a very large corporate lawsuit.
I have been unable to secure any employment since a damaging article was published  I am now suing my former attorney and a bunch of others involved.
I am finding life very hard to deal with. I am willing to spend every penny of my savings to see my case go to trial (and hopefully win).The problem I am having is that although many recruiters have said on the phone that the press article is indeed very damaging to my career  (as companies do not want to take the risk of hiring me at a director or managerial role, because I may do the same to their company), the recruiters do not want to tell me this in writing. My lawyer is telling me that we really could do with recruiters or expertsto come forwards and help support my case here. It has been very damaging to my professional career.
I’m hoping that through your organisation and that I may be able to find such help. I and my family have been through years of absolute hell since all this started. What makes this so incredibly bad is that the people I placed my trust in were the ones that deliberately went out of their way to make my name public, knowing fine well the dire consequences this would have on me.
Or 
Mr S
“I am a consultant in a surgical unit and have just been sacked and offered a gagging clause because of my concerns about the way medical care is failing in my hospital”
Case study
A clinician I see for depression, who has no office, has to hot desk with four others, and is having to meet a patient appointment target that compensates for the fact that he is now the only clinician in a dept. that has been decimated by cuts, reliant on temp staff, who do not have the same commitment.
The depression does represent an aspect of his early experience as a child where attainment seemed to matter more than emotional involvement. Just as in his dept. it feels to him targets are taking over from patient care.
He wants to highlight the dangers of his workplace and the plight of his patients and needs my help to separate his own issues, disappointment with authority from the disappointing parental authority, and his fear that I too will let him down, and take sides, has been important as has been his exploration that maybe this time he might stand up for himself and patients against what is becoming a perverse authority, whilst being aware of his own issues.
He brings two rather similar dreams, this before addressing senior hospital management about the dangers inherent in current patient care, and the rise in suicidal behaviour in his hospital. In one he can’t find a lavatory anywhere to get relief, a common anxiety dream, which could be taken a number of ways. He has an analyst or container so full of their own crap that there is no room for his (including all the whistleblower stuff). There is the larger environmental significance of the constipated state of his place of work, that repeats his earlier experiences of having too  much expected of him, also at an internal level his own blockage to finding the relief he needs, not through evacuation, but dealing with his own feelings that he constantly seeks to be rid of.
In another dream a child he likes, that he should be taking care of, is defecating  on a carpet, he is cross, as he has an important appointment to get to and he has to deal with this child, who he feels is behaving wilfully.
You might say that he is becoming aware of an incontinent aspect of himself that he wishes to avoid, by busying himself with the failings of others.
The multi-layered aspect of these dreams, including maybe justifiable criticism of his analyst and authority, but a growing awareness of his own part, demonstrates his dilemma. He both has to deal with his own evacuations and the failings of others who might blame him to avoid their own faults and blind spots, but also needs to be aware how he can use apparently justifiable grievances to avoid his own awareness of what he also does.
Obviously we are never going to be able to decipher in full the motives of those who disclose. I am not sure we always need to. We can argue for as long as we like about the personal stories of our most famous whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. I could write case histories filled with the experiences that motivate later acts of disclosure. It could be a Scientific Meeting at some point.
But the most important thing we have to keep in mind is that societies who cannot tolerate disclosure and transparency are on their way to being the totalitarian states that most of us in this room abhor. We as analysts have to bear this in mind rather than pathologising, whilst at the same time helping those in this dilemma recognise their own areas of difficulty that also need to be addressed.
Whistleblowers can act, sometimes, as the conscience for us all.
We never know how high we are
Till we are asked to rise
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies. 
                                Emily Dickinson
REFERENCES
Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. C. Fred Alford (2002)
Primitive mind of state. David Bell (1996)
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Volume 10, Issue 1, 1996, pages 45- 57
Bending over backwards. Onel Brooks. New Associations 12.July 2013.
The Global Protest. Slavoj Zizek (2013). London Review of Books. Vol 35, nos. 14.
Unprovoked assaults–making sense of apparently random violence. Leslie Sohn, Journal Int J Psychoanal. (1995) Jun; 76 (Pt 3):565-75.

David Morgan talks with Phillip Adams on Radio National

Adams.jpg

The neo-liberalist mindset, beloved of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and current conservative governments, believes worth can be measured only by the marketplace.

It’s creating a society of winners and losers – one where cruelty is rationalised and empathy regarded as weak. According to leading UK psychoanalyst David Morgan, the consequences are visible in therapists’ waiting rooms.

A week before he gives the keynote address at the Freud Conference in Melbourne,
Dr Morgan tells Phillip about the ’emotional toxicity’ caused by neoliberal thinking.

click on title below to listen:
Radio National podcast

 

Reflection or action And never the twain shall meet

Reflection or action
And never the twain shall meet

R.D. Hinshelwood

Nor is there the least doubt that these sciences [Marxism and psychoanalysis] are direct opposites, the question is are they dialectical opposites? (Strachey 1937, p. 7).

There is a major problem in using psychoanalysis in political activity.  The unconscious individual influences and the external social ones are essentially different categories, and can be bridged conceptually only with some difficulty.  I have been struck for some time by the conceptual divergence.  In 1996, making an attempt to understand the convergence between a social (contemporary Marxist) explanation and an internalist, psychoanalytic explanation of human personality and experience, I noted that both paradigms are avowedly materialist; so,

Economic activity and bodily experiences create separate theories [but] they also generate separate superstructures – the world of social relations and the world of object relations respectively… [T]he two superstructures converge.  They lean together and coincide At certain points, we have dealt with three of those points – oppression/repression, alienation/depersonalisation and commodity/identity (Hinshelwood 1996, p. 100-101).

In this Chapter, I return to this paradigm, and take further the alienation/depersonalisation point of convergence.  The dialectical relations can be unpacked as several interactive cycles,

Group dynamics and the Labour Party

Back in the 1990s, I was part of a group that worked out some ideas which we might take to the Labour Party.  You may remember that the dying regime of the Conservatives, Mrs Thatcher and John Major was hanging on, and with the election in 1997 coming up, the Labour Party was desperate to convince the electorate of its better policies.  The idea was whether we could give an account of group dynamics which might be helpful to Labour to understand the way to create a more democratic society.  At the time Labour were talking about ‘the third way’; somewhat vague, but it appeared that it might promote more measured attitudes in Society suggestive of depressive position thinking – ambivalence, considerateness towards everyone, and generally a reluctance towards the unrealistic perfectionism of ideologies.  It seemed there could be a match between the political rhetoric and the study of unconscious group processes.  In the event when we met a couple of people at Millbank, it was clear they were politely indifferent to what we were trying to present.   Their interest was whether we had the secret of how to influence the electorate to vote for Labour.  They wanted advice on their marketing.  There seemed a radical disconnection between our earnest views about a more mature society, and their wish for effective marketing.

I have thought, over the years, about our naïvety.  Obviously there is a potential for psychology to be used as a social and public instrument for manipulation, and later, I came across the writing of one of the founders of marketing and public relations, in the US back in the 1920s.  He wrote,

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?  (Bernays 1928, p, 71).

and

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country (Bernays 1928, p.37).

I find this unpalatable. Shamefully, this author, a founder of this ‘invisible government’ as he called it, was Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew.  He, like Freud, was interested in the ‘unseen mechanisms’ at work in individuals – but for different purposes. 

Political change and psychoanalytic change

The aim of psychoanalysis is to change things.  That is what patients want help with.  The aim of politics is also to change things.  But the changes, and how they are brought about, are completely different.  Is that difference bridgeable?  Influencing a patient towards some healthy state, and doing the same for society, shouldn’t be impossibly different.  After all a society is made of people.  So what really is the difference, and how can one inform the other?

Practising psychoanalysts address the internal unconscious factors that determine an individual’s personality – and how the individual is captured and controlled by them.  On the other hand, political attitudes and actions are socially generated, arising, many would say, from the economic system of production.  The individual is located at the junction of these two sets of influences, one from inside and one from outside.  If someone has a phobia for spiders, he is driven by internal factors (his unconscious imagining, say, that the web-like embrace is a controlling mother).  If someone drives his car on the left-hand side of the road, it is from social forces – the highway-code, police patrol cars, etc.

These are inherently different kinds of influences.  How do social and unconscious determinisms fit together?  Edward Bernays decided it is simple, the external social category is used to manipulate the individuals’ interior unconscious choices.  Well….  for me that is not good enough, and I am interested in whether there are other ways by which these two categories of influences can be combined in our understanding). 

Interpreting society!

I claim we need to find models of interaction between social relations and psychodynamics.  It is, otherwise, so easy for us, psychoanalysts, to approach society or social institutions as if they were individuals.  To equate a social organisation with the individual mind risks leaving out the very valid social, historical, political forces that act on organisations, create cultures and induce or enable individuals to collaborate unconsciously, as well as consciously, with each other.. 

I am thinking of the campaign started by psychoanalysts in the 1980s, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists against Nuclear War (PPANW).  Led by Hanna Segal’s especial interest, expressed in her paper ‘Silence is the real crime’ (Segal 1987), the individual defence mechanisms she suggested seemed to be simply aggregated, and she talked of regression during wartime from depressive position to paranoid-schizoid functioning.   The campaign remained largely ineffective, so, it seemed there were serious limitations to this kind of individualistic political approach –interpreting a supposed unconscious as if it were an individual unconscious.  The political problem only disappeared with a political solution – the collapse of the cold war in 1990.  I would suggest that attributing individual dynamics to social and political issues risks psychoanalysis becoming irrelevant to social scientists and politicians. 

Freud (1913) did something similar in Totem and Taboo, interpreting whole societies in terms of the psychodynamics of the Oedipus complex.  He had relied on outdated texts such as Frazer’s Golden Bough so that anthropologists at this time, such as W.H.R. Rivers, Elliott Smith, or Bronislav Malinowski, dismissed Freud easily as a positive danger! – in fact, Malinowski described psychoanalysis as ‘an infection… of the neighbouring fields of science – notably that of anthropology, folklore and sociology’ (Malinowski 1923 p. 650). 

The need is to understand how the general social attitudes and policies resonate with unconscious processes, notably anxiety and defence, deep within individuals.  This is easier said than done, and there is a place for some persistent thinking about these reverberating social-psychological dynamics. 

Words as action

Psychoanalysis, the talking cure, is confined to using words to create meaning and conviction.  Political action uses a very different resource, the power of numbers/crowds.  Is the use of words and meanings adaptable to political campaigning?

Words are active things, they achieve more than transferring information.  They impact.  The Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin (1962) wrote a book entitled Doing Things with Words.  Words have impact.  Can we do political things with words?

Some elements of what used to be called Western Marxism would say that we can campaign by verbal argument or confrontation.  These are the Critical Theorists.   Critical theory is a body of social and philosophical debate which aims to go beyond just knowing things – not just to know how and why things are.  Critical theorists aim to change things, particularly to emancipate human beings from dominance and slavery – as announced at the opening of the Frankfurt Institute in 1929 by Horkheimer.

Closely associated is the concept used by Lukacs (1971), ‘false consciousness’.  This very pregnant idea considers that much of the proletariat is sold an illusion about their value and place in society, and that this is false.  But it is in the interests of the dominant class to cultivate the false notion – i.e. the working class is there merely to sell their working time to commercial interests, without question.  And so a political act would be to inform the proletariat of their rightful place as part owners of the products of their labour, for instance.  This activity is sometimes called ‘consciousness raising’.

The important point however is that listening in to these corrective arguments does not necessarily have impact.  Instead, people under an ideological domination often have such a profound identification with a false consciousness, that a truer insight even to their own benefit is prevented.  So the question is how does that inhibition take over the consciousness of the proletariat? 

In fact reflective insight is very difficult to sustain, and since the action of psychoanalysis is to stimulate a reflective practice in patients, so the extension of that sort of practice to group settings seems possible.   Indeed, attempts to develop reflective practice for health workers and professional carers is now quite widespread (e.g. Obholzer and Roberts 1994).  If we were really to follow the Frankfurt-Lukacs line of critical thinking we would need to extend reflective practice still further – beyond small groups of those who work with people, out to society at large.  That is a bigger job.  But it is even more difficult because beyond the size problem there are the especial forces which jeopardise the fate of reflective practice in whole cultures.

‘Social resistance’

Words are action, but they can be used in the opposite direction – against insight.  How else could the hegemony of a social false consciousness come about except through words?  In psychoanalysis this is called rationalisation.  In political life it is called propaganda.  There are a number of factors involve in why words are used to cloud and confuse, and those factors that pervert words are not all verbal, and their non-verbal quality makes them difficult to influence.

First is the Marxist theory that social relations develop their form based on the dominant technology of production.  The factory mode of production involving high levels of initial investment and capitalisation, structure a society into those who have and those who have not.  The possession is money, but not just money; it is also power.  And they go together.  The factory owner has the power to give jobs (and take them away), he also owns the physical power of the factory, the power used in the manufacturing.  The owner of power in the production process is the owner of power in social relations.

A second factor is the unconscious, a psychologically internal one that sustains the construction of social relations, often long after they have ceased to be useful.  This important idea came from one of the Frankfurt school, Herbert Marcuse, with his idea of surplus repression.  Marcuse (1955) took up a remark of Freud’s that the developing person does not take on the parents’ value system, but he takes on the parents’ super-ego.  So that had come down from the grandparent’s generation of super-egos, and so on for generations back.  There is inevitably a considerable lag in any change.  The end result for instance is that a super-ego embodying a protestant work-ethic from, say, the 18th century may have changed little by the 20th century.  Hence the repression of energy and its direction into work for industrial production is now far in excess of what is actually needed for contemporary production methods.

This is not necessarily the only form of mistaken self-consciousness due to a time lag in the development of the internal world.  Consider the paper by Michael Sebek, a Czech psychoanalyst.  He found in ordinary relations outside the consulting room, that people in the Czech Republic hung on to ideas of totalitarian authority long after 1990, when the totalitarian soviet regime disappeared (Sebek 1998).

Why is this internalisation of inappropriate value systems so difficult to shake?  Perhaps only psychoanalysts can say much about the intricacies and problems of internalisation since it is so far outside conscious knowledge and control.   Something can, and has been done, using various practical steps for consciousness raising.  This means the development of new ways of thinking, using debates, courses, etc. – and it has had some impact on feminist issues, and racism, particularly.  But it cannot really be said to have a broad impact, and people involved in it are usually already interested in changing their attitudes anyway.

And a third factor that sustains false consciousness is the deliberate manipulation of consciousness, often unconsciously.  For instance, Sun newspaper headlines blast certainty in the form of paranoid outrage at millions and millions of people every day.  How can people stop and reflect, when so many are struggling with contemporary capitalist austerity?  This takes us back to the methods evolved by Bernays in his ‘invisible government’.

Labour process

Something which troubles people when they think about it, though they don’t think about it much, because it is not so easy to grasp, is what is called  ‘labour process’ (Braverman 1974).  To explain this, consider a worker in a factory.  The worker has necessary costs that go into sustaining his life.  This can be quantified in terms of money, and he is paid what he needs to survive and live.  Each day he is paid that wage, and in exchange he provides a day’s work.  The factory has other expenses, the raw materials, tools and machines, the cost of the factory itself, some administration, banking costs and so on.  Altogether these are the manufacturing costs.

If the man is making, shall we say, nails in the factory, then a certain number of nails, at the market price, will roughly equate with the manufacturing costs (i.e. the worker’s wage plus the correct proportion of the other costs). 

Then if the factory is a successful one, the worker will be making his quantity of nails in less than a full day.   And so, for the rest of his working day, he will be making more nails than the costs of himself and the other factory expenses.  Now, under the system of hired labour, the extra nails, will belong not to him, the worker, but to the factory – and its owner, who is a person or an enterprise, who have bought the whole day’s work from him.  Much of labour relations turns on the ownership of the extra number of nails, which the worker has made, over and above the manufacturing costs.

This is a system which does not apply just to factory work, but to a slave society, or any society where the ownership of the product is not the worker who supplied the hours of work.  This system of overproducing as it seems, with the accumulation of products, is especially characteristic of the capitalist mode of production.  It contrasts with a society based on self-employed land-workers, craftsmen, or professionals.  They own what they produce.  These activities tend to be those without manufactured products (or only small scale production); instead they are more often the provision of services1

Incidentally, the concentrated effort on systems to maximise the accumulation of products that appear to be independent of their makers, may have made an impact on other cultures.  The anthropologist C.A. Gregory (1982), has attributed the strange phenomenon known as the potlach to the arrival of western explorers and merchants in New Guinea.   The potlatch is a ritual requiring a seemingly bizarre accumulation of goods that are circulated apparently aimlessly around tribal communities.  Of course there are other explanations, but it is possible that these tribes mirror for us the bizarre nature of our system of production which drastically divides production and ownership, and which has been foisted onto other cultures as a model of mature civilisation.

Alienation

The reason for the unease in us about labour process and the ownership of manufactured products needs some understanding.  In our society, there appears to have been an historical development of a particular relation between the producer on one hand and those products which emerge from his work on the other.  For instance, since the humanistic age of the Renaissance, painters sign their own pictures.  That tells a story of how the bond between the individual producer and his opus has become an especially significant feature of Western cultures.   And also shows the especial need to stamp one’s ownership on what one produces.

So it is of interest that this division of the wage worker from the product of his work is also paradoxically so characteristic of our modern age.  This culturally enforced division is especially significant in manual work.  The factory worker’s labour is physical, and he has therefore a particular bodily closeness to his product.  There is an intimate connection between the worker and his product.  So, the sale of his working hours, removes the ownership of what is felt to be connected to him, and is in his experience a part of him.  It is not too fanciful to accept that what we physically create – indeed what we intellectual create, like my paper I am writing– is closely identified with me, and vice versa.  I know that I am seen, to a considerable extent as the person who has written certain things.  Or, an artist, say, Francis Bacon, is identified with the paintings he produced.  In fact a painting of his may be referred to as ‘a Francis Bacon’, meaning one of his pictures.  The factory worker in our age is not granted this kind of privilege of identity and ownerahip

Marx seemed especially angry about this labour process which rips the product from the worker, like a new baby from its mother.  Long before his classic book, Das Kapital, in 1856, we can read his humane ranting about this.  In 1844 he was writing his notebooks which were published as The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (Marx 19).  There he dealt with the unfairness of this separation of the producer from his product.  As he put it,

…the object that labour produces, its product, stands opposed to it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labour is labour embodied and made material in an object … this realisation of labour appears as loss of reality for the worker, objectification as loss of and bondage to the object, and appropriation as estrangement, as alienation (Marx, 1844, p. 324).

If the work product is disconnected, then the producer is disconnected to some degree from what is felt – by him, and by others – to be him.  He becomes a lesser person as these aspects of himself are removed from him, or, as Marx said, ‘The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces’ (p. 323).  He becomes poorer in a psychological sense.  This is a psychological understanding, not something that we would normally go to Karl Marx for. 

Many years ago I was struck by a parallel kind of description to be found in the psychoanalytic literature (Hinshelwood 1983).  For example,

In such fantasies products of the body and parts of the self are felt to be split off, projected into mother, and to be continuing their existence there (Klein 1955, p. 142).

No surprise that this quote comes from Melanie Klein describing the mechanism of splitting of the ego, or self, and subsequent projective identification of the part of that divided self into some other.  She

referred to the weakening and impoverishment of the ego resulting from excessive splitting and projective identification’ (Klein 1946, p. 104). 

For the idea of alienation, it would seem splitting is central, because the object – that is the product of the worker ‘stands opposed’ to him, and it is projected, ‘alien’ and ‘independent’, yet it retains an identity with the worker, it is labour embodied.  In other words, products of the person’s (worker’s) body are felt to have become separated off, alienated as if someone else. 

In that paper of mine, I looked carefully at the way Marx described what he called ‘alienation’, and I made a comparison with the psychoanalytic phenomena of splitting and projection.  The similarities in the way alienation is experienced, and the way splitting and projective identification are experienced, is striking. 

Now, important for the opening question in the Chapter is that implicit in this comparison between labour process and projective identification is a particular view of the relations between social and psychological influences.  We know that alienation is conceptualised as having its origins in the mode of production, whist its counterpart, splitting and projective identification, have their origins in the unconscious need to deal with an anxiety.    The alienation from the ownership of the product and the psychological mechanisms of splitting and projective identification, converge in this case – the outside social influences and the inner mechanisms coincide.  We need to bear in mind from this point that the inner processes are in the service of dealing with anxiety, and in particular the anxiety that splitting and projective identification deal with are the fear of annihilation, and a fear for one’s survival.

Self-perpetuating systems

So, it seems alienation is an interesting instance where political processes play on already existing psychological mechanisms.  Labour process relies, as it were, on their being the mechanisms of splitting and projective identification within the individual.  When social and individual factor converge like this then socio-political structures may succeed handsomely and endure for generations. 

Moreover, we know that psychological mechanisms are defences aimed at managing anxiety by avoiding it, and like all defence mechanisms, as Freud showed, they are usually imperfect and cause further effects known as symptoms.  And this is the case, no less, with the mechanisms of splitting and projective identification.  They are aimed at avoiding fears about annihilation, and personal survival.  However, splitting enhances the feeling of going to pieces, and projective identification ‘impoverishes the ego’.  The conscious anxiety may be avoided but it is unconsciously enhanced.  And then the defence mechanisms are driven even harder – i.e. splitting and projective identification are sustained.  A vicious circle is set up.

Thus alienation, arising from economic sources, fits into and enhances the survival anxiety, and, keeps the vicious circle turning.  In effect the mechanisms of splitting and projective identification allow the social process of alienation.  And the redistribution of ownership of the products of labour, becomes stabilised as a self-perpetuating system, resting on the vicious circle of anxiety and defence, just described. 

Another vicious circle also occurs.  The operation of projective identification has another aim.  It is a means of denying separation   Projective identification establishes a merging of the ego with the person into whom some part of the self is projected.  Self and other lose the boundary between them.  So, projecting some part of the self into the factory or its owner, inevitably promotes a sense of solidarity in the worker towards the owners who, in fact have purloined the worker’s own products.  Moreover the reality situation in which the product is actually removed in a concrete way, separated and sold on from the factory, must enhance the painful feelings of separation which the projective identification was intended to deny.  Thus the anxiety of separation is enhanced, which will then be likely to drive the projective identification to further deny the separation.

Both these are enduring social-psychological dynamics which underpin the alienation, allow it to endure, and significantly impoverish the egos of the producers.  The political alienation and solidarity are stabilised by resting on these enduring psychodynamic cycles.

Survival and money:  One aspect of the success of the neo-liberal emphasis on monetary value is that survival of the individual is increasingly felt as financial survival.  The aim is in part to motivate people through a fear for their survival.  It is a motivating strategy which raises the survival anxiety as a whole for the individual and for working organisations.  Thus it plays on the fears of the worker who already feels impoverished in himself, and has mistakenly solidified a merging with the organisation through projection.

Indeed today a large proportion of personal identity is constructed through consumer activity – that is, what you buy is what you are, and therefore if you can’t buy you can’t exist.  Such culturally promoted attitudes provide, and stabilise, the inner psychodynamic cycles just described.  Financial survival plays into the anxieties about ego-survival to harmonise with them and add to the needs for the characteristic defences.  So, monetary value trumps ordinary human values in the work and commercial aspects of social life.  This elevation of monetary value over human values is a spin-off from the conjunction of external and internal influences that are realised in the two vicious circles, just described.  Then human values are left to exist only within the much restricted field of the family.  We are allowed to be generous and grateful, and honest, and concerned, etc, within the family.  But outside that, only monetary value counts, and the pursuit of monetary gain has come today to justify more or less any commercial practice.  Of course, such practices can be seen as risky since they lead back to survival anxiety.  That is because the practice of monetary gain which subordinates the human value of honesty, leads without obstacle to corruption, and ultimately the dissolution of any society that could maintain the survival of a civilised quality of life – this amounts to a further vicious circle which generates the anxiety about survival that monetary gain was supposed to alleviate.

Political policy and its unconscious vicious circles

One contribution we can make to political understanding is the necessary condition that a social process embodied in a political policy, needs to have an important and receptive unconscious dimension in order to be successful.  That is, the policy must access some personality dynamic in individuals.  So, as psychoanalysts, we could give to political debate an awareness of those anxieties that are played upon, and the resulting defences that establish vicious circles within individuals on which divisive political action can be grounded.

It is not enough to take a high-minded position about this.  We need to help the understanding of why people might go along thoughtlessly with quite disastrous policies.  In such a case described here – the occurrence of alienation at work – there is the operation of both social influence and psychological mechanisms.  There is a two-way processes.  Both influences converge in the vicious circles and they work together.  The anxiety-defence system resides unconsciously and is the bedrock of false conscious social attitudes and identity. 

But policies do not always find a suitable internal dynamic.  Social policies are not all powerful, and from what has been said, they can be successful only insofar as they can play upon possible unconscious mechanisms which they are able to activate.  Psychology is then a limiting condition for political economy.  Only when there is a clear interaction between the social forces, and the unconscious cycling of anxiety and defence, can a stable political economy arise.

Conclusions

The major problem addressed here was how to fit political action with the dynamics of the internal world.  Despite the conceptual divergence, and without solving this problem exactly, the Chapter has demonstrated an understanding of one way in which individual psychology can and does meet social and political policy.  These are not consciously determined processes, but no doubt grow up over generations in a more evolutionary manner. 

It looks as though the ongoing development of this line of evolution suggests a radical disruption of value systems in society.  In the long run such a development if it grows up unobserved, could be as disastrous as the encroaching climate change problems that have equally grown up to be recognised only when nearly too late.

There is a potential for a fuller research into the interactiveness of these two conceptually restricted domains of human existence.  And given the risks that are apparent, as well as moral disturbances, it might be better to get onto these processes sooner rather than later.

Although Freud’s nephew drew attention to an invisible government, and we should decry his exploiting it, this paper has tried to extend the problem to an invisible government that pursues its effects at a level of true unconsciousness.  This is a false consciousness giving rise to an internal government of opinions and attitudes that are supported on the stage of personal perception of the world.  Interactive vicious circles in the internal psychological dynamics of individuals – concerning survival and separation – are set going, and kept going, by social policies.  Although probably only certain policies which click with these internal processes will ultimately stick.

Psychoanalysis has the power to build models of this inner invisible government and false consciousness, and can show instances where that model of unconscious interaction explains the more or less unexplainable aspects of public and political life.  However that is only the first of the problems of dealing with the invisible government.  The second and maybe the biggest is to argue for the value of these insights.  Since the psychoanalytic model is of the unconscious, how should we develop a consciousness of how playing upon our fears of fragmentation of ourselves and the fear for our survival, and the survival of our necessary work organisations play into the hands of manipulative politics?

Psychoanalysis does not have a natural audience in the public media, even less so in the private ‘social’ media.  The quandary is to give a voice to our ability to explain the unexplainable.  This means a gentle and concerned broaching of the fears most people do not want to know about.  Culturally the powers of explanation that psychoanalysts have, tend to be sequestered into safe enclaves, perhaps within psychiatry (who don’t want it either).  Public opinion is much happier to concentrate on the public conflicts rather than the private ones, and certainly not on how the two might meet.  Often this careful marginalisation of the unconscious depths to our experience is supported by mindless recapitulations that psychoanalysis is a trite theory about Freud’s sexuality. 

Can we ever bring into a wide understanding how public life and private fears meet hand-in-hand in public opinion and political action?  This paper unfortunately does little to explain a plan of action to dispel at least a shred or two of the convenient falseness of our conscious worlds.  I can only finish on a pleading note – help with the task of gently exposing the fears that resist exposure.

References

Austin, J.L. (1962) How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Bernays, E. (1928)  Propaganda.  New York Liveeright.

Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital. New York, Free Press

Freud, Sigmund, (1913) Totem and Taboo. The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud 13, 1-161. London: Hogarth.

Gregory, C.A. (1982) Gifts and Commodities.  New York: Academic Press.

Hinshelwood, R. D. (1983)  Projective identification and Marx’s concept of man.  International Review of Psychoanalysis 16: 221-226.

Hinshelwood, R.D. (1996) Convergences with psychoanalysis.  In Parker, I. and Spears, R.  (eds.) Psychology and Society: Radical Theory and Prctice.  London: Pluto Press.

Klein Melanie (1946)  Notes on some schizoid mechanisms.  In The Writings of Melanie Klein, Volume 3: 1-24.  London: Hogarth.

Klein, M. (1955) On identification In The Writings of Melanie Klein Vol. 3 pp. 141–175.

Lukacs, György  (1971) History and Class Consciousness.  London: Merlin.

Malinowski, Bronislav (1923)  Psychoanalysis and anthropology.  Nature 112: 650-651.

Marcuse, Herbert (1955)  Eros and Civilisation.  New York: Beacon Press.

Marx, Karl (1844) Economic and philosophical manuscripts. In Early Writings. London: Penguin, (1975) pp. 279–400.

Obholzer, A. and Roberts, V. (eds.) (1994)  The Unconscious at Work.  London: Routledge.

Sebek, Michael (1998) Post-totalitarian personality – old internal objects in a new situation. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis 26: 295-309

Segal, H.(1987) Silence is the Real Crime. International Review of Psychoanalysis 14:3-12.

 Strachey, John (1937) Introduction. To Osborn, R. Freud and Marx: A Dialectical Study. London: Gollanz.

Click on this link to download this chapter: MorgBkChap