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Fanaticism in Psychoanalysis

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'This is a scholarly study in which the author explores a difficult subject matter that has been a tabooed topic in psychoanalysis. She undertakes a serious study of the underlying arguments as to why psychoanalysts have seldom been able to live in harmony with each other. In a very lucid and systematic manner, Dr Utrilla Robles examines how a discipline, in this case psychoanalysis, can be manipulated to its detriment. She explains the disquieting processes that take place, which impede the development of psychoanalysis. These influences insidiously infiltrate the organisational ranks as a kind of arguing which should ostensibly enrich psychoanalysis but instead deprives it of its creativity. For a discipline to prosper, it is necessary to have the freedom to air doubts, ask questions, raise hypotheses, and contrast discoveries by sharing them with others, debating different positions to reflect on the discussions, and to change one's views if necessary.This type of attitude stands in stark contrast to the kind of thinking that excludes and establishes norms to demonstrate how one is right in leaving no room for other ideas and creates research projects, which cannot be refuted. The author's intention in this book is to study and shed light on these phenomena that have been considered a taboo because of the secrecy surrounding them.'- from the Foreword by Dr Gunther Perdigao

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Chapter One: What is Fanaticism?

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CHAPTER ONE

What is fanaticism?

A dictionary definition of fanaticism characterises it as “an extreme or dangerous religious or political opinion, [or] an obsessive enthusiasm for a pastime or hobby” with “fanatical” describing the state of being “filled with excessive and single-minded zeal; obsessively concerned with something” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2007).

Hence, fanaticism could be described as a passionate and unconditional adherence to a cause, an excessive enthusiasm or persistent monomania regarding certain subjects, in an obstinate, indiscriminate, or violent way.

It alludes to any belief shared by several individuals or groups of individuals. In cases in which fanaticism outweighs rationality it can reach extreme levels, to the point of justifying the killing, torture, or imprisonment of human beings, and it can mask the unconditional wish to impose a belief considered beneficial for the fanatic, or for a group of fanatics.

 

Chapter Two: Fanaticism in Psychoanalysis

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CHAPTER TWO

Fanaticism in psychoanalysis4

Comparing fanaticism to psychoanalysis seems to be an impossible task, because both are in complete contraposition and as far apart from each other as one can imagine. We should then wonder: how is it possible for persons who have gone through the personal experience of psychoanalytic treatment, and pursued a long and rigorous analytic training, to be able to embrace fanatic processes and mechanisms? Is not psychoanalysis ultimately a song to freedom that, as pointed out earlier, is radically opposed to fanaticism?

To these two questions even more considerations may be added: psychoanalysis has its limits, and no matter how many years of psychoanalytic treatment a person has gone through, he or she will not be “completely” analysed.

However, every person—psychoanalysed or not—can experience regressions, depending on the situations he is confronted with, and mainly within group activities, and since, in some regressions, a fanatic functioning might be present, we can, therefore, find psychoanalysts who unconsciously act in a way that shows all the components of the fanatic behaviour.

 

Chapter Three: Groups within Institutions

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CHAPTER THREE

Groups within institutions

P sychoanalytic literature includes a large amount of bibliographic material on group mechanisms and processes, based on extremely varied theoretical trends. In the UK, Argentina, and Spain (more specifically, Barcelona), Kleinian analysts (among whom I will only distinguish Bion, Jaques, Fornari, Bleger, Grimberg, Tizón, and Freixas) have contributed numerous studies and publications. In France, there are also publications from the Lacanian and post-Freudian schools: Anzieu, Kaes, Leclerc, Lefort, Mannoni, Oury, Tosquelles, Mauco, Enríquez, Racamier, Lebovici, Talan, Lucas, Diatkine, Hochman, Cahn. There is a vast bibliography, but I will focus on a few examples: Foulkes (1975); Gómez Esteban (1997), James and Jongeward (1971); Nitsun (2000); Pichón Rivière (1987); Scheidlinger (1988); Yalom (1986).

This necessity to understand and theorise on individual experiences within groups is largely explained by the fact that psychoanalysts, accustomed as they are to a relationship that involves two people (although we all know that this is not so, because the so-called third party(ies) are always taken into account), experience, when they are part of a group, feelings and affections which often disconcert them. We might say that this is what occurs in the best of cases, because in other cases they cannot even become consciously aware of the effects groups exert on their way of thinking. We have two very different positions: in the cases in which individuals are aware of these effects produced by the group, they try to elaborate them following the theorisations that are closest to theirs. The great problem is derived from the second example. When individuals cannot become aware of this fact, or they deny or repudiate it, then unconscious reactions result, which might have significant—not to say serious—consequences for the projects or the purposes of the group in question.

 

Chapter Four: Respect and Dignity in Psychoanalysis

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CHAPTER FOUR

Respect and dignity in psychoanalysis7

R espect is the recognition of the fact that someone or something has worth. It can be defined as the basis of the moral grounds of ethics and morality.

Respect for interpersonal relationships begins with the individual, in the acknowledgement of the individual as a unique entity who needs the other to be understood.

The expression “human dignity” refers to the essential and nontransferable value of every human being, irrespective of social condition, race, religion, age, sex, and so on. Human dignity constitutes the basis of all rights.

For this reason, the ethical foundations of the concepts of respect and dignity do not seem to require too much explanation: respect, which can be understood as the consequence of a psychic maturing process and which translates into attitudes of consideration to others, tolerance, waiting capacity, composure, and valuation, becomes integrated in that assemblage of principles and moral rules that regulate human behaviour and relationships, as ethics is defined. The concept of dignity also includes this two-way quality: it exists in and for people. Defined as a virtue, self-esteem, deference, honesty, respectfulness, and decorum, it is also situated at the basis of ethics.

 

Chapter Five: Can Fanaticism be Combated?

ePub

CHAPTER FIVE

Can fanaticism be combated?

In the opinion of the Egyptian writer, Alaa Al Aswany, “If you understand art you will never be a fanatic and if you are a fanatic, keep yourself away from art because you will never understand it” (Al Aswany, 2012). For this reason, he adds that the majority of the few fanatics who had attacked me had not read his novel. In his most recent novel, Chicago (2008), he has stated that religious fanaticism and literature are incompatible.

Oz (2012)[2006] explains that, in his view,

the essence of fanaticism lies in the desire to force other people to change…One way or another, the fanatic is more interested in you than in himself, for the very simple reason that the fanatic has a very little self or no self at all. (2012, pp. 65–66)

And he gives us his opinion regarding the way to cure fanaticism. How can we cure ourselves of fanaticism? Imagination, literature, and humour is the recipe proposed by this author as effective antidotes against fanaticism, since literature and imagination might help us to visualise, through fiction, the ravages caused by fanaticism, although there is much literary material that has fuelled hatred and feelings of superiority. Humour would contribute to overcoming fanaticism, since fanatics take themselves so seriously that they are incapable of laughing at themselves.

 

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