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Psychoanalysis in China

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The introduction of psychoanalysis to China over the last twenty years brings a clash between Eastern and Western philosophical backgrounds. Chinese patients, therapists and trainees struggle with assumptions inherent in an analytic attitude steeped in Western ideas of individualism that are often at odds with a Chinese Confucian ethic of respect for the family and the work group. The situation is further complicated by the rapid evolution of Chinese culture itself, emerging from years of trauma, new economics, and the one child policy of the last generation that has introduced a new Chinese brand of individualism and new family structure that are not equivalent to those of the West. This volume breaks new ground in exploring these issues and challenges to the introduction of analytic therapies into China, from the viewpoint of Western teachers, and Chinese teachers, clinicians, anthropologists and observers.

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Part I: Chinese Culture and History Relevant to Mental Health

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PART I

CHINESE CULTURE AND HISTORY RELEVANT TO MENTAL HEALTH

Mette Halskov Hansen and Cuiming Pang

In one of the most inspiring recent ethnographies about family life and relations in rural China, Yunxiang Yan concluded that since the period of decollectivisation and the gradual introduction of a market economy, the high price paid for increased individual space and determination among younger people was a loss of civility and the growth of ego-centered consumerism (Yan, 2003). Having gained insight into intriguing and complex relationships between parents and children, lovers and spouses over a long time span, Yan showed that the dismantling of state collectives and the collapse of socialist morals in the 1990s left young Chinese villagers in an ideological vacuum. With first Confucian and then communist structures of mutual obligations and responsibilities lying in ruins, the every-man-for-himself values of the market economy and globalised consumerism came to dominate family life and relationships among people.

 

Part II: The Development of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in China

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PART II

THE DEVELOPMENT OF PSYCHOANALYSIS AND PSYCHOTHERAPY IN CHINA

Sverre Varvin and Bent Rosenbaum

Introduction

This chapter builds on the experiences of supervising several hundred case presentations as well as psychoanalytic therapeutic encounters with patients in China in the period of 2002–2012. The challenge for us as teachers and supervisors has been to sense, be informed by, and understand the learning process that takes place when a western approach to the understanding of human beings, partly based on an Aristotelian, self-centred, goal-directed logic, meets the understanding of the human mind largely based on Confucian, family-centred and context-directed ways of relating, mingled with Daoist-based preoccupations with practice and form.

Psychoanalysis represents a way of understanding psychic life and its conflictual structure that originates in both a western Aristotelian tradition and in a Judeo-Christian culture that in certain aspects differs from the linear, goal-directed logic of the Aristotelian tradition and that has, as we will show, similarities in eastern modes of thinking. It is therefore of interest for the psychoanalytic field to highlight the specific features of psychoanalytic thinking and reasoning where a meeting may take place and where obstacles to the meeting occur.

 

Part III: Developing Training in China

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PART III

DEVELOPING TRAINING IN CHINA

Sverre Varvin and Alf Gerlach

History

Interest in psychoanalysis and in practicing psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapy in China has both an older and a more recent history.

The older history began in 1912 when Qian Zhixiu wrote about Freudian psychoanalysis. In the years that followed, there were several articles on the relevance of psychoanalytic theory both as a clinical discipline and in diverse fields such as political, literary, and philosophical studies. In 1929 the first work of Freud was translated—“Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” (1921). Several of Freud's central works followed, including “An Autobiographical Study” (1925).

From 1935 to 1939 Dr Bingham Dai, who was trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy by Harry Stack Sullivan in New York and Leon Saul in Chicago, worked at Peking Union Medical College. He passed on his experiences through teaching, supervision, and training-therapies to his colleagues (Gerlach, 2003). Adolf Joseph Storfer, a psychoanalyst and Jewish refugee from Vienna, came later to Shanghai where he published articles on psychoanalysis that proved to be influential both for Chinese psychiatrists and for intellectuals (Plänkers, 2010). Between 1920 and 1949 many philosophers, psychologists, and literary critics translated and interpreted Freud and other psychoanalysts’ works, and Freudian issues were drawn upon by a number of famous Chinese writers. For instance, the Chinese psychologist Gao Juefu translated Freud's “Introduction to Psychoanalysis” and wrote critical reports about the new science (Gerlach, 2003). An interest in the relevance of psychoanalysis for Chinese politics was similar to developments in many European countries in the 1930s. In 1936 the book Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis by Wilhelm Reich was published under the Chinese title Jingshen fen xi xue pipan, and in 1940 Freud and Marx by R. Osborn was published under the Chinese title Jingshen fen xixue yu ma kesi zhuyi (Gerlach, 2003).

 

Part IV: Marriage and Marital Therapy in China and Taiwan

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PART IV

MARRIAGE AND MARITAL THERAPY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

Jill Savege Scharff and David E. Scharff

To illustrate the impact of culture on intimate relationships, we will describe brief couple therapy with a Chinese couple. This treatment was one element in our teaching for students, clinicians, and trainers in China, where we taught workshops in object relations couple and family therapy and a continuous course in psychoanalytic couple therapy at the invitation of Professor Shi Qijia at the Wuhan Hospital for Psychotherapy and Dr Fang Xin of Peking University in Beijing respectively. Our hosts arranged for serial translation of our concepts, slides, videos, and group discussions—and of therapeutic consultations with various couples, to be observed live or on video feed to an audience of seventy mental health students, clinicians, and trainers. We taught our Chinese participants the western view of relationships and unconscious dynamics. They taught us to understand couples’ verbal expressions, imagery, and culture.

 

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