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CHAPTER NINETEEN: Omagh: the beginning of the reparative impulse?

Jean Arundale Karnac Books ePub

Raman Kapur

Omagh: the beginning of group reparation

The pain of mourning experienced in the depressive position and the reparative drives developed to restore the loved internal and external objects, are the basis of creativity and sublimation. These reparative activities are directed towards both the object and the self. They are done partly because of concern for and guilt towards the object, and the wish to restore, preserve and give it eternal life; and partly in the interest of self-preservation, now more realistically orientated. The infant’s longing to recreate his lost objects gives him the impulse to put together what has been torn asunder, to reconstruct what has been destroyed, to recreate and to create. At the same time, his wish to spare his objects leads him to sublimate his impulses when they are felt to be destructive. [Segal, 1964]

Group processes fundamentally influence how we feel, think, and behave towards others. Systems theory (Agazarian, 1994) has taught us that individuals and small-group processes are not immune from the emotional beliefs and values in wider social system. And so to Northern Ireland. This is a society that has been exposed to trauma for nearly thirty years, yet little has occurred within the province to repair the destructive effects of murderous acts replacing the normal activity of everyday human relations. It is indeed remarkable that for all that has been written about Northern Ireland (e.g. Cairns, 1996; Curren et ah, 1990) no-one has written about or developed psycho-social interventions to repair the terrible wounds of the past. My thesis is that the tragedy of Omagh represents a watershed in Northern Ireland’s state of mind, in that for the first time substantial work began immediately after it, in the establishment of a team of dedicated professionals to address the psychological wounds of those traumatised. Up to this point, in areas affected by the troubles, it had been a struggle to get recognised the need for substantial work to deal with trauma. This watershed is reflected in other aspects of Northern Ireland society, where the talk is more of a dialogue and discourse rather than psychic retreats into self-made islands where the enemy is feared and group processes fragment into the pursuit of individual survival. What follows in this paper is:

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Chapter Four - From Omnipotence to Ordinary Potency and Identity

Jean Arundale Karnac Books ePub

Freud first discussed “omnipotence of thought” in Totem and Taboo (1912–13). It was a term taken from the analysis, in 1909, of the Rat Man, who believed that his thoughts would bring about the death of those he came into contact with. Freud believed that during childhood the individual passes through a stage of primitive, animistic thinking, leaving a residue that bears a “resemblance to the savages who believe they can alter the external world by mere thinking”. He goes on to say about the belief in magic that, “Neurotics live in a world apart, where…they are only affected by what is thought with intensity and pictured with emotion, whereas agreement with external reality is a matter of no importance” (1912–13, p. 86).

Since to some degree we are all neurotic, no one is entirely free from omnipotent thinking. Under conditions of frustration, obstruction, or helplessness, or great desire and desperation, all of us can slip into omnipotent magical thinking. But when substantial regions of the unconscious are taken over by omnipotent states, according to Freud, the stage is set for the development of both neurosis and psychosis. In the overt psychoses, omnipotent magical thinking is a familiar phenomenon in which delusions of being God, Satan, Hitler, or various other figures with fabulous powers to create or destroy, represent the extremes of a demolition of ordinary psychic reality and of normal mental functioning. Segal (1986) has underlined the importance of omnipotent states of mind in the aetiology of all mental disorders. As she put it: “In my view, all neurotic defences are rooted in psychotic omnipotence, particularly the omnipotent denial of psychic reality, that is, conflict, ambivalence, and the attendant depressive anxiety. These defences disturb both the growth of the ego and object relationships” (Segal, 1986, p. 216).

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CHAPTER TWENTY ONE: The holocaust and the power of powerlessness: survivor guilt an unhealed wound

Jean Arundale Karnac Books ePub

Alfred Garwood

Reading the psychodynamic literature on Holocaust survi vors, my increasing sense of dissatisfaction prompted the writing of this paper. Numerous authors present deeply moving material from survivors’ lives and then offer some explanation of psychic function. The theoretical bases of these explanations were usually derived from classical psychoanalytic theory. It became increasingly clear that current theory did not satisfactorily explain Holocaust trauma and its psychic conse quences which led me to the new formulations offered. There is an implicit but unstated belief that only material obtained from the clinical setting has value or reliability. This view asks us to believe that behaviour in everyday life is not motivated by the same emotions and psychic processes demonstrated in the therapeutic setting and that survivors only allow their true selves in therapy? In the standard literature material from therapy or psychoanalysis is presented: the context and interpersonal setting are often needed to give it solidity but are lacking. It is for this reason I have drawn on my experience of being a child survivor of the Holocaust, a child of survivors, as well as the many subsequent years of contact with the world of survivors to attempt to make the mental processes of the Holocaust survivor more accessible and comprehensible. None of the material is presented as though derived from the clinical setting. This is a considered choice. If compared with clinical material in the now extensive literature it will be seen that there is no qualitative significant difference. There are strikingly few detailed case histories and reports on psychotherapeutic work available (Grubrich-Simitis, 1981). Almost all the material presented was taken from my family’s direct experience in which I have been a participant as well as a witness. My survivor relatives, like the vast majority of survivors, would not seek therapy or psychoanalysis. However, much of the material was presented during my own analyses. In my attempts to understand my own psychic processes and formative experiences, both during and after the Holocaust, I have had what I believe is a rare if not an unique opportunity—to explore, as a participant, an analysand and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, a complete nuclear survivor family’s entire post-Holocaust life and their struggle with their massive psychic trauma, which would never have become available for study as clinical material. It is unlikely that in the clinical setting the precise chronology, and completeness of detail, as well as the complex interactions described, which are open to verification, would ever have come to light. These efforts have produced the ideas and conclusions presented. In traumatised families one member often takes the role of the healer. It is in this spirit that this paper was written.

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Acknowledgements

Jean Arundale Karnac Books ePub

We are very grateful to the many who have helped with this book. Especial thanks go to our contributors, for all their hard work and keenness to write, and without whom this volume would not exist. We have welcomed the chance to publish again with Karnac, and are indebted to our editorial contacts, Roderick Tweedy, the Project Manager Kate Pearce, and all others on Karnac’s production team.

Our gratitude goes also to our colleagues, supervisors, and analysts, whose analytic voices have all made invaluable contributions to the development of our own.

To our patients, we say thank you for guiding us in how to listen and speak in ways that are interpretively meaningful. In order to preserve the confidentiality of patients, we have left out any identifying details and disguised all clinical illustrations.

Last but not least, we would like to thank our families and important others for their ongoing support and encouragement.

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CHAPTER ONE: Thoughts and photographs, World Trade Centre: 11th September 2001

Jean Arundale Karnac Books ePub

Justin Bed

Here is the first thing I wrote after my experience of the morning of September 11th:

I got up around 8:30, earlier than usual, because I was going to talk to Rafi and I wanted to have a cup of coffee and look over my portfolio first. I put all the relevant work in my portfolio and put it, along with some dirty clothes (for airbmshing) and my cell phone in my bag. Because of the huge HVAC unit across the street, almost no outside noise came into our apartment. I took a shower around 8:45 and when I got out Annie was sitting by the window smoking a cigarette. Annie didn‘t have a job yet, and that made her nervous so she was usually up as soon as anyone else got up. She was sitting on one of the benches we had made together in the spring looking out the window and she said there was a lot of smoke in the air or something and I remember responding, as I pulled my shoes on, “maybe the world trade centre is on fire?” Annie said she was going up to the roof to see what was going on. I grabbed my camera as I walked out the door because I thought the smoke might create an effect similar to the one in the fog photographs I had taken in August from the street below our apartment. I thought Gina had already gone to work, but she had actually gotten into the shower while I was getting dressed and somehow we hadn‘t seen each other. Brennan and Andrew were already up and out of the apartment. It was now 8:55. I walked out onto the street and immediately took the first photograph as I walked up Greenwich. The sky was full of m by 11 sheets of paper floating to the ground like snow. There was an aspect of magical realism to it all … I was discovering that the largest office building in the world had exploded and the only visible evidence is copier paper. The thousands of papers in the sky kept me from looking at the carnage underfoot. They floated to the ground like confetti … all the heavy stuff fell instantly, but the paper drifted in the sky for a long time afterwards. I remember stopping in front of the fire station at the corner of Liberty (where I had taken my fog photographs). From that corner the view was particularly powerful because the perspective was so extreme and the height of the building always evoked that classic feeling of sky-scraper vertigo. For weeks later, I would have nightmares about standing below tall buildings and looking up at them … a fear of heights from the ground. A truck came out of the station behind my right shoulder as I was taking photographs. I walked by that fire station every day … I remember Heather talking before she left for Barcelona about how hot the firemen were. I was not sure what was going on, but I was taking photographs with my right hand and trying to call Annie with my left … the network was already swamped, so nobody‘s cell phones worked. The street was crowded with commuters, but no-one seemed to know what was going on. From where I was standing, it looked like there was a fire on the far side of the south tower (my view of the north tower was obstructed by the south tower, so I could not see the extent of the damage).

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