Australia has been described as a phantom of psychoanalysis playing a crucial and defining moment in psychoanalytic history. But of our own Australian history, how does a psychoanalytic culture, fuelled by traumatic diaspora, develop in a culture of conflict? To what extent has it reflected and been influenced by both histories? Some reflections on the development of psychoanalysis and the Australian Society, as newcomers in the land of the dreaming.
Welcome. If one is to meet the Australian Society one must of course, first meet Australia. The origins and history of the development of the Australian Psychoanalytical Society are inextricably linked with the brief history of European settlement in Australia and the development of a troubled yet creative national identity. I imagine this is so of other Societies. My contribution, focusing on the cultural soil in which a psychoanalytical seeding has struggled to develop, is both a broad and brief brushstroke full of gaps and uncertainties and aspirations.
Our national history is one of diaspora, migration forced and chosen, destructive conflicts between an old indigenous culture and recent non-indigenous arrivals; out of which has emerged an Australian identity.
The integration of psychoanalytical thinking and theory with the intellectual and cultural psyche of Australia is still at a stage of relative immaturity. Our identity as Australian analysts is still in formation; reflected in our still relatively small numbers, but not reflected in our enthusiasm. This mirrors our national history (since European settlement) which as you know began as a prison. It began as an experiment. It could, if fate had determined otherwise, have been a French or Dutch colonial enterprise. If others had perceived settlement prospects (Baudin, Leeuwin, Hartog etc) this talk may well have been in French or Dutch.
The tyranny of distance and an overflowing penal system in the UK met in an experimental confluence. And so the first European settlement in Sydney in 1788 was conceived in a very strange climate of fear, dread, separation - and opportunity. These psychic elements, I believe, have continued to haunt a national identity that has only recently undergone a revisionist historical analysis.
But first, a little about Freuds discovery of Australia ... or was it Australia that discovered Freud? Jacqueline Rose has (in Freud in the Tropics in On Not Being Able to Sleep) colourfully described Freuds intellectual and, at moments, personal, preoccupation with our part of the world, as a failed enterprise.
In 1911 Freud, Jung and Havelock Ellis each received an invitation from the neuropsychiatric section of the Australian Medical Congress, inviting them to present papers in Australia. This was the first sign of life from Australia, Freud, with no
apparent irony, is said to have remarked to Jung. It would seem, comments Rose, that Australia only comes into being, as a viable psychic entity, when it first discovers Freud. One might feel it was an optimistic if not slightly cheeky, discovery. Even nowadays, with the advent of modern travel, EPF members still pale when we suggest a conference in Australia.
Freud writes to Jung at one point ...what to do about Australia. He wonders about writing a short programmatic article extracted from their US Worcester lectures and if
we might do it together. Alas for us, and perhaps the wider analytic corpus, this spirit of co-operation, as Rose chronicles, fails utterly. Both Freud and Jung evade sharing their pieces. Freud writes it is a stupid thing you had better not see. Jung
writes back about sending off his prospectus saying it is evading your inspection for the same reasons of shame and delicacy that have led your article to evade mine.
Rose describes this exchange as a trebly missed encounter with Australia i.e. they do not subsequently go, they fail to collaborate and they do not send each other what they write. Rose wonders what was Australia being used at once to evade and to traffic between them. She describes Australia as a phantom of psychoanalysis; the catalyst for a defining and crucial moment in psycho-analytic history. The rupture between Freud and Jung, manifested in this exchange, continues to develop and concludes the following year. Freud starts work on Totem and Taboo in 1911 and Jung publishes Symbols of Transformation in 1912; a work which Jung realised meant his own sacrifice in relation to Freud. Freud and Jungs engagement around sacrifice and ritual, argues Rose, barely conceals a deeper underlying conflict between Aryan and Jew. Rose then leaps to the construction that this historic clash reveals a blindness and lack of insight likely to beset the Westerner, no less today, in trying to enter into dialogue with another world.
As Australians of European origin, we are only beginning to discover this truth, in our own history of origins in cultural dispossession. This re-exploration, in my opinion, has incorporated the influence of psychoanalytic thinking; in its wider cultural context.
There are echoes in Freuds anthropological explorations of this nations deeply ethnophobic origins. There has, of course, been much criticism of Freuds apparent equating aboriginal with infant, suggesting non-western cultures contain the raw, undeveloped relics of a former stage of civilisation, only discernable to us in the animistic world view of a childs mind (Rose); so-called primitive man representing the childhood or prehistory of our race.
In her Aboriginal Populations in the Mind Celia Brickman considers Freud used the notion of primitivity to undercut the supreme self-confidence of European selfunderstanding,
contending that what had been consigned as primitive actually lived on in the structures of European subjectivity and institutions. However, in a paradoxical way and infused with the anthropological research of his day Freuds usage of the term psychoanalytic primitivity affirmed the universality of the psyche whilst at the same time remaining a racially indexed term of derogation enlisted to discredit the pretensions of civilisation. Brickman concludes that there remained a
racially ambiguous nature in Freuds emancipatory intent: his critique often retaining the terms of the underlying assumptions it challenged.
Regrettably there was little ambiguity in the assumptions that reached our shores in the late 18th Century. In the eyes of the early European explorers and convict settlers the Australian continent was terra nullius no-mans land, land not belonging to anybody that counted. (Lindquist)
A true analysis of Australian culture is now irrevocably linked to its traumatic antecedents, underpinned by the notion of terra nullius, which legitimized what constituted invasion and the dispossession of our indigenous people; subsequently repressed over many decades. Our receptivity to psychoanalytic thinking, I believe, has been influenced and determined by this history.
The historian Bain Attwood considers Australia somewhat akin to the patients Freud wrote about in Remembering, Repeating and Working Through; that we have over many decades resisted having a true history resisted constructing history ... preferring instead to continue to act out a past we have wanted to keep at a distance.
The Lost Child & Lost
By Frederick McCubbin_
Loss and separation are therefore major themes in our cultural psyche. An examination of Australian literature in the late 19th Century reveals a particular focus on stories about lost children. In his examination of this phenomenon, Peter Pierce,
in his Country of Lost Children: An Australian Anxiety (1999) considers these narratives concerning European children lost in the Australian bush as symbolic of early European settlers themselves lost, far from their homeland and likely never to
return. Forgotten and abandoned by their mother country, their pain found expression in the real accounts of children lost in the bush. Pierce wondered whether such images of lost children, captured in Frederick McCubbins painting of the Lost
Child, may have held the seeds for later reparative and reconciliation possibilities. These were white children, unable to find their bearings, but often searched for and found by black men; themselves undergoing a painful process of loss and dispossession.
As you may be aware, Australia has only recently been able to overcome its resistance, as Attwood describes, in confronting a most painful analysis of its European invasion and the genocidal forces unleashed in its wake, of white against
black, of agricultural incursion versus nomadic nurture of the land, of ideological distortions and deceptions such as the early policies of assimilation, under the doctrine of Terra Nullius; in developing new understandings of earlier indigenous intimate bondings with the land they sustained rather than destroyed. Sadly, stories about lost black children, removed from their families under policies of assimilation have been longer in the telling. Revelations concerning this Stolen Generation, galvanised by the work of revisionist historians such as attwood, Reynolds and Read came to a head in the 1998 Australian election; commonly referred to as the race or shame election. It required a change in government before our Prime Minister could finally deliver an apology in 2008.
It is a peculiar irony to think, (Rose) that whilst Freuds Totem and Taboo was not intended as prejudice and whilst it reflected a scientific purpose in examining the early antecedents of totemism and the Oedipal foundations of civilisation, it did reflect the cultural attitudes of his time, which had infiltrated European civilisation and, by extension, its colonial expansions.
In recent times historians and psychoanalysts have come together in examining our current cultural anxieties, described graphically by Peter Pierce as deep and wretched, urging that we engage in a truly analytic re-exploration of our past. In an earlier outreach experiment, the Australian Society collaborated with an Australian historian, Professor Joy Damousi, in her work Freud in the Antipodes; described as
the first cultural history of psychoanalysis and in which she challenges assumptions that Australian intellectuals and Australian culture in general have not embraced questions of inner life through psychoanalytic understandings. As she accurately points out Australia is often considered as a land of pleasure and opportunity; symbolised by the beach synonymous with unreflected hedonism and populated by Crocodile Dundees rugged individualists, negating emotion and self expression and with no cares save for immediate material concerns. Perhaps, one might think, the natural hedonistic, individualist product of earlier pioneering struggles.
It has been a view of mine, enhanced by my own migration back to Europe, lured by these EPF meetings, and in my own analytic work with migrs, that Australia, because of its downunder, distant, isolated and mysterious vastness; a true
continental isolate, continues to provide a projective receptacle for a variety of feelings of exile, banishment and abandonment and also for those philobatic individuals who seek escape and excitement; enhanced at times by anonymity. I am thinking here also of those individual inner psychic movements and disturbances, enacted as migration, and described in Leon and Rebecca Grinbergs uniquely helpful
study Psychoanalytic Perspectives in Migration, in contrast with those terrible forced migrations; the history of many cultural groups in this country. Most significantly, of course, for the Australian Society, the psychoanalytic diaspora, explored in detail by Riccardo Steiner; is in some instances not so distant from earlier transportation analogies.
The European history of this country and the history of psychoanalysis in this country are intimately linked by migration, where the forced migration of European analysts in
the 1930s, 40s and 50s played a crucial role in the constitution of localpsychoanalytic centres in Australia.
But this migratory pattern, the engine room of our psychoanalytic development, has been a dual highway, with the forced inter-war migration of analysts occurring in parallel with a small band of individuals travelling to Europe in order to explore or undergo analytic training. Born in 1855, one year before Freud, a Dr John Springthorpe arrived in Australia as child, trained in medicine and worked in Australian asylums and then travelled back to Europe for further training as a physician. His was a commonly trodden path. He was, as Damousi relates, typical of those likely to read Freud anywhere in the world in the first few years of the 20th Century. Springthorpe, influenced by Freudian ideas, argued strongly for the psychical factor in the diagnosis and treatment of everyday diseases. He pioneered the individualised treatment of patients through the use of suggestion and interpretation; with a revolutionary new emphasis on listening to the patient. It was for Springthorpe, and others in Australia and around the world, that Freuds work eventually exploded conventional practices (Damousi).
But Springthorpe and a small group of others were unusual.
Throughout the early part of the 20th Century the response to Freud in the Antipodes could best be described as ambivalent and prior to 1914 Freuds ideas were not in common currency in Australia and were little known out of medical circles (Damousi).
In his Australian paper On Psychoanalysis, published in the Australian Medical Journal in October 1911, Freud wrote the purely medical and non psychological teachings have up to now done very little towards the understanding of the psychic
life. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the mysteries of shell shock in World War 1. Siegfried Sassoons unspeakable tragedy challenged assumptions regarding mental illness and through this gap came galloping new theories about the unconscious and trauma; embraced in part or whole by a small band of Australian medical practitioners including Sprinthorpe, Paul Dane and Roy Winn who was later to establish the Sydney Psychoanalytic Institute.
And so Freud went to war. Frontline and repatriation hospital experience began to incorporate his revolutionary approach to unacknowledged psychic trauma, captured evocatively in Pat Barkers Regeneration Trilogy. This experience mobilised Dane
and Winn to later train in the UK as analysts.
Forced and voluntary migration once again became a central, traumatic marker in the Australian psyche; this time, in the mobilisation of thousands of young Australians in a surge of support for the mother country. At this time there were no trained analysts or training institutes in Australia. Freudian ideas and practice were adopted in selective ways with some reluctance or resistance to accepting the role of sexuality
in repression and trauma. Such thinking was not the stuff of rugged individualists. It would require another world war for the training of analysts to begin in Australia.
But Freud became more than phantom, in influencing a variety of treatment approaches; most notably in allowing patients to take their time and reflect. A search for intimacy and the arrest of the pressures of modernity underpinned this
receptivity, in some circles, to Freuds theory and approach (Damousi).
In tracing this new philosophical migration through the 1920s and 1930s one could discern (Damousi) Freuds ideas beginning to spread via print and the radio; gradually influencing other areas such as religion, feminism, sexuality, psychology and
anthropology. Interesting characters populate this new enthusiasm, like the Bishop of Canberra, Ernest Burgmann, an early Freudian enthusiast, who proclaimed psychoanalysis as a
fundamental discipline for humanistic studies (Damousi). H T Lovell, a lone voice in the field of academic psychology, who gave psychoanalysis an equal billing with experimental and social psychology and Marion Piddington, an early advocate of
sexual education, who like Freud believed children were sexual beings, and, of course, Geza Roheim, the founder of the discipline of psychoanalytic anthropology, who studied aboriginals within a psychoanalytic framework, but in ways that
confronted the convenient notion of Terra Nullius. Roheim and others began to understand the aboriginal concept of Dreamtime as a parallel process to normal time, where dreaming knowledge, transmitted through memory, oral traditions and performance, composed of stories related to particular lands, was indeed a complex form of transmitting knowledge throughout the generations (Damousi).
By the 1930s we see psychoanalytical terminology entering popular vocabulary and publications as diverse as the Australian Womens Weekly. Gradually, new mind-body
understandings and the notion of an unconscious inner life are fertilised. Freud was now alive in our land but without schools and training institutes, ad hoc adaptations abounded. There was no orthodoxy (some might think this a good thing) but there was life. The random and eclectic analysis of dreams was in vogue and the writing, recording and interpreting of dreams flourished. A counter-cultural movement and interest in irrational and illusory world views may paradoxically (Damousi) have motivated a movement to psychoanalytic thinking in order to make rational the irrational. The trauma of war and the challenges of modernity may have reinforced this need to establish the notion of a rational self. Coincidentally however, the centrality of sexuality in Freuds theories remained a problem for conservatism in this oedipally unresolved nation but other concepts became important with an increasing
focus on discussions around family dynamics, in a newly developing child guidance movement.
This migration of Freuds theories into the minds and vocabulary of the Australian population was evident in all walks of life. Damousi gives a colourful account of many enthusiasts, populists and practitioners; most of whom I had not encountered prior to her research.
During World War II psychoanalysis had grown rapidly in the UK and the USA but not so in Australia. Not just, perhaps, because of the absence of established training institutes, but possibly because Australia was largely removed from the direct trauma of war. An Australian analyst, Reginald Ellery, remarked that aside from the sacrifices made by the sons and daughters of families, overseas, the War may as well have been taking place on the moon. But he also rightly predicted that the greatest effect of this War would be played out in future familial relationships and I think also in a further movement in memorialisations such as the Anzacs at Gallipoli, that have
become migratory markers, in the establishment of a separate national identity.
It was the legacy of war that was to change the course of psychoanalysis in Australia.
Freud, in many guises, also strode the stage of this conflict. Ronald Fairbairns contention that war neurosis often involved the consequences of separation anxiety, became integrated into our thinking and treatment approaches to trauma, and were particularly pertinent to Australians who had served overseas. The therapeutic conversation, a version of analytic intervention, used by Roy Winn and others, became a common vehicle for the treatment of trauma. But psychoanalysis certainly did not have the same presence here as it had in the USA, for example, where one hundred locally trained psychoanalysts constituted the majority of US Army psychiatrists we had three and none trained locally.
The War and post War period created a schizophrenic-like state in Australia, where, critically short of human resources, we encouraged assisted migration, whilst shutting our minds in relation to those who were not like us. You could come if you were like us; legitimised in the White Australia Policy, whose legacy, despite a cosmopolitan explosion, lingers in more recent attitudes to refugees, particularly the so-called boat people. Children evacuated from the UK and Europe and sent to Australia under schemes such as the Fairbridge Farm Schools were just one group, in fact more like us, but many suffered a similar estrangement and separation to that of our forebears.
The War also provided the circumstances for the establishment of our first psychoanalytic institutes; the province of Maria Teresa Hookes contribution.
Formative and conflictual events in post World War II psychoanalytic training and development unfolded against a cultural background that was equally struggling and conflictual. In his book The Lucky Country: Australia in the Sixties, referred to in Damousi, Donald Horne observed that Australia was not a country of great political dialogue or searching after problems ... or recognition that problems even existed. Australians, he felt preferred to play or watch sport. They were not taken in by words and were, he reflected, suspicious of public emotion and largely non-contemplative; preferring action and thinking about the future. He spoke of the ways in which Australians existed in a haze of content and oblivion.
Not the soil, one would imagine, for psychoanalytic seeding, fertilisation and growth. But when one looked beneath the surface of this sunny oblivion it seems we were not so happy or content. Horne goes on to describe the frustration and resentment of a triumphant mediocrity and the sheer dullness of life for many of its ordinary people. Australians tendency to anti- intellectualism, in Hornes eyes, made them indifferent to the wider world. Intellectual life, he proclaimed does exist but it is still fugitive. He spoke of the victory of anti-mind and his at times acerbic comments did echo many of those who, in the 50s and 60s saw Australia as a vast suburban expanse, tired and indifferent, mediocre and hedonistic rather than reflective and self-analytical. Horne provided Australia with a very hard analysis indeed.
Many intellectuals returned to greener overseas pastures but others like the writer Patrick White and surrealist inspired artists like James Gleeson and Albert Tucker discerned a deeper unconscious current, running beneath Hornes bland and
indifferent portrayal of Australian society. Gleeson, for example, influenced by the works of Freud and Jung, was fascinated by dream and fantasy, representing attempts
at unconscious solution of difficulties our conscious minds were unable or unwilling to resolve. His earlier painting The Sower (1944) is a protest against war and killing in a conscious sense and the expression of a psyche being torn apart in an
unconscious depiction. It can also be seen as a symbolic representation of a young nation emergent from its destructive beginnings (Damousi). In a similar fashion, Albert Tuckers suburban paintings picked out patterns of misogyny and trauma.
The Sower & The Citadel
By James Gleeson
Mans Head by Albert Tucker
Evidence of growing interest in an inner life can be drawn from the popularity of radio programmes such Professor Oesers Psychological Mailbag, interpreted by Damousi as a nervous voice struggling to emerge from the suburbs. This voice has
grown stronger, to the point where I think we have been able to listen to what Henry Reynolds refers to as the whispering in our hearts; that deeply intuitive sense that drives repair of that which has been damaged and reconciles lost possibilities. This is as true at both an individual or national level. We are at point in our cultural development where the past cannot easily be remembered or easily forgotten.
In reflecting on our difficulty in listening to this whispering and reviewing our past, Reynolds wrote (and he has written much on this subject) I felt that my generation of Australians should have been told the truth about the border wars, about the pioneers complicity in murder, abduction and rape, about the fear and hatred, about the way Australia was acquired. I felt we should have been presented with a morally complex story not one of facile triumphalism. It should have been tragic rather than glorious. I think we could have dealt with it and in the process found Australian history much more challenging and more engaging. Reynolds, as my historical analyst, has certainly helped me listen to the whispering in my heart, not quite silenced by the romanticised history of Australia, on which I was raised.
We, as a culture, seem to have woken from a deep sleep with some energy to engage in issues such as republicanism, racial integration and a review of the brutal history of European colonisation. It is sobering indeed to think that, via massacre and the effects of dispossession, our Aboriginal population plummeted from 750,000 1,250,000 in 1788 to 100,000 in 1900. Our indigenous health record remains one of
the poorest in the world.
One might wonder about a concurrence between this drive to remember, rather than repeat the past, now evident in our nation, and the development of a more vigorous psychoanalytic culture, both in a general and institutional sense.
Freud has become, I think, much more than phantom or isolated settlement in the Australian mind. The most rapid growth in our Society has occurred at a time when the national mind has seemed more receptive to challenge, and when concurrently psychoanalysis does appear to have gained a special place in academic scholarship. Australia is perhaps now a good example of the transactional nature of psychoanalysis, described by Damousi as a theory of the unconscious, that has shown itself to be able to be applied across cultures and in turn, influence cultural growth.
As a nation and as a psychoanalytic community, however, we are still growing. The first analyst in Australia began practice in 1931. Institutional analysis began in 1940. We are now still a small group of more than 80 analysts living and working on a large island, with the remnants of an ancient culture, struggling to survive its 210 year old history of European occupation. As the Australian writer David Malouf reminds us (A Spirit of Play: the Making of Australian Consciousness) our development has not been one of unbroken progress. Our anxiety about where we are, what we are to be and an endless fussing and fretting over identity has been with us now for more than a century.
However I do sense that our own Society, as a microcosm of this larger culture, has come of age. I believe we are no longer so preoccupied about how others see us (Malouf), but more occupied with how to engage with the wider psychoanalytic world. In final response to Freuds what to do about Australia we might say what can Australia contribute to the development of psychoanalysis.
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