The precarious balance of hate and love in our times


A contribution to the understanding of hope and apathy

This paper was presented on June 15, 2017 as the third of the seminar series "Engaging with Southeast Asia: Anxious Nation and Fundamentalist States of Mind" held by Melbourne University's Asia Institute conjointly with the Melbourne Institute for Psychoanalysis.

The author addresses our hatred of reality and our limited capacity to bear it. She discusses the impact that denial and the distortion of reality has on our functioning and well-being - both personally and collectively. She argues that the relative ease with which hope can be extinguished in the current climate of fear, prejudice, terrorism and racism provokes extreme reactions. The paper emphasises that, while we cannot do away with our passionate natures, we are more likely to sustain hope and resist apathy when we struggle to be informed of the state of our inner worlds as well as that of the world around us. It is suggested that such awareness diminishes the possibility that we will collude with practices and prejudices with which we consciously disagree while providing us with a more secure basis upon which to challenge ourselves and those around us.

Jimmy, aged five, came to watch his father shaving. His mother was in the shower. Later, he was excited seeing his parents all dressed up to go to the opera. Mummy looked particularly beautiful. As he was kissed goodnight, he said, "Daddy, when I grow up I am going to marry Mummy." "Well," said his father, " I don't think you can do that. I'm already married to Mummy." "Too bad," said Jimmy, "you can marry somebody else!" In one sentence, Jimmy had unconsciously obliterated his daddy and claimed his mummy for himself. Because he had a father who understood a bit about envy and jealousy and being left out, he was wasn't met with contempt or a moralistic sermon. Instead, he tried to help Jimmy with a bit of reality. This helped Jimmy somewhat. Rather than wiping his father off the map, he allowed his dad to have some kind of life. This is basically what I want to talk about tonight. Can we help ourselves and each other to cope better with our fear that, when we are not as powerful as we wish, then we have no place in the scheme of things and then, there is little we have to offer?

It is no news that human beings can be loving, generous, mean, thoughtful, murderous, envious, creative, caring. We see examples of this all day, every day. Most of us realise that we are all capable of feeling many different and contradictory emotions. Shakespeare understood the passions of the human heart long before Freud was born. Think about Macbeth, Lear, Othello. Ambition, hatred, murder, love, jealousy, rivalry, denial, possessiveness, guilt, envy - the whole gamut of human emotion is present in these plays.

One of the things psychoanalysis can offer is a more abstract way of understanding these human passions. From this point of view, our mind and our unconscious inner world can be viewed as divided, always in some state of flux between our capacity to be constructive and destructive. Living in Australia, as it is at the moment, we are bombarded with evidence that things are not how we would like them to be. This happens in a way that can be hard to bear.

I think that most of us who have bothered to attend tonight on a chilly winter evening have come because we are worried, perplexed and not proud to call Aus- tralia home. Worried that we live in bleak times, ashamed of how our country treats people who are fleeing for their lives and asking us for asylum. Perplexed as to what to do and as to why refugees should so often be treated as the problem not as a symptom of the wars, famines and persecution of minorities that beset our world. And if we do have something to say, will anyone listen?

I think it is realistic to be pessimistic about how much things can change. However, my view is that if we turn away, either in despair or apathy, we are colluding with what is happening. “He who is silent appears to give consent”. (Segal, 1997:168). I want to ask two questions tonight. Firstly, are we actually as helpless and power- less as we feel? Secondly, is it possible to be hopeful?

In present company, I am not being controversial when I say, “Something is rotten in our nation”. However, I will be insisting that wringing our hands and blaming others, while understandable, is mistaken.

There is an argument that psychoanalysts are especially equiped to engage in the body politic, given our expertise in understanding both the creative and destructive processes in the individual mind. We would argue that individual processes become intensified and amplified in social movements. We are also used to trying to understand, trying to objectively assess situations, and trying to communicate what we think we understand.

You will need to judge whether my claims are valid. Is it really vital to both our collective and personal well-being that we engage in making room in our minds for more than we believe is bearable? Is it more likely we can be hopeful and effective if we try to know both our personal and our shared reality for what it is? We are all familiar with the saying that, “those who do not remember their history are bound to repeat it” but I think what can make us forget or susceptible to hopelessness and apathy is that facing the reality of our history - personal or social - “exposes us to what is most unbearable”. In large groups, this task of admitting that we have made mistakes of vast proportions and taking responsibility for the consequences is particularly difficult. (Segal, 1997:167)

In our first seminar, David Walker recognised that our paranoia about invasion had its roots in the murder and violence caused by white settlement. Janet Chauvel explored this further and noted the connection between paranoia and unconscious guilt and the ways this gets perpetuated when we can’t face the reality of what we, as a nation, have done to others.

During the last seminar, we also had some debate about the risks of simply extending what we know of the human mind to the world at large. I guess we see the danger whenever we make a character assignation of Mr. Trump or Mr. Dutton, so easy to do but really failing when it comes to having an adequate explanation for the political and social processes unleashed by their presence on our political stage. We are on firmer ground if we think of them as representatives of groups and ideologies within western culture. I don’t think you have to be all that smart to realise that group behaviour is very often very irrational but to explain this, I think we have to allow for the idea that powerful unconscious forces are at work. (Segal, 1997:160).

But here, we get into tricky territory. It is fairly easy to talk about love and hate being played out on the big stage but it seems plain that a more comprehensive ac- count of group and social processes is necessary. It then seems to follow that some of the content of this comprehensive account should come from knowledge of what our individual minds are like. (Bell, 1999:3) This word some is crucial. I don’t believe it is possible to actually integrate the personal and the political. I do think we can be hopeful about the idea that they can "overlap, enrich and inform each other in places". (Hoggett, 2013:84). I say hopeful because hope can come partly from being made aware. Sometimes though, awareness can be overwhelming. We learn things that are hard to take.

For instance, by observing people in groups, organisations, social movements and nations, we notice more than just people being irrational. We notice that all of us are capable of being destructive. We can see it but we find it so much harder to accept than the more palatable fact that most of us are also capable of being constructive and creative.

A friend, who had been watching a tv programme about penguins, gave me a nice example from the animal kingdom of the way destructive and constructive forces co-exist there. These penguins made a nest out of stones, put their eggs on the stones and covered the eggs with their feet while the eggs hatched. As you might imagine, stones are in short supply in the Antarctic and whenever a neighbouring parent was distracted or absent for a while, the other would lean over and steal a stone to bolster the nest so as to better protect its home territory. So, here we have a parent penguin who is very constructive when it comes to protecting its chick but very destructive when it comes to its neighbour’s chick. There is good and bad here - love and hate - in the same penguin. Now, if the thieving penguin spent all its time stealing stones, it would neglect its other responsibility which is to stand still and keep the egg warm. If it didn’t have enough stones, its egg might never hatch. The issue seems to be in what proportion its constructive and destructive drives co-exist. So being constructive is to get enough stones and being destructive is to pinch stones it doesn’t actually need.

Late in his life, Freud (1920) became convinced that all our inner conflicts, at their deepest level, involve a struggle between these two forces. In giving these forces names and understanding how they are often at war within us, Freud provided, a more abstract formulation of the ways our minds work. He called our constructive and creative capacities the life instinct. The death instinct was the term he used to describe our destructive tendencies. These days, we would be more likely to talk about an anti-life instinct. Whatever we call it, Freud’s findings have been confirmed, repeated, and analysts continue to study the way this psychological situation unfolds.

When we use these concepts to explore what is going on in our minds we find that, while these instincts are present in all of us, in some people one or the other can be more pronounced more of the time. For example, Jill has the kind of personality where her capacity to be constructive predominates. Her friend, Jess, is the opposite. Her destructiveness tendencies predominate. So, in Jill pride can become self-respect whereas, in Jess, pride can become arrogance. (Bion, 1957:86)

Not only does the balance of these two instincts vary between people but the balance also varies within us at any one time. I remember getting my results back after writing an essay when I was at university. I was very competitive and so was my good friend. Often this was a healthy rivalry and spurred us both to try our best. On this particular day, I was devastated to find that I had not done as well as I expected. My friend, on the other hand, had excelled. I said to her rather nastily, “So, let me read this piece of excellence”. For a long time I felt guilty about this. On another day, I could have been more generous, more capable of appreciating her skill and more able to congratulate her.

Intuitive mothers know that babies and tiny children have very intense emotions. They know that their babies both love them to bits and hate their guts. They under- stand how easily toddlers can hate any new baby who needs so much looking after and gets so much attention. Mothers might not use the words ‘primitive emotions' but they certainly know their power and the powerful reactions they can provoke. Perhaps one difference is that analysts think that these primitive emotions last a lifetime and can turn up when we are least expecting them.

Remember the penguins. When I heard this story, I realised that I had seen some- thing very similar on a visit to the Antarctic. I had forgotten all about it because, although fascinating, the experiences on that trip threatened to overwhelm me.
This was not something that I was aware of at the time. There were signs that I was frightened but I ignored them. Later, I realised that I had felt very vulnerable - it is such a dangerous place - and very insignificant in comparison to those enormous icebergs and the millions of years they had been there. I was affronted by the violence of the wildlife and wiped out my awareness that the ferocity with which the penguins and the elephant seals defended their territory reminded me of myself. So my defences of denial and projection went into overdrive and I waxed lyrical about the wonders of the trip. No wonder I forgot the thieving penguins.

Robbie was a small boy, someone like all of us, who would need help and support over time, to bear his murderous hate and rivalry, to liberate his loving self that was at risk of being buried under his hatred. I was visiting his grandmother and holding, Annie, his tiny baby sister in my arms. I was a stranger to Robbie and he rode, rather fast, towards me on his little bike, barely missing my toes, and glared.
I said hello and told him that I was Nana’s friend and that I was minding Annie for a while. “Yes,” he said fiercely, “DON’T you hurt her”.

The baby had arrived, invaded his territory, turned almost everything in his life upside down and had come to stay. Just like an unwanted refugee. He wanted to be rid of her but was too little to bear his hatred so I became the one who might hurt the baby while he became her guardian angel. Having given me my instructions Robbie rode off but when Annie began to cry, he came hurtling back and said, “STOP! You are hurting her. Stop NOW.”

In the previous seminar, Janet Chauvel described our reliance on projection and projective identification for getting rid of uncomfortable and disturbing emotions and locating them in others. These are unconscious processes. This is exactly what was going on for Robbie. Our tendency to demonise the other, to project when we are under pressure, is not going to go away. We are stuck with it. Of that, we ana- lysts would say we have abundant evidence. This is, indeed, a pessimistic view of human nature. But we would also say that we have observed something important and hopeful. It is this: that our emotional well being rests on developing our capac- ity to be aware of what we do and to struggle with it in ourselves on a daily basis. This means accepting that love and hate co-exist in all of us and that there is a fragile balance between them. I have been implying that our collective well-being rests on something similar, although whether it can be achieved is a vexed issue.

What do I mean by love? I think it relates to a capacity to be generous, empathic, creative, caring, appreciative. It includes wanting to be with people as opposed to keeping one’s distance or retreating in a hostile fashion. I guess ‘hatred’ is reasonably self-explanatory but there are many elements to it. Psychoanalysts see totalitarian and fundamentalist thinking as an expression of hatred: hatred of our vulnerability and dependency and we see it as connected to a wish to eradicate difference. Omnipotence, denial and idealisation prevail. We can see this in terror- ist groups. It starts out with a desire that there should be an ideal figure or figures, someone who knows, who can make things black and white, who can define matters as apparently very simple to grasp and it ends with cruel and dire consequences for anyone who dares to see things differently.

It is easy enough to see this in our enemies but to see it in ourselves, to know we all carry within us an inner terrorist, is disturbing, frightening and confronting. This is our anti-life instinct at work, always on the lookout for reasons to deny and repudiate our insignificance in the scheme of things, our vulnerability. Paradoxically, knowing this about ourselves and accepting responsibility for our destructiveness can also create the conditions to make amends for our misdeeds - mental and material. We want to make things better even when we fear we can’t. We all know what it feels like when someone brings home roses after a row and is genuine in their sorrow. We have heard many stories of small acts of kindness carried out by soldiers on the battlefield.

Analysts have come to understand a great deal about how fraught it can be when we have to depend and rely on anyone else. Such a ‘predicament’ and I use the word advisedly arouses intense passions both constructive and destructive. Herbert Rosenfeld, (1971) was an analyst who had a great capacity to appreciate this situation. His gift was to be curious rather than condemning of people who had made a virtue of not depending on any one. He noticed how these patients had got rid of their ability to love and were full of arrogance, hatred, contempt and negativity. Unconsciously, they were pleased that they had managed to keep in check any desire to get help or be different. It was their answer to what, once upon a time, must have felt an unbearable inner conflict between loving and hating feelings. Ditching one half of the conflict began as a radical solution but it ended up trapping them in an isolated and loveless existence.

One such patient had a dream in which a small boy lay exposed in the hot sun. He was in a comatose condition. In the dream, the patient was standing by but did nothing. He felt critical and superior to the doctor who should have seen that the child was moved into the shade. This dream illustrates the way the patient keeps himself disabled, refusing to help or be helped. He blames someone else for the neglect. (Steiner, 2008:68)

Importantly, this patient is able to put his so called solution within a dream. This, in itself, is constructive. It gave Rosenfeld (1971, 2008) a better chance of under- standing him. He found that if the patient, and others like him, could be supported while the so called solution was explored, it could be worked through and the patient then came to life, so to speak. That is, the patient had an experience of a life-enhancing part of himself being found and revived. The link I want to make is that if we, collectively as well as individually, allow ourselves to admit that we might be doing something similar when we become apathetic or superior, I think we can realistically hope for some development in ourselves. We can look to each other as well as look out for each other and help each other notice when we are being seduced by similar kinds of emotional propaganda. We can collectively create a capacity to withstand the belief that all is lost, that it is useless to protest and so on.

In the consulting room, integrating our destructiveness into our personalities is a time-consuming and hard won battle and brings with it immense pain, guilt, loss and fear. We are afraid no one will love us if we admit our destructiveness. Yet, it also brings hope because it releases the reparative and constructive parts of ourselves. Just as patients need a human relationship for this process, I think we need each other - across our different disciplines, political groupings etc. if we want to challenge and try to change those practices in our society that we feel are cruel, inhumane and destructive.

When we turn the news off because we can’t stand the sights and sounds of what is being reported, we confirm Freud's finding that our capacity for reality is very limited. We can have a negative reaction to information that disturbs us and disconnect from it, left with our ideas and so called facts which then go unchallenged by reality. Freud’s discovery that, at best, we are divided in ourselves about acquiring knowledge has been replicated repeatedly by every analyst ever since.

Yet truth, no matter how disturbing, how confronting, is good for us. That is quite a claim but, again, I think we have good evidence for it. If I remind my grandchildren to look before they cross the street, they have a better chance of staying alive. Looking first is a serious blow to their conviction that they are immune from danger but it can keep them safe. Wilfred Bion compared truth for the mind to food for the body. He thought that the lack of capacity for truth leads to a kind of mental rickets. ( cited in Bell, 1999:7) I had to look up rickets to remind myself that it is a preventable bone disease. Babies and young children who don’t get enough Vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus, can develop this disease and end up with soft and weakened bones. What Bion was getting at was that if we feed ourselves lies or half-truths, insist that we can choose what is true or false, we end up weakened. I should clarify that I am not talking about Truth with a capital T. Instead, I mean a struggle to be truthful, to find out what there is to be discovered rather that dogmatically insist that we know already.

When cover ups and half-truths are revealed in society, our fury and despair at what has been uncovered can leave us feeling helpless and then apathetic. However, this apathy need not be puzzling. We can understand it if we think about envy. To be aware of envy in ourselves is a psychological hurdle. It is hard to make room in our minds for it. We find it unacceptable to know that we can want to spoil and denigrate something good. Yet, it is a basic human reaction to perceiving that someone else has something desirable that belongs to them not us, so we declare their grapes are sour. How often do we see politicians on opposing sides picking fault with each others' ideas or plans. It doesn’t matter what is proposed. It is always bad, even if they proposed it themselves the year before! Envy can be hard to spot, yet when apathy takes over, the absolute conviction that we are only a tiny minority, inadequate, have no support and that we are useless on our own, is actually envy - defensive and untrue. It is our anti-life instinct at work, closing our eyes to what is actually going on, spoiling what true human creativity and collabora- tion has to offer. (Brenman, 2006:45)

I am not suggesting that it is simply a matter of choice when it comes to using our insight about these matters either as individuals or as groups. The conflict between constructiveness and destructiveness, between our life and death instincts, is mostly unconscious but it really is a conflict - lifelong and inextinguishable. Rather, I am suggesting that there are ways we can address this ubiquitous conflict and know it for what it is. If we can only bear so much reality, then it follows that we need our defences. If we didn’t have them, as Janet Chauvel explained last time, we couldn’t survive mentally. Certainly, as babies we couldn’t survive at all if we had no protection from the knowledge of our complete helplessness. If, however, these early and primitive defences such as projection, and splitting into good and bad, continue to dominate, then we are in trouble. We are, as Janet pointed out, forever on the brink of lapsing into a fundamentalist state of mind. I think this is why Freud wrote that he had always advocated love for mankind. He said he wasn’t being sentimental or idealistic. Instead, he felt he had sober, economic reasons for his view. Considering the world as it is, and in the face of our instinctual drives, he concluded that love was indispensable for the preservation of the human species. (Freud (1924) 1975:364)

I'd like to mention an example of love at work: apathy, envy and fear of difference overcome. I have called this event The Lady on the Train and it was reported by Martin Flanagan in The Age in February this year. On a train, Helen, a grandmother of 10, overhead a conversation between a young Afghan man, Abuzar, and another passenger. Abuzar was describing his experiences as a refugee and mentioned that inner Melbourne was all he knew of Australia. Helen was moved by what she heard and had, what she called, an inspiration. She impulsively offered her vacant holiday house in Rye for a week.

Abuzar was taken aback and later said, “Automatically, there were negative thoughts in my mind - why this person offer me her house? For her part, Helen received what she called “a fair bit of negativity” when she told others what she had done. The exception was her husband of 50 years who trusted her judgement. At home, Abuzar’s brother laughed at him, saying, “ ‘How she trust you, how you trust her?”.” Their mother was alarmed at the thought of living in a stranger’s home. She said, “I don’t know what is in the house. What might happen?’”

Helen invited Abuzar to see the holiday house. He came with a friend, she gave him the key and told him the house would be vacant for a week from Christmas Eve. At 10 a.m. on the 24th December the family sat down together. Abuzar put the key on the table and asked, “What are your decisions?” All day, the family ‘negotiated’ until finally at 4 p.m. they got in their car and drove to Rye. Later, Abuzar reported that, once his parents opened the front door and saw what a comfortable and relaxed place it was, they changed. Everyone had a nice time, the garden got watered and Helen said the place looked lovely on her next visit. Since then Helen and her husband have been to Abuzar’s home for a meal.

In retrospect, as Flanagan reports it, Helen says that she thinks of it as “a small thing, nothing to make a fuss about” but, when pressed, thought that small things might help reverse the trend in our age of fear and uncertainty when people spread panic and alarm about refugees and terrorist attacks. And Abuzar, he says, “it doesn’t matter who we are. Everyone suffering from disconnecting now.”

How are we to hear this story? We can be sceptical and envious. We can speak of the inevitability of compassion fatigue or do-gooders or hopeless causes. We can point out that the families could have got themselves into a dreadful mess by giving and receiving. Or we could understand it differently. Is it an example of people not turning a blind eye, not currently dominated by fear and destructiveness, is it an expression of the life instinct? We can note people tackling their sense of vulnera- bility, insignificance, cynicism and isolation. We could think of this story as demonstrating the power of small good things and the importance of connectedness, the fact that, as human beings, we have the capacity to be moved by the plight of others and that we are able to overcome our fear of strangers and our suspicion of their motives.

It is a story of people who were able to bear to know and to accept that sorrow, guilt and anxiety are part and parcel of what we call love. This is a painful thing and can cause us to choose grievance and hatred instead. The paradox is that often, for our love to be unearthed and expressed, we must first address our hatred. (Steiner, 2017:8) This story reminds me that we can bear not being able to fix things up perfectly, that we can tolerate taking risks and investing in causes that may fail and that we can give meaning to our existence by being in touch with others who are both different from us and the same as us.

The kind of primitive anxieties that get reactivated in our current circumstances make it more likely that we will blame our elected representatives or our antagonists for our troubled times so that we become like Rosenfeld’s patient, armchair critics, doing nothing, feeling critical and superior while pointing out that refugees should be made welcome, that Australians should be tolerant not bigoted and racist.

As an analyst, I am particularly interested in the difference the development of a good relationship can make to being able to cope with these powerful primitive forces within us. This goes to the heart of my question about whether we really are as helpless and powerless as we feel when we look at the world around us. We can’t help but notice nations, organisations behaving in such a way that, in an individual, would be called mad. At this point it is easy to lapse into apathy. Think, however, of what it is like for tiny babies. Think of the heartbreaking terror we can sometimes hear in their screams. Most of us accept that babies early on need their mothers or a consistent caring adult. They are essential in bearing for the baby what is unbearable, empathising with the baby’s predicament, providing physical and emotional nourishment and help. Without this, emotional development is delayed and stunted. Yet mothers need support, information, resources. They don’t function in a vacuum and nor need we. I would argue that it is far more likely that we will lose hope, get depressed, become apathetic, if we keep to ourselves and shut our minds to what support, in all its many forms, can offer us.

I don’t want to be unduly optimistic. Coming back to the beginnings of life, many things can go wrong and no mother or baby is perfect. We also need to take account of the precarious balance whereby things do hang by a thread. The balance of love and hate in a person makes us uniquely the person we are but we all share a similar kind of emotional inheritance in this regard. It is a life long struggle which way the pendulum swings - whether, at any moment, in our relating to ourselves and to others, it is love or hate that prevails. I would argue that this is not at issue. What is at issue is whether we let ourselves know what is going on inside ourselves and in the world around us and then what we do about it. Our lady on the train, as well as Abuzar and his family, found it possible to get the balance right for a time.

Eric Brenman was an analyst who often thought outside the box. I particularly like his creative understanding of Sophocles’ play, Oedipus Rex. (Brenman, 2006: xxiii) The play, as you probably know, concerns what happens when the gods degree that Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother and that no human intervention will make any difference to the outcome. To accept the edict was to worship Truth with a capital ’T’ so that no alternative was thinkable. Brenman interprets Oedipus Rex as a drama about the conflict between human intervention and our very earliest primitive emotions, when we are dominated by our fundamentalist beliefs and feelings. When the gods informed the father of Oedipus that his son would kill him and marry his mother, he did nothing. Well, actually, he did one horrific thing - he left baby Oedipus alone on a mountain, thus living out his belief that otherwise no human interaction could prevent the prophecy coming true. He swallowed the idea that the omnipotent gods were stronger than humanity, tried to become a god himself and thus abandoned his son to die. (Brenman, 2006:19). The grip that this kind of fundamentalism has on our minds can cause us to collude with the horror of asylum seekers being incarcerated, for instance. We collude when we do nothing. I would suggest, as Brenman did, that apathy and impotence can be challenged by human relationships which ... at their best can lead to knowing, valuing and caring for each other.” (Brenman, 2006: xxii).

Well, we have had small murderous boys, penguins, dreams, rickets, Greek drama, migrants, ladies on trains tonight, all to make the point that it is human intervention via humanising, civilising relationships both early on and throughout life that matters. It is what can get us out of the grip of omnipotence where we KNOW there is nothing we can do, where we are certain nothing can be done and where we must all wring our hands and mourn the state of things and the uselessness of our politicians. Facing the conflict between our constructive and destructive tendencies, knowing and owning them for what they are, as well as sharing these experiences with others, offers us hope and possibility. I don’t feel it is pathological to hope for a better future ... or to strive for it but we have to recognise how hard it is to attain and that opposition to change comes not only from others but has its roots in ourselves. (Segal, 1997:168)

Remember little Robbie, struggling to cope with the new baby, hurtling towards me on his bike, wanting just to get rid of the problem? Need I say it? The passions in our hearts are real and here to stay. Telling our politicians to stop it won’t change much but, if more of us can face more of our reality inside and out, it just might.

Finally, I want to mention one last, hopeful story as reported by Thomas Brown in the journal Inside Indonesia. (Brown, 2016) Aptly named “Resisting Limbo” it is a story from West Java where there are about 2000 Afghan asylum seekers and refugees waiting resettlement. These people face a longer and even more uncer- tain wait in Indonesia than before, thanks largely to Australia’s immigration policy and global events such as the refugee crisis created by the war in Syria. However, the refugees are not sitting around listless and full of hatred, nor are they scheming to break down our doors, steal our jobs and cause havoc in our country as some would have us believe. Instead, they are running schools for their kids. They created these schools themselves, charged parents a modest fee for running costs and, lately, they have also been able to get some funds from benefactor groups as well. The teaching is done by teachers from local refugee communities. English is a priority but the curriculum is otherwise much the same as you would see anywhere. The kids also have fun. Boys as well as girls are passionate about playing soccer and the whole community turns up for matches which provide a brief respite from the horrors of being asylum seekers. As of last year, there were three of these ‘self-starting education hubs’ in West Java with about 200 kids going to school. (Brown, 2016) Visitors notice that these projects lift everyone’s spirits. Asylum seekers taking initiative, resisting limbo? Now, I’d have to call that love at work.


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