Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Politics and psychoanalysis

What an interesting day at the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society when it hosted Katie Gentile on Saturday, January 11, 2020. Gentile, bucking the western religions that claim dominion over beasts and plants and the Earth, reminded us, as Searles did, that we are all made of the same molecules and thus could be mindful of our shared being. Ideally, were we to practice such mindfulness, we might be more inclined to eschew racism, sexism, carnivorism, and violence of all kinds. Our mistreatment of the planet, including animals and the environment, may stem from “human exceptionalism,” the narcissistic need for us to feel omnipotent and special. Sharply distinguishing ourselves from ‘nonhumans’ -- and even the inanimate-- ignores how we are shaped by our interactions with ‘nonhuman’ beings. Even inanimate objects have ‘agency.’

Gentile additionally advocated for, not only individual mindfulness, but for communities to engage in the practices of “bystander intervention” and of “restorative justice.” A systems approach reminds us that the whole community is responsible for creating and allowing an environment where transgressions occur. For example, when the Catholic Church, a television network, or a psychoanalytic institute turns a blind eye to sexual assault, harrassment, misconduct and boundary violations, the victim experiences “institutional betrayal” in addition to the other injuries. Cultures, too, can normalize violence, such as the killing in U.S. of black men, needing the “Black Lives Matter” movement to bring this atrocity into more mindful awareness, or the sexual harassment of women, highlighted by the “#Me, too” movement. A witnessing space is created in the culture, just as therapists attempt to create in the clinical situation.

While we may be trained to recognize individuals’ risk factors, Gentile points out that we are not always so prepared to recognize organizations’ risk factors. Some risk factors, though, have been delineated: 
1. The more stringent the requirements for membership 
2. The greater the investment in the organization and its reputation 
3.The greater its prestige 
4. The more rigid the hierarchical structure