Analysis with a Palestinian on Israel Memorial Day: Cultural Complexes in a Clinical Setting | Henry Abramovitch

The therapeutic container is always situated within a broader cultural context. As a result, analytical interaction inevitably takes place within complex interplay between the very personal relationship of analyst-analysand, on the one hand, and their respective collective identities, on the other. In many cases, the cultural and political dimensions remain in the background. In other cases, especially when participants are from groups with a harsh history of political conflict, such as Germans and Jews, or Palestinians and Israelis etc. the collective identities may infiltrate, dominate and even undermine the temenos, so that it is impossible to make an "island" of the treatment situation, ignoring collective issues of guilt or aggression. To illustrate this dynamic, I will focus on a single session with Muslim Palestinian analysand that took place on Israel’s National Day of Mourning during which the memorial siren sounded. My anticipatory experience triggered “cultural countertransference” as well as a “recollectivization” response that Jung described as ‘partial or blurred differentiation leads to an immediate melting away of the individual in the collective….” (Jung, CW 7, para. 240). The blurring of analytical roles and ethnic identity in turn evoked a “cultural transference” and specific cultural complexes concerning memory and mourning also played a role. With negative synchronicity, analysand had gone to the father of his fiancé to ask for her hand, but the father had unexpectedly refused him. The interweaving of the national conflict between victors and defeated, and its memorialization intersected with the romantic loss of patient. Previously (Abramovitch 2005, 2006), I discussed how the analyst may respond creatively when a patient violates some aspect of your religion, value system or home culture, but in this session, I, at least during the siren, was the “enemy”.  I will go on to describe how working clinically with cultural complexes “across enemy lines” may serve the individuation process.



Henry Abramovitch (2005) ‘Analysis in the Shadow of Terror: Clinical Aspects’ Edges of Experience: Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Analytical Psychology. (Ed. Lyn Cowan). Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag.

Henry Abramovitch (2006.). ‘Analysis in the Shadow of Terror: Securing the Temenos, Treating the “Enemy” and Surviving Creatively’ San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal 25: 1-8

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