In this piece for Prospect, Susie Orbach explains how insights from psychoanalysis can help us understand our current political, social, and economic climate.
“Politically, socially, ecologically and economically, we live in fragile times. The psychic fragilities are not confined to the poor who are the more obvious victims of the way we’ve been running the economy and society these last few decades. We could think of how they also exist for the very wealthy through the case of Harvey Weinstein. His constant predatory behaviour speaks to a kind of power so unsure of itself it needs constant confirmation and reiteration. If the power were not felt deep inside to be conflictual, it wouldn’t need continual enactment. We see this in the consulting room, in which solutions are sought to expel pain and insecurity. If things run in a way which fosters more pain and insecurity, we can expect more of the addictive and hurtful patterns as well as the monstrous behaviours which are often a carapace for underlying vulnerabilities.
If fragility is the defining feature of our times, it is also what we therapists have always dealt with. With questions and worries and uncertainties, we endeavour to hold a frame while individuals, couples and groups, explore the multiple meanings of their dilemmas. People come to therapy looking for certainties. We destabilise such notions because the process of self-reflection necessarily upends knowns. In the exploration of uncertainties, we discover society’s hurts, the costs of hyper-masculinity, hyper-femininity and the fragile identities of whiteness and class which mark allegiances which are often not in our best interests.”