Australasian Journal Of Psychotherapy
NO.2 - 2021
The covid 19 pandemic has defined 2020 and now 2021 as extraordinary years, exemplified by the disruption to the pattern and process of our life. We can probably all identify with the ensuing paradox of a regressive pull inwards and an accompanying, at times seemingly frenetic, ingestion of the myriad of online provisions from the outside world.
The papers and reviews offered in this issue of the journal represent some of the excellent psychoanalytically informed work and thinking within our own organisation and beyond, most of which highlight the process of these inner and outer realities.
Wayne Featherstone has provided us with a superb paper “Narrative threads and transformations” adapted from a chapter of his doctoral thesis, here examining with a psychotherapist and poet’s eye the work of Antonino Ferro, as an exemplar of the intersection of both psychoanalytic and literary traditions. He begins what is a beautifully crafted exposition with the observation that a genuine new psychoanalytic voice is able to emerge through the homage paid in the act of “misreading” an influential predecessor.. “Ferro’s thought represents a genuinely new and fertile strand of psychoanalytic thought in practice… a radical rethink…which is an extension and blending of the work of several prior theoretical pioneers.” This richly drawn chapter provides an in-depth understanding of the genesis and development of Ferro’s work, the influence of Bion, the Barangers and literary theory on this development and Ferro’s melding of this broad conceptual field into a new psychoanalytic vision. Noteworthy is the historically contextualised, illuminating exposition of complex psychoanalytic concepts, particularly in relation to Bionian concepts on the evolution of thought and the nature and meaning of dreaming, and the area of Analytic Field Theory, with interwoven examples from literature including an apt inclusion of one of the writer’s own poems.
Yvette Willoughby in her delightful paper, “The Skux Life Chose Me”, explores what she names as “the delicate dance of relational repair in both the external and the internal world of a young person searching for a place to call home”, through the lens of Taito Waititi’s movie, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The paper itself provides a delicate dance between the inner reality of the orphaned child through the character Ricky, and the vissicitudes faced by orphaned children in care and those who help them. As with the former paper, the psychoanalytic concept of transformation is explored; here it is given voice through the work of Daniel Stern and his idea of “now-moments” ..“experienced subjectively as “moments of Truth”” of which we are given examples from the film. Willoughby’s own experience as a foster care specialist adds the poignancy of ordinary reality, mediated by the working concept of “reflective space” (Ironside). “A reflective space within the external world facilitates the creation of internal space within the carers..”. Willoughby gives a fascinating inside-view of this specialist work, weaving attachment and psychoanalytic theory with clinical vignettes in her sensitive exploration of a fraught area of practice.
Marilyn Gross and Else Gringold in their paper “Sex and the Single Gender Group” give an engaging and courageous account of their co-therapy work with one of their groups, modelling a curiosity around the implications of their own and the group process and an openness to acceptance of the unfurling process of events as they occur. They ask “What are the influences from the worlds in which we live -the “real” world, if you like, as well as the analytical therapy one, on how a group, exclusively made up of women by accident rather than design, speaks its process?” The therapists trace the various difficulties, dilemmas and almost inevitable enactments -those belonging to the group and also those named as belonging to the therapists themselves -with grace and good humour, while extending and illustrating their experience with reference to relevant theory.
Shoshanna Jordan and Nada Lane’s colloborative work has facilitated a conversation around the creative process for the creative artist and the psychotherapist. In this captivating paper, originally presented to the CPPAA, a version also at the 2019 IARPP conference in Tel Aviv, and then reworked for this publication, Jordan presents her work as a conceptual photographic artist “in order to make my creative process available to psychotherapist to facilitate a type of playful improvisation so necessary in therapeutic work.” It is posited that art also involves transference. “A to-and fro creative interchange, a dynamic struggle, between viewer and artwork”… and that “In this transferential space the viewer is free – open to playing with whatever arises in the mind”, thus claiming for the visual arts an I and thou, intersubjective process between the artwork and the viewer.
Each artwork is accompanied by a deeply personal and psychoanalytically informed commentary so that art and comment together fashion a dream process, gifting us with the semblance of a series of ‘clinical’ vignettes.
The book reviews, collated by Elizabeth Hanscombe, relate to three recent and highly recommended works published in Australia.
Roshanak Vahdani offers an informed and balanced review of Straker and Winship’s The Talking Cure: Normal people, their hidden struggles and the life-changing power of therapy, underlining the book’s purpose in informing the lay public as well as the professional. Vahdani deftly highlights the book’s broad-spectrum psychoanalytic base in the range of clinical examples provided while underlining the authors’ own identification with the relational school. She describes the “collaborative approach” of relational psychotherapy.. “Under such an approach…this simultaneous process of being understood from the inside and being reflected upon from the outside… the intrapsychic is interwoven with the interpersonal.” Vahdani emphasises that “the book is able to cross major theoretical tensions and impasses and open the reader to a psychoanalysis that is pluralistic, open, and yet rigorous in its search for authenticity” – a high recommendation indeed.
Elizabeth Hanscombe provides a searing review of D. and S. Waldren and N.Buchanan’s “well-researched and compelling book”: Aradale: The Making of a Haunted Asylum. The book describes a significant aspect of Australian, specifically Victorian, socio-psychiatric history. Aradale, once known as the Ararat Lunatic Asylum, is today a tourist attraction where the interested public are taken on “ghost tours” through a building haunted by what the authors’ Jungian perspective visualises as its “collective traumatic past” (Hanscombe). Providing a summation of the authors’ ideas relating to Jung’s concept of the collective shadow, Hanscombe writes that “This book is an attempt to throw light on this shadow and open up our understanding of the history of psychiatry in Australia through an exploration of one prominent institution that stays with us today”. The reviewer illuminates the intersection of history, psychiatry, sociology and culture which forms the basis for this important publication.
In her review of Elizabeth Hanscombe’s memoir, The Art of Disappearing, Christine Vickers challenges our presuppositions about the nature and purpose of memoir-writing itself, and the place and meaning of such writing in the world of the practising psychotherapist. She opines that, in the end, “Memory and memoir are subjective; ultimate truth unknowable…”
“when the memoirist writes, he is not writing about himself now. But interrogating a past state of mind..” Having read Hanscombe’s beautifully written memoir, I can concur with Vickers that the book “is exploring an important idea: about abuse, silencing and complicity” and that there are no easy answers to the questions raised.
Some changes have occurred regarding the journal’s design and production arm. Tim Fluence who has been responsible for the journal’s design and production for many years has resigned owing to growing professional and family commitments. Tim has provided stalwart support and professional oversight and I thank him most appreciatively on behalf of the current committee and those past. This issue introduces Fineline Print & Copy from Sydney. We hope they will have an ongoing association with the journal.
I will shortly be stepping down as Editor of the AJP and wish to thank the Editorial Board members, particularly Lis Hanscombe and Carol Bolton, and also the former editor Suzanne Hicks, for their wisdom, help and support. It has felt like a team effort, and at the same time a lonely job – “alone in the presence of the other”… writers and readers all. Such are the pleasures and tensions of this work.
I wish the incoming Editor every success. I am sure that the journal will be in very good hands and will continue to provide a holding place and a source of inspiration for psychoanalytically informed writing and reading within our organisation and beyond.
Judi Blumenfeld Hoadley | Editor
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