Dis-placement as Trauma
and Trauma as Dis-placement
in the Experience of
Dr. Monica Luci
Inner and outer worlds are in a complex relationship to each other. We live in a matrix of links to other people and the environment that we inhabit.
This presentation will question to what extent and in which conditions dis-placement in the world may be traumatic and how trauma may be considered the effect of an internal dis-placement. The experience of refugees offers a litmus test for this question. Their lives are marked by forced migration that is related to a certain suffering for the changes that the migration creates in their family, relational, social and cultural lives.
To what extent these changes can represent a break so significant to be traumatic is not clear, although intuitively understandable. On the other hand, traumatic experiences can produce an internal dis-placement and reorganization of one’s mental life that ends with a focus on traumatic complexes. This change can be read in analytical psychology as a dis-placement of the central axes of self, in which the complex of ego yields its space to other complexes, with a consequent reorganization of self.
Inner and outer worlds are generally considered through different disciplines and fields of knowledge, but the experience of refugees highlights the need to consider them simultaneously, in order to understand more clearly and deeply their mutual influence and the nature of our being positioned as human beings in the world. Clinical cases of refugees will illustrate some aspects of these interconnections.
Monica Luci, Ph.D., clinical and community psychologist, analytical psychologist, full member of AIPA in Rome, and relational psychotherapist, with extensive experience in the psycho-social assistance and psychotherapeutic work with asylum seekers and refugees who survived torture. On the topic of torture survivors and post-traumatic states in psychological assessment, psychotherapy, and research, she has contributed to a number of national and transnational projects, talked at international conferences and lectured in professional and academic contexts. She is author of a psychosocial study on the phenomenon of torture, 'Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights' (2017); she is winner of the Fordham Prize 2018 for her paper in the JAP 'Disintegration of the self and the regeneration of the ‘psychic skin’ in the treatment of traumatized refugees'.
Language, Politics &
Dreams: the Challenges
of Building Resilience in
Dr. Ali Zarbafi
One of the big challenges for refugees is how they are received and how they settle in the country they arrive in from the country they are fleeing from. There is initially the trauma of having to leave in the first place followed by the uncertainty of a short or very fraught long journey to a ‘safe’ destination. Once the refugee has arrived at the destination, the reception, settling and adapting is a key factor in continuing their lives in a meaningful way.
In this talk I will explore two cases. One a Peruvian man in his 60s who was given asylum over 15 years ago and is here with his wife and children. He has, on the face of it, achieved his aim of finding safety, however he has not been able to speak English. He has stayed in his family with his Spanish-speaking music friends as he is a musician. He arrived at the NHS surgery suffering from anxiety, panic and fear and I saw him with a male Spanish interpreter over a number of years and the case study will explore how the therapy in Spanish (patient and interpreter) and English (me and interpreter), was a necessary bridge both in terms of mentalisation and engagement; this allowed him to build enough emotional resilience through his mother tongue to start trying to learn English.
The second case is of a gay Iranian man who I saw in the first months after he arrived here in the NHS, feeling rather lost and alone. The work focused on exploring issues related to his gay identity, as well as helping him to connect with the gay community in London, and how this helped him both in terms of building what is known as his ‘social capital’ as well as accepting his sexuality as legitimate and acceptable. However, after two years, his refugee status was refused and he was faced with being deported. The patient challenged me as being part of a system which offers help but actually then takes it away, and how this political position I hold as a therapist of the host country is inescapable and can undermine the very resilience that one is attempting to build. The therapeutic project itself becomes problematic.
Both cases will draw on dreams to illustrate the internal struggles with the patients and in the transference.
Dr. Ali Zarbafi is an Anglo-Iranian Jungian Analyst and Clinical Supervisor. His academic background was in Politics, International Relations and Middle-Eastern studies. He has worked with refugees since 1992 and hosted workshops on the Refugee Experience between 2000 and 2006 for voluntary organisations around the country. He has worked in the NHS since 1992 and has a private practice in West London. Ali is also a co-founder of the Multi-lingual Psychotherapy Centre (in 1998) and is currently editing a book on the multi-lingual experience in psychotherapy. Ali has also been very involved in the world of Social dreaming and has held matrices and written articles and a book with John Clare ‘Social Dreaming in the 21stCentury: The world we are losing’ (2009).
Displacement Trauma, Psychic
Skin Rupture & Complex States
of Personal, Cultural &
Minds and selves are formed over time via a complex set of relationships with other minds. What can be denied or disavowed is how profoundly minds and selves form within an equally complex ecosystem of relationships with our non-human environment. In a paper entitled ‘Uprooted Minds: Displacement, Trauma and Dissociation’, published this year in the April Special Edition of the JAP, I present a way of understanding the displacement experience as trauma, specifically as the traumatic rupture of what I describe as an implicit psychological organising gestalt, which I argue develops over time and emerges out of embodied emotional experiencing with the total environment – both human and non-human. This way of seeing offers the possibility of understanding the experience of displacement as constituting a rupture of psychic/embodied and cultural skin function, which results in a traumatic loss of the taken-for-granted link between mind/self and place.
It is this psychic emergency which underpins the peculiar terrors and agonies of the displacement experience – for both person and culture. I also argue that this loss and pain, if left unrecognised, unprocessed and unrepresented, persists as a psychic void which can be intergenerationally transmitted and can go on to have damaging and destructive consequences, as we are witnessing in the cultural upheavals and identity confusions erupting in many parts of the world.
Minds uprooted cannot simply take root elsewhere. To lose one’s ‘place’ in the scheme of things generates too much unthinkable shame, despair, confusion and fear. Powerful internal defensive mechanisms become mobilised against both unthinkable loss and intolerable anxieties around sameness and difference. When host communities also feel that their collective sense of self and identity is under threat, both the need to create ‘other’ and fear of that other intensifies as anxieties of belonging and legitimacy predominate.
I will expand on my paper, speak to the cultural and clinical context of the development of my own thinking and offer thoughts about the way this approach might contribute to making sense of the eruption of cultural complexes.
Amanda Dowd (Australia) is a senior Jungian Analyst and Training Analyst with the Australia and New Zealand Society of Jungian Analysts (ANZSJA) and also Deputy Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology. Amanda is British born, migrated to New Zealand with her family and later moved to Australia where she trained as an analyst. Her thinking comes out of this background of displacement and working in the southern hemisphere within a post-colonial and migrant cultural context. Her particular interests are trauma, the formation of mind, self, identity and cultural identity and the vicissitudes of the relationships between psyche and place, person and culture. She has lectured and published widely on these themes, both locally and internationally and her book 'Placing Psyche: Exploring Cultural Complexes in Australia', co-edited with Dr Craig San Roque and Dr David Tacey, was published in 2011 by Spring Journal Books.