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It is with a mix of pleasure and trepidation that I write this editorial, aware that I follow in the shadow of very accomplished footsteps.
Suzanne Hicks has been an outstanding editor of the journal. A passion for words — and for the profession — has underpinned a true editorial sensibility and with this, a clear mind and a good heart. I am honoured to be following her as editor and to have the ongoing privilege of drawing on her wisdom and skills.
We live in tumultuous times, times of narrative challenge on so many levels. As I write, the Child-President of the US, he of the tabloid expletives and “fake news”, faces investigation into possible obstruction of justice charges, while the formerly revered President of Myanmar, now uneasily reviled, is being quietly spoken of in relation to charges of genocide. Oedipus has triumphed, for better or worse, in France, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia … and North Korea. In Saudi Arabia, the once “unseen” female population has ceremoniously and doubtless expediently been “granted” the right to drive. In the U.S. the women’s “me too” movement, itself facing a number of counter-narratives, continues to challenge formerly unassailable power-house bullies while on this side of the world, in a proud challenge to the former narrative, Australia has voted overwhelmingly to amend the Marriage Act to include official union between same-sex couples.
Eclipsing the volatility of these political tides is the portent of climate change regarding which there appear to be several narratives … .
It is curious, then, how very far removed all these shock waves seem as as I contemplate the calm waters from the deck of my Waiheke Island (NZ) retreat. A benign and life-giving disavowal, perhaps, which in other more challenging circumstances could so easily find its more destructive edge.
The four papers offered in this edition of the journal — three, including the panel presentation, from the 2017 (Fremantle) conference; one in the specialist area of psychoanalysis and history — all contain a thematic link to the motifs of narrative change and disavowal.
Allan Shafer’s thought-provoking and insightful paper examines “not only whether but also how the relationship develops between the external socio-political landscape and our internal psychic world” and explores the nature and devastating effect of various aspects of disavowal in relation to totalitarian states of mind. In his searching exposition, Shafer cites Michael Rustin who, with reference to Bion, talks of “a death wish: an urge at work within individuals and groups alike, not to know, not to think, not to develop; a kind of internally activated self-destruct mechanism.”
Ann Jeffs, in her introduction to the PPAA conference panel discussion outlines her conception of the project as emerging from a determination not “to turn a blind eye” to the “trauma at the centre of our history”. The three panel contributors — Carol Bolton, Ann Cebon and Paul McEvoy — each brings engaging commentary in their reponses to the Raymond Carver short story: So Much Water, So Close to Home and its adaptations into film and song. How is it, poses Ann Cebon, that the men described by Carver as “decent and responsible” could evade the truth, and then offers us in counterpoise a psychoanalytically informed explanatory hypothesis. Paul McEvoy, following an overview of the several versions of the story and the film and song inspired by it, gives us a detailed reading of Carver’s final version through the lens of the conference theme, bringing into focus the centrality of the reality and pleasure principles to the story’s heart. McEvoy asks us to consider the meaning and the cost of “the centre holding” in relation to “clinging together for survival, particularly if it requires acquiescence”. In her original take of the project, Carol Bolton argues for the transformative powers of literature, before going on to examine the story in the light of “the denial of death and of destructive processes” — “love and hate can come together in the depressive position and I suppose that the ultimate depressive position is the ability to hold life and death in mind together”.
This theme lies at the heart of Paul Foulkes’s challenging and prescient paper which examines the nature and implications of aging from a psychoanalytic perspective in relation to our life and work. Citing the literature and offering clinical examples, Foulkes suggests that we are assisted in facing the annihilation anxiety associated with our “inevitable decline” through “the reassuring presence of our good objects”. However, paradoxically, “If we (health professionals) are too effective in denial of aging and death and so maintain our psychic equilibrium then we cannot adjust to changes and we cannot practice in reality. We lose the ability to see ourselves clearly”. Foulkes suggests that psychoanalytic organisations may unwittingly perpetuate this disavowal.
Christine Brett Vickers’ erudite paper based on the memoir given her by Ivy Bennett, Australia’s first lay analyst, provides a carefully researched reading of a pivotal period in Australian psychoanalytic history. “Bennett’s memoir might be merely a matter of curiosity … tangential to established accounts but of little consequence” but we are reminded that this “sidesteps the problem of ‘forgetting’: the suppression of events and ideas challenging dominant narratives and founding myths.” The paper provides a fascinating reading of the particular interplay of political and cultural events which helped shape the development of psychoanalysis in Australia.
The Book Review Editor, Elizabeth Hanscombe, brings two stimulating and thoughtful reviews from respected contributors.
Edwin Hariri provides an elegant and informative review of Lisa Pistiner de Cortine’s book: “On Mental Growth: Bion’s Ideas that Transform Psychoanalytic Practice”, a work he describes as “an exemplar of the best of psychoanalytic thinking and practice from Argentina”, commenting on the care the author has taken to present Bion’s ideas with reference to the original text while maintaining “an admirably light and discursive writing style”.
Nada Lane reviews Neville Symington’s “A Different Path — an Emotional Autobiography”, interweaving the literary, the critical and the personal in a happy enactment of the Symington ouvre. The review conveys the intensity, colour, capacity for connectedness and insight that have made Symington an icon in the psychoanalytic world.
Concluding this volume is a short and evocative obituary by Neil Maizels in memory of Dr. John Mark Davis, for many years a stalwart of the VAPP and the PPAA.
I would like to thank all the contributors to this edition for providing their papers for publication in the AJP. Might I at this point venture to encourage readers to write; the journal publishes psychoanalytic papers and research, book and film reviews, poetry and prose and we welcome and would very much appreciate your contributions.
Special thanks and appreciation to Eva Balint who is retiring from the Advisory Panel for family reasons after a long and valued history with the journal.
Finally, my gratitude to Suzanne Hicks, Lis Hanscombe and Carol Bolton, and Tim Fluence, our design and production whiz, for their help and advice with this volume.
Judi Blumenfeld Hoadley
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