Coming Together – Can psychoanalysis gives us perspective as Europe becomes more divided?

At the Irish Psycho-Analytical Association we have been having conversations about the current political upheavals. This week marks the expiry of the time period during which the U.K. was to leave the European Union. As we write it is not clear what kind of withdrawal agreement is going to be in place, if any.

The splitting from Europe is worrying on the island in no small part not only for economic reasons but also for what it might mean for the future of the Good Friday Agreement.

Splitting and borders and division and fear of the immigrant, the ‘other’ are factors which have cast a long shadow over the history of our continent. A student of history cannot but be worried about global political trends and where they might lead us.

Within the field of psychoanalysis, we try to use our perspective to shed light on some of unconscious forces that might be behind these trends. It seems that globalisation and market forces have created feelings of insecurity. Mass movements of people, in part because of great inequalities across borders have left some populations feeling under threat. There is no doubt that these feelings are stirred up by the rhetoric of populist political opportunists.

A clamour for independence, of nationalism; the instinct to protect borders and livelihoods release forces within humankind which have brought about wars throughout history. We can only try, in our profession, to make a quiet contribution to the debate by trying to point out the dangers inherent in these unconscious factors.

We have our border and the memory of the trauma of what we call ‘The Troubles’ is fresh in the memory.

This spring we in the Irish Psycho-Analytical Association have been casting our minds further afield to try to bring some perspective on world events. We are concentrating on the Budapest School of Psychoanalysis.

The political turmoil in that part of the world during the twentieth century left a legacy of exile and of tearing apart of a cultural tradition. We hope, with the visit of Dr Judit Meszaros to Dublin to hear some of the history and the lessons learned from surviving decades of political persecution from right and left.

We come together in May for our IPAA 2019 conference as part of the ongoing project that is psychoanalysis. Across borders, bringing people together and opening minds to innovative ways of thinking is our small contribution at this time to times we live in.