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The Culture of British Psychoanalysis
Robert M. Young
CHARACTER AND MORALITY
In setting out to reflect on this topic - worse, in actually proposing it without being under any duress to take it on - I am asking for trouble. Psychoanalysis aspires to being a science or, at its most modest, a clinical discipline. Morality is often thought to be for clerics and philosophers, not clinicians. Similarly, the concept of character finds little or no place in modern psychology and the term has an old-fashioned ring.
And yet I'll wager that most of us care greatly about character and got into psychoanalysis because of wanting a better one for ourselves and others and are distressed about how hard it is to achieve. I also think that we are puzzled, often agonised, about the relationship between our work and moral issues. More than that, a significant minority of people of my generation - those who were actively engaged in the political and cultural events of the late 1960s and early 1970s - have come to psychoanalysis as the last refuge of the disappointed radical or revolutionary. Having failed to change the world and achieve a decent social and economic order, we have had to settle for changing ourselves and perhaps a few others to some degree. That is certainly true of me, and I could point out dozens of people in the profession, to whom this description applies (although I dare say a number of them would not thank me for doing so). I dare say - indeed, I know from my own clinical work - that others with different histories have also come to psychoanalysis in a spirit of trying to salvage something from dashed hopes and projects. 'I don't know a soul that's not been shattered; I don't have a friend who feels at ease. I don't know a dream that's not been shattered and driven to its knees', says Paul Simon.
What I have to say is exploratory. I do not have a settled and worked out position on these matters; I just decided that it was time I took them up. I can remember the moment when I made that decision. It was at a conmference on 'Psychoanalysis and the Public Sphere' conference, where a paper was given on morality. The author said that a point comes when science reaches the end of its domain and morality takes over. He told a story about the director of a group relations conference who had used private information in an illegitimate way in the course of the conference. The upshot was that he was deposed by the staff, a shocking and disturbing event, and then by the sponsoring organisation, who terminated his contract for future events. The author of the paper is a cleric who also works as a group relations consultant. He described the action of the director as evil (Carr, in press).
Well, you can imagine how uncomfortable the audience at the Public Sphere conference felt. I commented that the situation is far worse than the speaker had said. Psychoanalysis claims that its writ runs throughout all thought and behaviour. Indeed, Freud is most eloquent at the end of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901) in claiming that there are no exceptions whatsoever to mental determinism at every level of the mind (Freud, 1901, p. xiv, ch. 12). Not even the most trivial matter is outside the causal nexus. Moralists make a claim which is equally comprehensive. The domain of morality covers all of human experience, barring incapacity, though within most moral traditions repentance and forgiveness are available for even the most reprehensible acts. In secular society we have an intricate set of laws and institutional arrangements which address the question of diminished responsibility, but it must be said that forensic testimony is always being faced with the dichotomies which characterise our adversarial legal system: Is the defendant responsible or not? Degrees of responsibility are hard to specify. Thinking more broadly about the domain of morality, theological approaches to these matters claim that the entire universe exists within a moral order, although there are ongoing debates in our century, as in earlier ones, about the deity's immanence, acting through laws as compared with divine transcendence, intervening directly in history with things like immaculate conceptions, incarnations and divine retribution. We are left with a situation whereby both scientific determinism and morality claim to account for all behaviour and all of nature.
In reflecting on what I wanted to say about these matters I was at once in a muddle. My next thought was an experience I had throughout the period of the sixties and often since which always galled me. I would say that something someone did was wrong and would instantly be accused of being 'heavy' or of 'guilt-tripping' them or - latterly - of being moralistic. That word makes me furious, as though there is no legitimate domain of moral accountability, and everything is permitted if it meets a need to express oneself. I should acknowledge that I am at times moralistic, but I am damn sure that I am also sometimes referring to legitimate moral accountability. I will concede at once that the concept of 'heavy' and of being moralistic refers to something important about that period, epitomised in some of the less extreme things associated with the influence of Ronald Laing. It is that the more you understand what has led someone to behave badly, the more compassionate you are likely to be. It was a principled protest against authoritarianism in society, in relationships, in institutions and in the family. It was a compassionate position which opposed judgements based on a brittle, punitive, superego. This movement was at one point against all rules and structures, but this was soon seen to be folly, and the approach was reformulated in the name of defensible rules and boundaries, the replacement of a guilt-driven conscience with an ego ideal inspired by varying degrees of a utopian or gradualist vision. The extreme version of this doctrine was perfectly captured by The Beatles just before they stopped being able to manage it themselves: 'All You Need Is Love'. A political extension of this was John and Yoko's 'All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance'. A young student at King's College, Cambridge, where I was during this period, who was always at least one step ahead of me in the 'lefter than thou' competition, argued with complete sincerity that if we loved the mentally ill enough, they would give up their symptoms. Having, by that time spent more than half of my life with one or another psychotic person as my closest personal contact, I found this hard to take, and in the period since then I have come to feel even more clearly that love, in an unmediated sense, is not all you need in the face of some forms of human behaviour and distress, although you need it as well. What is needed is a form of containment which allows detoxification to take place at a pace suited to the distressed person's particular problems.
Having said that, I am still in the foothills of my topic. Let's take character first. This concept was central to the psychology of the individual until well into the twentieth century. Baldwin's authoritative Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology said, 'Individual psychology is the science of character' (Baldwin, 1901, vol. 1, p. 173). The systematic study of individuals was a discipline set apart from the mainstream of psychology in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which was intellectualist in its concerns, and was borne first by physiognomy and then phrenology, whose greatest exponents were, respectively, J. C. Lavater (1775-78) and F. J. Gall (1910-19. 1822-25; see Young, 1972, 1979a, 1990, ch. 1). These were profoundly democratising traditions, claiming that character was apparent on the surface of the visage, which, the phrenologists believed, reflected the size and importance of the underlying brain structures. When Britain's most eminent pre-evolutionary psychologist, Alexander Bain, had finished publishing his major works in the prevailing mode, he wrote a separate book On the Study of Character, including an Estimate of Phrenology (1861). It is said that the phrenological approach to understanding and improving character was so popular that the households of aspiring artisans in nineteenth-century Britain were likely to have three books: the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress and George Combe's Constitution of Man (1827), a popular exposition of phrenology with exhortations on self-improvement, in effect, a textbook of the popular psychology of the day.
However, as the turn of the century approached, the climate was so changed away from characterology and toward 'personality' (Craik, 1993) that William James' masterpiece, The Principles of Psychology, did not include the topic (1890). When, in 1927, A. A. Roback produced a comprehensive, magisterial tome, The Psychology of Character, subtitled with a Survey of Personality in General, (which went through three editions, was still in print in the mid-1960s and was accompanied by a book-length separate volume of references), 'character' was losing even more ground to 'personality' as the prevailing concept for the understanding of individuality. The terms Character and Personality (as in the title of William McDougall's study of 1933; see Hearnshaw, 1964, p. 189) coexisted for a time, but most surveys of the scope of psychology published during the period 1930-1950 gave little place to 'character', which increasingly found its main expression in searching biographies, of which four classics of the genre (chosen because strong on character assessment) come to mind: Ralph Barton Perry's The Thought and Character of William James (1935), Carl Sandberg's six-volume Abraham Lincoln, (1926-39), Robert Caro's three-volume The Years of Lyndon Johnson (1983, 1990, vol. 3 in preparation) and L. S. Hearnshaw's Cyril Burt. (1979). The recent and growing use of more or less sophisticated versions of psychoanalysis in the genre of psychobiography brings us full circle, since psychoanalysis is used as a tool in the assessment of character, while the concept has little place in psychoanalysis itself. (In separate essays I have put forward the claims of biography to be the basic discipline for a human science, made a case study of Darwin's biographers and have summarised the strengths and weaknesses of psychobiography - Young, 1987,1988, 1994c).
'Character' disappeared entirely from the classificatory scheme of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III-R, 1987), the bible of orthodox psychiatric diagnosis. If you look carefully, you can find the old 'character disorders' - alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual deviancy and psychopathy (Magaro and Ashbrook, 1984) - reclassified in sanitised form. Alcoholism and drug addiction reappear as disorders in their own right, and the others turn up as 'sexual', 'factitious', 'impulse control', 'adjustment' and 'personality' disorders. Nor can the concept of character be found in the widely-used UCH Textbook of Psychiatry (Wolff et al., 1990), though, once again, you can find personality disorders and 'disorders of impulse control' aplenty. The term 'character' does make a number of appearances in the psychoanalytic vocabulary, but in none of them is it unmodified. We find 'character armour', 'character disorder', 'character neurosis', 'character types' (both Jungian and according to Eysenck), but nowhere is character unadorned.
Laplanche and Pontalis go on and on about 'confusion', the 'multiplicity of possible meanings' and lack of rigour (1983, p. 67) with respect to character neurosis. Their first definition refers to 'any clinical picture which does not at first sight exhibit symptoms but merely modes of behaviour leading to recurrent or permanent difficulty in the patient's relation to his environment' (ibid.). They go on to 'a psychoanalytically orientated characterology which correlates different character types either with the major psychoneurotic conditions (speaking of obsessional, phobic, paranoic characters and so on) or else with the various stages of libidinal development (which are said to correspond to oral, anal, urethral phallic-narcissistic and genital character types - sometimes reclassified in terms of the major opposition between genital and pre-genital characters). According to this approach it is legitimate to speak of character neurosis when referring to any apparently asymptomatic neurosis where it is the type of character which betrays a pathogenic organisation' (ibid.).
They next describe a character formation which involves a once-for-all defensive structure adopted to preserve the patient against symptoms and against instinctual threats. Sublimation, reaction formation and rationalisation predominate in this syndrome.
A fourth conception of character neurosis places anomalies of character somewhere between neurotic symptoms and psychotic disorders (pp. 67-8). (It occurs to me that this is one way of thinking about John Steiner's concept of pathological organisation of psychic retreat, stuck between the paranoid schizoid and depressive positions; Steiner, 1994)
I find all these conceptions of interest, as I do Wilhelm Reich's notion of 'character armour' and the broader idea of character as defence developed in his Character Analysis (1933) and his The Mass Psychology of Fascism, that 'the character structure is the congealed sociological process of a given epoch. He adds that 'A society's ideologies can become a material force only on condition that they change the character structures of the people' (Reich, 1933a, p. xxvi). Frankly, however, none of these is what I am really after in my present enquiry. Horace and Eva English take us to the concept I seek in their Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytic Terms (1958). First, they describe character as that which makes a person different from someone else; then they take all such marks collectively - all the mental or behavioural traits of a person, the sum total of their psychological traits. They point out that this was formerly the meaning of 'character' in English, as it still is in French and German. In English, however, it has for the most part been replaced by the term which has become ubiquitous in the clinical realm: 'personality'. You could say, then, that personality is the concept in scientific psychology which has replaced character for describing what is unique about a person.
I will not settle for this, and I'll bet you won't either. It only takes a moment to see why. Try this: 'She has "personality".' 'She has "character".' 'She has a good personality.' 'She has a good character.' Not the same things at all, are they? What's the difference? English and English are perfectly clear about this. Their next definition says just what I hoped it would: 'an integrated system of traits or behavior tendencies that enables one to react, despite obstacles, in a relatively consistent way in relation to mores and moral issues... It is distinguished from personality by its emphasis upon (a) the volitional aspect, and (b) morality' (English & English, 1958, p. 83).
So, character is about being a moral person and involves volition or intentions. An immoral person has a bad character. An unreliable person has a weak character. Being of good character has a connotation of admirable steadfastness: Gary Cooper in 'High Noon'. He wants to run, and everyone says it's okay if he does. He might lose his new bride (it's Grace Kelly, after all, and she is a pacifist) if he stays. But he has to stay and face the man who, according to the theme song of the film, 'made a vow while in state prison' and 'said he'd trade your life for his'n'. It's the lawman's duty, even though he had just handed in his badge. The new man isn't arriving until tomorrow, and Coop has the character to stand firm, even though he's scared and wants to go off and start his new life. This is the stuff of heroism. It isn't just about physical strength and violence. Mother Teresa has character. The good Samaritan had character. Ordinary people who behave well in ordinary situations and at life's extremes have character. It's not just ego strength; it cannot be captured in a scientific or scientistic language, because its essence is moral - behaving well against the odds.
I think psychoanalysis has interesting things to say about character but that its essence slips through the net, rather as Freud said that love slips through its net. I think the things psychoanalysis says make it harder to be of good character, since it takes us to the inner meaning of things. In legal parlance you can be 'of good character' if you pay your bills, don't get arrested and don't have any County Court judgements against you. But in psychoanalytic terms, if your apparently good self is the result of a violent split so that you are trading in idealisations, the other side of the split will out. This was obvious in the case of the television preachers in the US, many of whom turned out to be crooks and whore mongers. It is less obvious in the case of some goody-goodies who get to be head girls and head boys in schools and psychoanalytic training institutions, but it is axiomatic that it is there - somewhere in that person's phantasies and relationships. It is interesting to speculate where the other side of Mother Teresa's split manifests itself. It is said that she only allows lepers to kiss her.
Dramatic splits are sometimes exposed in people who appear admirable in their public roles and turn out to be bad people at home, as we have seen in the biographies by their children of that wonderfully laid back crooner, Bing Crosby (Shepherd and Slatzer, 1981), and of Joan Crawford (Crawford, 1979). Some people are admirable at their intellectual, political or cultural tasks but bounders in their familial and sexual roles. This is true of some very successful, famous people: Albert Einstein (who was horrid to his first wife and son; see Highfield and Carter, 1993); the theologian Paul Tillich (who was a philanderer), Watson and Crick (boyish philanderers), Judy Garland (who would steal and seduce any friend's partner), Albert Schweitzer (whose mission to Africa was flawed by a particularly patronising form of racism), Alfred Hitchcock (who abused his directorial power), innumerable world leaders. Success is certainly no guarantee of good character. Indeed, Donald Meltzer has argued that many of the people who rise to the top of organisations are utterly ruthless, will do anything to succeed, live just inside the anus of the psychic digestive tract - the claustrum - and will go to any lengths to avoid expulsion into the realm of psychotic breakdown (Meltzer, 1992).
I had a colleague who held down an important and innovative position, was a productive and charming, yet lied like other people breathe and eventually let everyone down. I can think of other people in the domain of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychoanalytic studies who have abominable character traits yet do good things. I have seen egotists of the first water write books which depict themselves as truly wonderful, insightful, benign, modest and balanced, but behave in awful ways in their personal and professional relations. Splits abound between their good works and breathtakingly bad behaviour. Moreover, since clinical work goes on behind closed doors, it is very difficult, indeed, to find out who is really good at psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Reputations get built up from case reports, collegial discussions, supervisions and a rather impressionistic sense one gets from how people are as people. This can be seriously misleading, and there is no reliable connection which I have been able to discover between people's clinical work and their behaviour in other settings.
The decade-plus long saga leading up to the formation of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) is littered with judgements of character which are among the most severely critical of any I have ever heard. I have heard people called dishonest, liars, cruel, sadists, hypocrites, power mad, a used car salesman, a bully, a lap-dog. I speak here of people holding high positions in psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic institutions who are admired by some and hated by others. I have seen the head of a training caught in dreadful lies, victimising trainees and pathologising them wholesale, yet remaining in office for years.
Carl Jung was well-known and openly acknowledged to have conducted an adulterous relationship with a colleague over a long period and had a clandestine affair with a patient, as well (Carotenuto, 1980). His biographers refer to a number of sexual relationships with patients. Michael Fordham, the eminent Jungian analyst and co-editor of Jung's works, tells in his autobiography of his moral struggles when he fell in love with a much younger woman at a crucial point in his mature years, when his wife was very ill (Fordham, 1993, p. 141). Adultery features in the lives of several dozen analysts and therapists who all too easily came to mind as I wrote this. According to his biographers, Ernest Jones had to flee to Canada and then flee from there because of sexual scandals (Brome, 1982, pp. 39-40, 49, 67) and Wilhelm Reich's biography and autobiography are littered with them (Sharaf, 1983, passim; Reich, 1989, pp. 152, 168). Another analyst with an international reputation has close personal relationships with ex-patients, one or more of whom have become his lovers. An eminent analyst of perversions, Masud Khan, slept with patients and slapped his girl friend around . We know this from his obituarists, his biographer and from the fact that he was censured by the British Psycho-Analytic Society (Cooper, 1993; Cooper et al., 1991, pp. 110-11). And yet I have no doubt at all that some of these people are truly good clinicians and supervisors and significant contributors to our understanding of unconscious processes.
What are we to make of all this? I am not merely purveying gossip. Much of what I have just sketched is intentionally jumbled so as to avoid gratuitously identifying individuals, and I know to be true from testimony (much of it published) of people directly involved. What we have is bad character in some spheres, coupled with remarkable achievements in others. You could say that Jeffrey Masson has made a career of drawing our attention to such people (including himself) in he world of therapy. All of the figures in his book Against Therapy (1989) were psychotherapeutic innovators who had dreadful streaks; he finds the Achilles' heel and condemns the whole of that person's work. The same can be said of his training analyst, as described in Final Analysis (1990), and of figures high up in the care of the memorabilia of the Freud Museum, as told in Janet Malcolm's In the Freud Archive. (1984). The recently-published accounts of the Freud-Klein Controversy (King and Steiner, 1991), as well as Grosskurth's biography of Klein (1986) and her account of Freud's inner circle in The Secret Ring (1991), tell similar stories of mixed clinical achievement and mean-spiritedness in personal and institutional settings, where one's opponents were routinely pathologised. I have heard the eminent Freudian psychoanalyst, Joseph Sandler, wonder aloud why we expect therapists to be better than others outside the consulting room, yet we do, but it is hard to specify how we may legitimately do so. Ours is a reflexive discipline, in ways rather like religion is. We claim a special relationship with insight, just as ministers claim a special relationship with morality, self-discipline and continence. We and they are supposed to lead certain kinds of lives. Yet I hear the most amazing things about clerics from the couch and read more in the media, just as I am privy to similar tales of irregularities about therapists of all sorts.
I write the above to convey what a mess we all are in varying degrees if we apply the moral criteria appropriate to the concept of character in our professional circles. I think we should, but all hell would break loose if we did, and we would have to take great care to do so in constructive and accountable ways. For example, lest you think I am poised to go round pinning scarlet letters on people, I should say that in my view therapists' adultery may appropriately remain in their private lives, even though there is no doubt that it bears on their character. However, when it crosses into the space defined by the analytic frame and analytic abstinence, there is no doubt at all in my mind that it is a deeply important matter. What if a training therapist is an adulterer, the patient gets wind of the fact and the therapist flatly denies it (instead of maintaining analytic neutrality)? What if a therapist has intimate relations with a patient or ex-patient or transgresses therapeutic boundaries in other ways, ways which need not involve physical intercourse?
It can be argued that the analytic relationship turns on the repeated offering and declining of transgression of Oedipal boundaries (Bergmann, 1987, ch. 18; Young, 1994a). Character, morality and psychoanalytic technique become a single topic at this point, and analytic abstinence - which, in my opinion, should never be relaxed - is central to this matter. By the way, I know that mine is a hard-line position. There are good experiential and theoretical reasons for this, but I do not insist that I am right. Part of what I am advocating in this essay is that such matters should be widely debated in the profession. At the moment they are, on the whole, stuck in the realm of gossip.
I want to turn now to morality per se. We are said to be living in a postmodern era in which there are no absolutes, and no level of understanding or discourse is more basic than others. In the language currently in fashion, no overall account of nature or human nature subsumes all the others, and there is consequently no 'foundational discourse' (Rorty, 1980, 1989; Squires, 1993). The modern era was characterised by an attempt to place forms of knowledge or discourses in systematic or hierarchical relations, and there was a pervasive tendency to place scientific discourse at the foundation of all other forms of knowing. There was a persistent problem - to which I shall revert below - about the relationship between scientific and moral or evaluative discourse - facts and values. Most modernists either eschewed moral discourse and relegated it to the realm of the irrational or sought to generate it from scientific discourse, as occurred in Auguste Comte's positivism and his Religion of Humanity (Simon, 1963) or in various other forms of naturalistic ethics, of which by far the most pervasive has been Social Darwinism, which uses the evolutionary struggle for existence, the law of the jungle, to justify ruthless competition and lifeboat ethics in human society (Young, 1985). It is the ideology of rampant competition, epitomised by Thatcherism, mum and son.
This is but one version of appealing to nature for a basis for justifying a set of social beliefs. This philosophical move is called 'the naturalisation of value systems', and it is common in discourses about human nature (Young, 1981). Naturalistic ethics has a long and baleful history, paralleling the British empiricist tradition and various forms of this hedonism can be traced through Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Hartley, Bentham, James and J. S. Mill and Herbert Spencer, the last of whom directly influenced Freud's first book, On Aphasia (1891). This tradition in ethics is co-extensive with the history of associationism in psychology, of which psychoanalysis is the most prominent current expression (Warren, 1921; Young, 1968, 1990, pp. 94-100, chs. 3 and 5). The basis of both hedonism and associationism is the pleasure-pain principle, and its expression in psychoanalysis is through the libido theory, the biological foundation of the classical Freudian concept of psychosexual development (Young 1994a, 1994b). Freud claimed that in the very having of experience we interpret - or, rather misinterpret - things according to the pleasure-pain principle. He claimed that this occurs to a degree which merits the term 'hallucination' (Riviere, p. 42). With the fundamental change from emphasis on the sexual energy of libido, to a focus on object relations under the influence of Fairbairn, Klein and Winnicott, we enter a more fully relational world in which the moral dimension is more easy to locate than it was in the biologised world of instincts and their vicissitudes (Greenberg and Mitchell, 1983). However what we gain for morality from this shift from instinctual aim to relations with internal objects has to be offset against developments in the wider culture which have made the domain of morality highly problematic.
The failure of the modernist quest for a unified scheme which includes science and values means that there is no sure and indubitable foundation for morality (Bauman, 1993). However, I'll be damned if I'll accept that this lets us off the moral hook. The conclusion that 'anything goes' is cynicism itself (Young, 1989). The new situation just makes morality harder to work out and more interpersonal rather than derivable from scientific, dogmatic or transcendent foundations. I recently heard a colleague say that he is 'amoral', which meant in the context of the particular discussion we were having that he had no morals at all at work and reserved loyalty and integrity for his relations with close friends. I heard another say, after he had let me down, that he was talking about a business matter, which therefore had nothing to do with character. What one did at work was keep one's head down and keep one's job and keep your eye on profits. This had the effect of fudging matters of right and wrong at work so as not to feel uncomfortable. Others call this 'situational ethics', or 'relativism'. You could say capitalism is based on this premise. Its basic institutional form is the 'limited liability company', which is increasingly coupled with something called 'business ethics'.
Academic and professional life were for some time thought to be havens from this approach, a cut above the law of the jungle in commerce, with the concept of professionalism seen as the way in which expertise outside science and related disciplines was closely analogous to the putative objectivity of natural knowledge. I have recently heard a feint echo of moral discourse in the notion that someone can be said to be 'behaving unprofessionally', and this is quite explicit in codes of professional ethics, including those increasingly being drafted in the helping professions. It is practically taboo in a professional relationship to confront another person with a direct moral charge or a critique of their character. It is only thought relevant if it involves certain specified domains touched on by what is called 'professional ethics'.
However, the mediations between professionalism and the marketplace, such as they were, are disappearing. I have a successful lawyer friend whose letterhead says, after the traditional list of names, 'A Professional Corporation'. The same is increasingly true of medical practices and, of course, the notorious NHS trusts, with their new vocabulary, beautifully lampooned by a recent trades union poster which showed two children, one of whom said, 'Let's play provider and purchaser'. We played 'doctor' in my day. Perhaps they look up each other's deposit books nowadays.
This is a very broad phenomenon. The Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford was quoted in a Sunday's paper, saying that a moral crisis is affecting much of Western Europe: 'People have lots of moral views but no foundation for them... autonomy is the only value' (Observer 9 Oct. 1994, News/3). A lecturer in medical ethics at Cambridge says that the moral consensus that used to be in place has collapsed, and 'we are now in an age of moral relativism' (ibid.). This way of seeing things has become so commonplace that I have seen Prozac described as 'an anabolic steroid for the character' (Sunday Times 9 Oct. 1994, 1:21). The cynical implication of this quip is that with the aid of pharmacology you can cheat on character, just as you can in athletics, substituting drugs for hard-earned moral fibre and self-discipline based on effort and training.
Of course, psychotherapy is no exception to the market economy rubric. The very fact that we are, for the most part, in the private sector is an expression of NHS priorities over decades. The alleviation of psychic distress has not for some time been a high priority in Britain, except in certain areas, notably child psychotherapy, and even that it under constant threat of government cuts. Beyond this, the increasing reduction of professional autonomy to economic and power relations is all too evident. I gave a paper at the Institute of Psycho-Analysis on psychoanalysis and ideology in the early 1970s. I found the discussion rather insipid. An eminent analyst took me to the pub afterwards and said that the explanation was that I had raised political matters and that people would have been unwilling to reveal their political beliefs, lest anything they say might endanger referrals. More than twenty years later I was invited there again to celebrate the publication of a book, the scope of which had been my idea. Once again, no one was remotely critical; everything said was a bland or a compliment. I left feeling sad that the sort of respectful debate which characterises most academic learned societies had not occurred. The conformist pressures were overwhelming. Standards of debate are, in my experience, much higher among academics in both the arts and sciences.
Something analogous happens in all the training organisations of which I have knowledge. Students don't fight for greater democracy, because they are at the mercy of the clinical bureaucracy, who claim the power to see into their souls and all too easily pathologise criticism, rather like critics of religious orders were seen during the Inquisition as heretical or possessed by the devil. In my experience, psychotherapy trainings lie somewhere toward the cult end of the spectrum extending from friendly groups to cults based on paranoid, charismatic leaders. It is not prudent to criticise. It is ironic that such criticisms are often referred to as 'demonisation' or 'diabolisation'.
Matters of democracy in internal and external relations are also impinging uncomfortably on the British Psycho-Analytical Society. The most recent election for the presidency was the first in which there was more than one candidate. The one whose platform was that there is something wrong with the society's external relations and that this should be addressed, was defeated. In the debate about whether or not the Institute of Psycho-Analysis should withdraw from the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), the parliament of the profession, this same person had said that leaving the UKCP would be very likely be seen by many as a declaration of war against the rest of the profession.
The withdrawal from the UKCP and the setting up of an elitist and partly rival organization, the British Confederation of Psychotherapists (BCP), is a political issue. Politics is morality as manifested in institutions, where different values get attached to different views on the distribution of power and resources. In my opinion, the UKCP question is eminently moral, both in its substance and in the undemocratic ways with which the topic has been dealt in some institutions. What the Institute of Psycho-Analysis people are saying is that only organisations in which (with an insignificant number of exceptions) only Institute analysts can be training analysts and supervisors shall be members of an elite. (I leave the Jungians, who have behaved consistently well in these matters, on one side, as I do the Scottish Institute of Human Relations.) Institutions which oppose this deferential system in which their own graduates have very little chance of becoming training therapists, supervisors or (in some places) teachers are relegated to a lower caste. The self-declared elite formed the new and exclusive BCP; the also-rans are left in the UKCP, which is alleged not to meet the standards of the analysts and those deferential to them. Looking at the matter from another angle, however, patronage and financial sinecures are retained for a small elite in the name of standards.
The membership of my own training institution, the Lincoln Centre, voted three times to rejoin the UKCP, from which we were withdrawn without the Professional Committee consulting the membership. The Professional Committee did not act on any of those votes, and it was announced at the AGM after the third vote that no discussion about this matter would be allowed. (For subsequent developments, see below, 'The Psychodynamics of Psychoanalytic Organizations'.) A move is now afoot on the part of the BCP to decree that a training organisation cannot belong to both institutions, the UKCP and the analyst-dominated BCP. At one point the position was that the membership was not to be consulted about this decision, either at the Lincoln or at the British Association of Psychotherapists (BAP), and a letter was said to be on its way explaining why the members are to have no say in this matter. This is particularly striking, since a whole series of reforms were set in train in the wake of failure to consult the membership of the Lincoln about withdrawing from the UKCP in the first place. Now that the reforms are supposed to be in place, the dominant group in the Professional Committee of the Lincoln are carrying on as before and riding roughshod over the membership. Whatever their conscious intentions may be, and no matter how much they believe themselves to be acting in good faith and for the benefit of the profession, the fact is that they are being undemocratic and treating their colleagues as something less than peers in an institution whose Professional Committee is supposed to be accountable to the members. I take this to mean that major decisions should involve proper consultation with the membership and, where appropriate, the associate members and students.
You may wonder why I am dwelling on these matters of institutional politics. It is because they concern morality but are precluded from being discussed as such because of the hierarchy in the profession and because of the aura of being apolitical which wafts over professional organisations. This is a confidence trick. To be undemocratic is to be immoral. I wrote to one of the analysts who opposes direct democracy in the Lincoln Centre, pointing out that I come from a part of the world where the use of tests of expertise to determine if one should have voting rights was fought against at the cost of people's lives. I had in mind the civil rights campaign in the Southern American states for voter registration and for the elimination of the poll tax and tests which were selectively applied to black people. The analogy is that the rigorous tests applied to non-analysts to become training therapists and thereby to sit on certain key committees are not to be applied to psychoanalysts at the Lincoln. The consequence is that, because of the structure of committees which means that only training therapists can occupy certain seats, a tiny group of psychoanalysts will continue to dominate the institution - in all its key deliberations - for the foreseeable future. He replied that what I said may very well be true in the American context but not at the Lincoln (an institution whose name has relevant resonances, don't you think?). That makes the ordinary, non-analyst members the victims of discrimination - analogous, in this sphere of their professional lives, though not, of course, in other ways - to pre-civil rights blacks.
I have left until now the foundation stone of the hierarchy. It is that, for the most part and because of the power structure which is being ruthlessly maintained, the members and students in the elite trainings are in analysis or supervision with psychoanalysts. This, as Orson Wells put it in the famous radio show where he played 'The Shadow', 'has the power to cloud men's [and women's] minds'. Hegemony is maintained by institutional and unconscious forces. Elitism, careerism and insecurity rule, OK.
When the decision was taken at the Lincoln to ignore the third vote to rejoin the UKCP, the Professional Committee had an in-built majority of analysts, two of whom had led the way to establishing the BCP. Of the non-analysts, one had just been admitted to train at the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. Two of the non-analysts opposed the decision. They were outvoted.
I do not suppose many members of the profession will have heard much, if anything, about these events. My experience is that such things are not discussed or debated publicly. The mores of professionalism produce the paradoxical result that the political manipulators can get on with their plotting and gerrymandering, while the ordinary members are inhibited by their delicate sense of professionalism, along with the other factors of prudence and deference I have mentioned. I have been responsible for a couple of public airings of these issues, and I can tell you that it was scary. One led me to be threatened with legal action for defamation, and I had to take legal advice about how to convey in print things which everyone knows to be true. I, along with a number of others, was also victimised within the organisation for being insufficiently deferential (that's our version, anyway). Once again, I do not insist that I am right about the UKCP/BCP controversy. I am advocating public debate in which the moral and political issues are openly debated and bad character can be described as such.
Back to the more general form of what I want to say. Group relations theory - as developed by Bion (1961), A. K. Rice (in Colman and Bexton, 1975), Elliott Jaques (1951, 1955), Isabel Menzies Lyth (1988, 1989), Pierre Turquet (1974), Eric Miller (1990), David Armstrong (1991, 1992), Gordon Lawrence (1979, 1991), R. D. Hinshelwood (1987) and others (Colman and Geller, 1985) - has shed a flood of light on why people behave as they do in institutions. A recent issue of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis has a lovely article about why analytic institutions are intolerant of diversity and seek to abrogate dissent (Eisold, 1994). These discussions are conducted exclusively in terms of unconscious mechanisms, largely associated with defences against psychotic anxieties and leading to routines, sclerosis and utterly conservative structures, into which acolytes, whether they be student nurses or trainee psychotherapists or psychoanalysts, get induced by a form of brainwashing. Part of what I am advocating is that valuable discussions of the mechanisms as discussed in general should be complemented by concrete, historically specific cases - real settings, where real history is being made. I should point out that both the Institute of Psycho-Analysis and the Lincoln Centre have recently been troubled enough about their own group dynamics to have availed themselves of consultants in institutional dynamics, though neither report has been shown to all the members. I gather that the one about the Lincoln begins by saying that it is an unhappy organisation and that the first recommendation stresses the need for full democracy from day one of the reforms being implemented, something which has certainly not happened with respect to decisions about relations with the UKCP and BCP.
Some way has to be found to cut through this distressing intolerance and reintroduce debates about values, morality and character. In my experience the people who are keenest in their theoretical orientation to stick to the languages of structures, energies, forces and other concepts drawn from science, along with characterising others, especially students, as pathologically narcissistic when they oppose the status quo - these people are the ones who are the most politically reactionary. One who taught me at the Lincoln was asked about reading Free Associations and acknowledged looking at it once but claimed to have been put off by 'all that sociological stuff'. Reading a particular journal is neither here nor there, but being put off by the social level of understanding is indicative of a blinkered way of thinking. That same person has recently had to apologise to the entire organisation for the patronising pathologisations ('pathological narcissism') of the students, associate members and members, employed in a debate which was ostensibly about who shall be a training therapist. The point of this story is that political arguments were being couched in terms of clinical judgements which were made to appear to have the force of clinical experience behind them, rather than being expressed as a political position among many legitimate ones.
It is hard to formulate a way forward. I have mentioned a number of forces at work which inhibit proper accountability and public debate, but I have a feeling that I have not captured the essence of the problem as it presents itself in psychotherapeutic organisations. It has to do with the fact that the people in charge have legitimate high standing and authority as educational officers, supervisors and therapists. They may also have other strings to their bow as, for example, eminent authors or respected group relations consultants. This aura - which probably, and rightly, had a lot to do with their attaining the important positions they hold in the organisations - carries over into situations where they are interested parties and where their skills and insight are likely to be skewed because of their commitment to a particular point of view in the debate. Or their membership in a particular organisation - the Institute of Psycho-Analysis in the case of the debate about the UKCP - may lead them strongly to favour one loyalty at the expense of the other. When they operate in the debate, however, they suffer from a severe form of arrogance (or perhaps its a form of innocence; I'm not entirely sure) and do not doubt their own disinterestedness. This sometimes carries them to the point of doing grossly immoral and manipulative things in the name of 'knowing best' for the organisation. Throughout history, people with legitimate claims to a pipeline to better insight have behaved badly - worse than ordinary bad people - because they were so sure of their ground, either because of direct access to transcendent truth or superior insight in secular terms, whether it be political, social or psychological. This failure to doubt one's disinterestedness when one is parti pris has been an important factor in witch hunts, purges, inquisitions and all sorts of corruption in innumerable settings.
I am arguing that a feat of insight and separation of roles is called for. People who may be excellent teachers, supervisors, therapists and even group relations consultants should be seen as ordinary voters in matters concerning the government of psychotherapeutic organisations. They should be morally accountable, explicitly so, as they would be in any other political setting. Their characters should be open to scrutiny and criticism, just as those of political office seekers are in other sorts of governmental organisations. This is a tough criterion to adhere to in contexts where students are infantalised (as they notoriously are in practically all psychotherapy trainings), and transference and countertransference phenomena abound in therapy, supervision and relations between teaching officers and trainees. I think the senior therapists in positions of authority have something important to learn, too. In my experience they tend to speak and even make interpretations in the institutional setting which would only be appropriate in a consulting room with someone who was their patient. They need to learn that a very different mode of discourse is appropriate to the democratic space of the government of the institution, where they are certainly respected for their clinical acumen but ought to see themselves as ordinary citizens of the place - with one vote. As things stand, they 'trade' on their clinical authority, and the temptation to indulge in what amounts to 'wild analysis' (Freud, 1910) and to pathologise those who have perfectly legitimate grounds for disagreeing with them, should be resisted. I have seen decent people, arguing sensible points, patronised and humiliated in such debates. Worse, I have seen individuals and cohorts of members picked out and named, where it was implied that because their clinical work was putatively substandard or occurred before the regime now in office was there to maintain the highest standards, these people were somehow less entitled to take a full part in the life and government of the institution. This is a gross conflation of clinical judgements with matters of citizenship in the organisation.
Sadly, but inevitably, in the presence of such powerful projections emanating from those in charge and in the context of the power relations I have been describing, the students and ordinary members frequently find themselves so infantilised that they make blunders and lose the ability to think or find their voices or exercise perfectly ordinary rights. They end up playing their parts in a successful projective identification and thereby unconsciously abrogating their own adult selves. I have attended meeting after meeting in which sensible people, quite senior and competent in other settings, find that they do not say what they intended to and are left in a state of wonder after the meeting about why they were struck dumb or lost their way while speaking or lost their equanimity in the face of blatant bad behaviour. A fundamental disenfranchisement is the result, and those who have evoked it are able to point to the incompetence of those they have undermined. Needless to say, many others find it all to easy to keep their heads down and to collude with those in power, whatever the merits of their positions and behaviour. The organisation and all its members are the losers.
Another way of putting my point is to say that while junior and ordinary members of organizations and students need to learn to inhabit their own authority, the senior and distinguished ones need to engage in a species of self-restraint. In a way it is analogous to analytic abstinence (discussed earlier in the context of relations with patients), but in this case what one abstains from is the stance or right to interpret of the analyst or therapist. They should abstain from taking unfair advantage of their special transferential position with respect to colleagues and students when the setting is not one of therapy or teaching or supervision but, instead, one of politics in the profession. I have no doubt that authoritative people find it hard not to be authoritarian and to believe themselves to have special insight in non-clinical settings, but they don't and they should not arrogate to themselves the stance of superior understanding of legitimately controversial matters, even if their insight into underlying motives might be accurate. Political issues must be addressed on their own terms and not undermined by readings of unconscious motives which are not relevant to non-clinical settings, debates and decision-making processes.
Some time after I wrote the above paragraphs about the delicate matter of separating roles in organisations, some events occurred which so exquisitely exemplified what I have been saying that I find it hard not to think that something magical occurred to bear out my concerns. It so happened that the AGM at which the decision not to accede to the third vote to rejoin the UKCP, and not to allow any discussion, had to be re-held. This occurred for legal and technical reasons which are not strictly relevant to the present context. I submitted a resolution to the effect that in the light of the three votes to re-join the UKCP, the organisation should get on with applying to do so without further delay. The people who staged the re-convened meeting were the trustees, and they behaved impeccably. There was a good debate, we voted, and those advocating re-joining were defeated by a margin of two to one. This surprised and disappointed me and left me bewildered. Had the perception of the merits of this issue shifted so decisively? Perhaps but I doubted it. I heard rumours that the answer was proxies. Since it was a reconvened meeting lots of people didn't turn up. I saw some proxies being voted - someone I agreed with sat behind me with half a dozen; a student in front of me also had about that many.
Some weeks later I was told by a student that she had been rung up by an educational officer and told that she had a right to come and vote on this matter and that if she chose she could give her proxy to someone. At the meeting he was heard twice to urge moving to a vote, somewhat impatiently, I thought. He was seen to have a large amount of proxies, estimated at well over twenty. Another educational officer said to a student that she hoped the student was not going to vote for re-joining. The student replied, somewhat testily, that she did not have to say how she intended to vote and that it was a secret ballot.
It is in the nature of such events that facts are hard to come by, but if, as a number of people have suggested to me, one or more educational officers did lobby students, however gently, and if they solicited their proxies, again, however delicately, I think this is exactly the failure to distinguish roles about which I wrote above. Moreover, it is certainly true that a senior member of the governing committee said very vehemently toward the end of the debate that he would be voting against re-joining the UKCP. It is debatable where the line should be drawn about influencing other members and students, but I feel strongly that there is a serious danger of educational officers - all of whom are psychoanalysts and strongly partisan about this matter - acted in a morally improper way. I would go so far as to call it corruption, since it is they who decide whether or not the students qualify. Their thoughts may not have been corrupt, but the moral shape of what they did - if, indeed, they did it - would certainly be corrupt
There was another chapter to this saga. I asked the Chair of Trustees of the Lincoln to look into this matter. He did and found no evidence to support the suggestion of undue influence on students on the part of the educational officer I had been told about. I accept this, yet the question of the dramatic turnaround of the votes - from two thirds in favour to two thirds against - remains. Whatever the process and the role of proxies, I am left with the conviction that (without knowing the precise means) it was due to the unrepresentative role of the analysts and their ability to command and elicit deference, whether or not they actually solicited or obtained proxies. It should be added that two of the other prestigious organisations where there was a danger that they might not be allowed to vote on whether or not to retain dual membership of the UKCP and BCP did, in fact and after much debate, hold votes on the matter. Both decided to retain dual membership, i.e., to retain their membership in the UKCP and not succumb to pressure to belong only to the elitist BCP. Pressures are now being applied to get those who have decided to retain dual membership to choose. The assumption, of course, is that they will not willingly leave the more elite of the two organisations. Nevertheless, a third organization wrote to the BCP, saying that they intended to retain dual membership, and if this meant expulsion from the BCP, they would reluctantly and regretfully accept that.
It could be said that some analysts will go to practically any lengths to retain their positions of power. The rhetoric of this controversy strikingly evidences just how strongly they feel about it and, by implication, how little they think of their psychotherapist colleagues. I have heard an analyst refer to the stance of the British Association of Psychotherapists as 'Vichy'. I take this to mean that he feels that by continuing to belong to the UKCP, as well as the BCP, they are doing something which it is appropriate to compare to the Petain regime's collaboration with the Nazis in World War II. The same person said that practitioners who are not members of the BCP should not be allowed to call themselves psychotherapists, since he regarded them as 'charlatans'. Another analyst, arguing for a special position for analysts in a training organisation consisting largely of psychotherapists, used the following phrase with respect to standards: '...analysts are our only guarantee'.
The context was a debate about criteria for becoming a training therapist. Psychoanalysts do not have to go through the same procedure as psychotherapists, and no psychotherapist has so far met the criteria which have been set. The net effect is that no one trained by the organisation has yet been thought well-qualified enough to become a training therapist, while all of the people designated as training therapists are psychoanalysts. I have been told that debates within the International Psychoanalytic Association are going on in which the leader of the majority faction argues that a firm distinction should be retained between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. It has also been suggested that analysts should seek to control psychotherapy training organisations in order to maintain this - in my opinion caste - distinction. I am not suggesting that professional standards are not involved in these debates, but I do say that power, patronage and economic considerations seem to me to be at least as important.
As I said earlier, the culture of professionalism has drawn increasingly on notions of expertise, based on a close analogy with the objectivity of science, to place professionals in a putative position of value-neutrality, above the battles about power and hegemony and patronage and money. But this is bullshit. Indeed, the most interesting work now going on in the history, philosophy and social studies of science is showing in quite impressive ways that science, technology and medicine are not at any level, value-free. Values constitute the world view of disciplines, the choice of frameworks of ideas, the selection of research topics, the criteria for acceptable answers. At the theoretical level, all facts are theory-laden, all theories are value-laden and all values are constituted by ideologies or world views. At the personal and institutional levels, young scientists, technologists and medical students are not just learning information; they are being socialised into subcultures with belief systems, social systems and values which are increasingly the subject of study by critics of the false consciousness of claims to objectivity and value-neutrality.
Foremost among these students of the anthropology of western science is Donna Jean Haraway who has published two breathtaking volumes of studies about these matters, using as her case study the history of a branch of the academic study of animal behaviour, primatology. The first of these, Primate Visions:: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science (1989) burrows into the intricate network of values, politics, patronage, institutions and individuals which make up the study of the species which are our nearest ancestors in Darwinian evolution. In a collection of essays, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991), she probes further into these matters, always paying due respect to science per se, while making it clear that it is constituted by society and subject to being shaped by decisive social forces in the conduct of the research. Karl Figlio (1978, 1979, 1985) has done similar studies of the social construction of somatic disease entities , while I have done work on the importance of ideology and values in the biological and human sciences (1971, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1985a, 1992).
My reason for sketching these developments is to pull the rug out from under any attempt to appeal to natural science, medicine or the so-called human sciences for any justification which might be made for psychoanalysis, psychotherapy or psychoanalytic studies being above the battle. We are suffering from a bad case of false consciousness if we believe that out institutional arrangements are immune to the power struggles and politics which are at work throughout all societies which anyone has taken the trouble to investigate. This being true, we'd better enrich our framework for thinking about human nature to be sure to include character and morality. They are at work, believe me, but they and the values they embody should be out there, up front, open to dissension and debate. Otherwise they remain tacit and not amenable to contestation. I think that's the situation in our profession at the moment, and I want to argue for quite explicit political, and moral debates about values, as such, not cloaked in theories whose world views are covert or hidden away in inaccessible committees.
The trouble is that it takes people of good and strong and fearless character to bring these issues into the open. In my experience, even trying to raise issues about the role of values and morality and politics and get them into the syllabuses of psychoanalytic studies programmes and psychotherapy trainings is met with opposition and with the argument that professional trainings are in danger of being polluted. The same is true, of course, in scientific, technological and medical trainings, but, ironically, the encroachment of economic forces into those areas of expertise is opening the door a tiny bit to social and political issues. I have recently been asked to speak to molecular biology graduate students at a major medical research institute, and a journal I edit about these matters, Science as Culture, is attracting a growing readership. My experience is that whenever these issues get a look in, the students are initially made anxious but are soon keen for more. They know such issues are ubiquitous but have not found their voices or are afraid of being pathologised, ostracised or simply failing to qualify (Young, 1993).
I said I would return to the topic of the relationship between scientific and moral or evaluative discourse, and I now want to do so. Speaking first at the philosophical level, we hear a lot about the fact/value distinction. My experience is that it is seldom maintained by the very folk who advocate it. It is usually invoked and then followed by a covert appeal to deeply right-wing views. In the next breath we find values generated from facts which seem to entail value-laden conclusions as 'nature's way'. Values or 'oughts' get generated from facts or 'is's', in spite of a stated position carefully separating them. The oughts get tucked away in the choice of is's. For example, Karl Popper deplores historical extrapolations based on political beliefs but goes on to claim Darwinism as the basis for his theory of knowledge, which thereby cosies up to sociobiology, a deeply conservative rendering of animal behaviour which is supposed to embrace humans (Popper, 1960, 1974; Radnitzky and Bartley, 1987). I could multiply examples and have done elsewhere. The whole functionalist tradition which dominated the human sciences for most of the present century is based on this form of doublethink: various organic analogies, supposedly rooted in scientific Darwinism, provide the basis for conservative psychological, economic, ethical and social theories (Young, 1981, 1985, 1990, 1990a).
The first thing to say about this matter with respect to psychoanalysis is that Freud tried mightily but in vain to represent his own views as free of ideology. Consider the last essay in The New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis: 'The Question of a Weltanschauung' or world view (1933, lect. XXXV). He stoutly maintained that he had none, that he was free of the taint of ideology, but the chapter contains a swingeing criticism of what Freud took to be the complete lack of realism of anarchist and communist philosophies and sardonic comments on what he saw as their unrealistic views on economic and social arrangements. This was based on what he felt psychoanalysis shows about human nature. Fair enough, but hardly apolitical. Freud was, in fact, a classical moderate liberal.
Moreover, he can be said to have taken a very firm stand on the optimism/pessimism axis in his essay on the philosophy of culture, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), in which he stresses the thinness of the veneer of civility, asserts that man is a wolf to other men and that the threat of reversion to barbarism and polymorphous and rapacious sexuality is an ever-present danger. His solution was frank: guilt and the inhibition of unbridled sexuality are essential to civilisation, and neurosis is the inevitable by-product of this compromise. The de-repression and return to a psychological Garden of Eden advocated by his libertarian colleague, Wilhelm Reich (1972), was being repudiated in the name of striking the right balance between the erotic and destructive sides of human nature. Reich claimed that the destructive side was secondary, the product of repression. Remove repression and you get truly nice people, with full orgasmic potency. Many post-1960s libertarians and feminists (Freeman, 1970) have followed a path from Reich to Freud to Klein and the need for containment and a sense of what a mixture life is, one which has to be borne, rather than holding out for the ultra-leftist will-o-the-wisp of purity and perfection (Rustin, 1991; Hoggett, 1992, Young, 1994).
I want to speak now about various renderings of Freud. There are some which stress his scientificity, dubbing him a 'biologist of the mind', the subtitle of Frank Sulloway's book (1979). At the other extreme David Bakan writes on Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition (1958), while Philip Reiff essays about Freud: the Mind of the Moralist. (1960; see also Post, 1972). I cite these titles to drive home my point that his texts, like those of any canonical authority, are fought over by advocates of competing ideological positions. None of those I have listed is without warrant in his writings. Nor is Michel Foucault's (1967) version of the history of psychiatry, which traces a line from the imprisoned body and free soul of those chained up in Parisian asylums, through the introduction of moral treatment and finally to psychoanalysis, which insists that we take full responsibility for our most primitive unconscious wishes.
I hope I have said enough about the philosophy of science and about Freud studies to support my point about the ubiquity of values in psychoanalytic writing, seen in its broadest terms. I now want, in approaching my conclusion, to turn to the grit of certain theories and certain conundrums which arise if we look at particular concepts in terms of character and morality. It is my impression that Kleinian psychoanalysis is the most explicitly moral point of view, a perception shared by certain Kleinian writers, especially Wilfred Bion (1991), Donald Meltzer (1986, 1992), and Michael Rustin (1991), all of whom have been eloquent about this, and, among them, Rustin has been most assiduous in connecting it to recent issues in political and social theory. The paranoid-schizoid position is mad and bad, as is excessive projective identification. The depressive position is good and integrated and moral. The noted Kleinian analyst who currently wears Klein's mantle at the London Institute is Hanna Segal, who led the way in taking up an explicitly moral position about nuclear war (1988), and, with others, about the Gulf War. I deplore the fact that these people do not descend further into the nitty gritty of less global issues, but they are in advance of most analysts in being overtly concerned at all with moral questions.
If we turn to Kleinian views on sexual deviation, we immediately find ourselves in more trouble, since - as Noreen O'Connor and Joanna Ryan, among others, have shown - they are notoriously illiberal with respect to the inner worlds of gays and lesbians. Some Kleinians have tried to mitigate this. Margot Waddell and Gianna Williams (1991) have sought to draw attention to the question of the unconscious phantasies of sexual dissidents and have argued that we need to ask if they are perverse or not, as opposed to condemning the behaviour of homosexuals as inherently pathological. Theirs is an explicitly moral criterion, for perverse minds treat fair as foul and foul as fair, a moral inversion. In their 'Reflections on Perverse States of Mind', Waddell and Williams stress that perversion of character involves 'the distortion and misuse of psychic and external reality: the slaughter of truth' (p. 203). Perverse states of mind involve 'a negativistic caricature of object relations'. There is an unconscious 'core phantasy of the secret killing of babies instead of parenting babies - an oblique form of attack on the inside of the mother's body... In this frame of reference, perversity has no connection with descriptive aspects of sexual choices - it can be equally present or absent in heterosexual or homosexual relationships alike' (p. 206). They conclude that this approach is 'scintillating with possibilities for better understanding the nature of perversity as an aspect of character, as distinct from sexual behaviour or choice. It wholly subverts the current propensity to attach labels of "perverse" or "non-perverse" to categories of relationships - e. g., homosexual or heterosexual - and places the distinctions, rather, in the area of psychic reality and meanings as represented by different states of mind' (p. 211).
If we apply this approach to other forms of deviant sexuality, such as sado-masochism, paedophilia, child sexual abuse or murder (as in the work of Arthur Hyatt Williams, 1986), we can begin to build up a version of the inner world which addresses unconscious mechanisms and morality within a single framework. I have treated patients who seek to be moral beings, yet indulge in deviant sexual practices of which they are ashamed, for example, spanking and mutual masturbation (with partners who are not properly consenting adults). I find that it would be silly to ignore the moral dimension of those practices, not least because they were central to my patients reasons for seeking help. In working with other patients who were not distressed about their immoral behaviour it was my task to create a space in which they could peel away their defences and to make connection with the values which they had indubitably acquired in their upbringings and which I felt it was my task to bring to their attention and help them uphold - but with greater insight and for better reasons.
Another sort of psychotherapeutic work where these issues are central is the conception of the cohabitee of Michael Sinason (1993) and colleagues (Richards, 1993). They believe that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are paradigmatic of all of us, that we all contain two selves, an I and a 'mad voice within', which is the cohabitee. This approach to therapeutic work eschews moral condemnation and seeks to understand the cohabitee, whose grip on the behaviour of the patient is thereby weakened. There are moral criteria at work in the interpretive scheme but no moralism in the work. Predominance of the chohabitee weakens the character, reducing it to a bad, mad one. Understanding the cohabitee and thereby weakening its grip builds a strong, less mad and better character. This example is one of many which would have to be worked through with great care if the approach I am proposing were to be adopted.
To recapitulate: values and moral issues are inescapable. The only question is whether they are tacit and covert or explicit and open to critical examination. Psychoanalysis has been shy about being up front about values because it has suffered from the mistaken view that science is value-neutral, above the social, political and cultural debates which are constitutive of all forms of thought. The concept of character adds moral issues to the sanitised scientistic concept of personality. I think psychoanalysis is in the business of understanding and interpreting in order to strengthen character and that in doing so we are in the business of character building, an essentially moral enterprise. Character and morality should therefore, I suggest, be central to our deliberations, and moral accountability should be routine, making due allowance for the forms of discretion which are appropriate to its private and intimate nature. However, its special domain and forms of relating must not be allowed to undermine or obfuscate democracy in the profession. As things stand at the moment, the word 'scurrilous' somehow gets attached to serious evaluations and criticisms so that they can be relegated to the realm of moralism and pathology. There is, according to this elision, no legitimate accountability and criticism, only blaming and 'scurrilous-criticism', so that morality is deemed not possible in the depressive position. And yet that is the whole point about depressive guilt, as opposed to paranoid-schizoid guilt: it involves a developmentally more advanced concern for the object, rather than the brittle, punitive prohibition associated with the primitive superego. It can be borne and worked through.
I feel constrained to conclude on a cautionary note. The kinds of accountability and debates I am advocating are commonplace in ordinary political life - in Parliament, local councils, clubs. They are the subject of press comment, editorialising, speculation, surmise, gossip. The commentators and investigators are, perforce, sometimes reduced to inferring what's going on, because those involved are doing their best to obscure the real motives and dynamics involved. This is a routine problem, for example, in trying to expose corruption. (The case of gerrymandering in London's Westminster Council comes to mind.) In the helping professions, especially those concerned with psychodynamics, they are almost always confined to gossip, and access to gossip is exquisitely a matter of the networks to which one belongs.
I raise this matter to draw attention to a sense of danger I have had in writing about these matters. I am advocating that moral accountability should become commonplace in our subculture. However, I am conscious that some forms of discretion which are not appropriate to the ordinary public sphere will still need to apply. Working out these new boundaries will be an important and delicate task. In this initial foray I may have strayed onto the wrong side of one or more of them. It was not my intention, and I will be glad to modify my account in any way which I am convinced is necessary to be fair and accurate. However, those who benefit from silence will, I believe, fight to draw the lines so that they can continue to benefit from the discretion of colleagues where this in not appropriate in a democratic framework in which accountability should apply. They may even claim that the name of one or more institution is being brought into disrepute, that they have been libelled or defamed or that a code of professional ethics has been transgressed. Such claims should be taken seriously, but they should also be scrutinised and resisted where they are sincerely believed to be serving the interests of suppressing or retarding democracy and decency. Judgements about character and morality should be our final criteria.
(Place of publication is London unless otherwise specified)
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