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Mens Sana Monogr. 2007 Jan;5(1):146-57. doi: 10.4103/0973-1229.32159.

What psychoanalysis, culture and society mean to me.

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Editor, Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, An analyst in private practice in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA. BIDMC Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, USA. E-mail:


The paper reviews some ways that the social and psychic have been understood in psychoanalysis and argues that a model for understanding the relation between the psychic and the social must account both for the ways that we internalize oppressive norms as well as the ways we resist them. The author proposes that we build our identities in relation to other identities circulating in our culture and that cultural hierarchies of sexism, racism, classism push us to split off part of what it means to be human, thereby creating painful individual and relational repetition compulsions. These "normative unconscious processes" replicate the unjust social norms that cause psychic pain in the first place. The paper concludes with thoughts about contemporary US culture, in which the government has abdicated responsibility toward its most vulnerable citizens and has thus rendered vulnerability and dependence shameful states.


Challenge to Social Norms; Culture; Psychic Resistance; Psychoanalysis; Social Hierarchies; Social Psychoanalysis; Society; ‘Normative Unconscious Processes’

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