All posts by Jacy Young

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She completed her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

July 13th BPS/UCL Seminar! “The Course of Modern Psychoanalysing About Myth”

The British Psychological Society’History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk as part of its summer term BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series. On Monday July 13th Robert Segal of the University of Aberdeen, will be speaking on “The Course of Modern Psychoanalysing About Myth.” Full details follow below.

The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines

Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG

Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Monday 13 July 2015
Professor Robert Segal (University of Aberdeen), The Course of Modern Psychoanalysing About Myth

This talk will trace the history of psychoanalysing about myth through the major figures:  Freud, Rank, Roheim, Arlow, Bettelheim, Jung. and Campbell.  Myth has never been just an unconscious expression of the Oedipus complex and over the years has become much more.

Robert Segal is the author of The Poimandres as Myth: Scholarly Theory and Gnostic Meaning, Religion and the Social Sciences: Essays on the ConfrontationJoseph Campbell: An Introduction. Explaining and Interpreting Religion, Theorizing about Myth and Myth: A Very Short Introduction, among other works.

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New Isis: Psychopathy in Germany & Helmholtz’s Musicology!

The June 2015 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. Included in the issue are two articles of special interest to AHP readers: Greg Eghigian (right) documents the history of psychopathy in Germany, while Julia Kursell, in the issue’s Focus Section on “The History of Humanities and the History of Science,” describes Hermann von Helmholtz’s work on musicology. Full details, including abstracts, follow below.

“A Drifting Concept for an Unruly Menace: A History of Psychopathy in Germany,” by Greg Eghigian. The abstract reads,

The term “psychopath” has enjoyed wide currency both in popular culture and among specialists in forensic psychiatry. Historians, however, have generally neglected the subject. This essay examines the history of psychopathy in the country that first coined the term, developed the concept, and debated its treatment: Germany. While the notion can be traced to nineteenth-century psychiatric ideas about abnormal, yet not completely pathological, character traits, the figure of the psychopath emerged out of distinctly twentieth-century preoccupations and institutions. The vagueness and plasticity of the diagnosis of psychopathy proved to be one of the keys to its success, as it was embraced and employed by clinicians, researchers, and the mass media, despite attempts by some to curb its use. Within the span of a few decades, the image of the psychopath became one of a perpetual troublemaker, an individual who could not be managed within any institutional setting. By midcentury, psychopaths were no longer seen as simply nosological curiosities; rather, they were spatial problems, individuals whose defiance of institutional routine and attempts at social redemption stood in for an attributed mental status. The history of psychopathy therefore reveals how public dangers and risks can be shaped and defined by institutional limitations.

“A Third Note: Helmholtz, Palestrina, and the Early History of Musicology,” by Julia Kursell. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Isis: Psychopathy in Germany & Helmholtz’s Musicology!

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The New Yorker: “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment”

The New Yorker has just posted an article on “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment.” A new feature film The Stanford Prison Experiment, starring Billy Crudup as psychologist Philip Zimbardo, provides the impetus for the piece.

On the morning of August 17, 1971, nine young men in the Palo Alto area received visits from local police officers. While their neighbors looked on, the men were arrested for violating Penal Codes 211 and 459 (armed robbery and burglary), searched, handcuffed, and led into the rear of a waiting police car. The cars took them to a Palo Alto police station, where the men were booked, fingerprinted, moved to a holding cell, and blindfolded. Finally, they were transported to the Stanford County Prison—also known as the Stanford University psychology department.

They were willing participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment, one of the most controversial studies in the history of social psychology. (It’s the subject of a new film of the same name—a drama, not a documentary—starring Billy Crudup, of “Almost Famous,” as the lead investigator, Philip Zimbardo.) The study subjects, middle-class college students, had answered a questionnaire about their family backgrounds, physical- and mental-health histories, and social behavior, and had been deemed “normal”; a coin flip divided them into prisoners and guards. According to the lore that’s grown up around the experiment, the guards, with little to no instruction, began humiliating and psychologically abusing the prisoners within twenty-four hours of the study’s start. The prisoners, in turn, became submissive and depersonalized, taking the abuse and saying little in protest. The behavior of all involved was so extreme that the experiment, which was meant to last two weeks, was terminated after six days.

Read the piece online here.

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2-Day Workshop: “Brainwash: History, Cinema and the Psy-Professions”

The Hidden Persuaders Project and the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image at Birkbeck College, University of London is holding a 2-day workshop July 3 & 4, 2015. The workshop, “Brainwash: History, Cinema and the Psy-Professions,” is free to attend and participants can register online here. Full details of the event, as well as the workshop programme follow below.

The history of cinema, like the history of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and psychotherapy, percolates with Western suspicions that our minds are susceptible to covert, even unconscious manipulation. Cinema and psychoanalysis—two essential exponents of subjectivity in the twentieth century—have been celebrated as royal roads to the unconscious, catalysts for our dreams, and means of self-discovery and human emancipation. But cinema and psychotherapy, Freudian or otherwise, have also been castigated for their special capacity to tap the unconscious, and as tools for mind control, even as they have depicted and shaped understanding of what it means to have or to manipulate a mind.

Early cinema had frequently explored the hypnotic processes it was accused of inducing. But the intersecting fears of mind control at the movies and in the consulting room seemingly entered a new stage of complexity with the Cold War. New theoretical and visual languages of ‘brainwashing’ emerged, and the ideas of Pavlov and of Freud were often placed side by side. In the decades after 1950 (the year in which the word ‘brainwashing’ was coined), film further explored subliminal interference. Roles for ‘psy’ experts working for shadowy organisations were to feature, and the dangers of psychological experiment returned again and again.

Visions of ‘conditioning’ and ‘programming’ resonated on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Work such as Shivers (1981) by the Polish filmmaker Marczewski explored the communist indoctrination of young people. In the West, films such as The Mind Benders (1963), The Ipcress File (1965), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Parallax View (1974) played upon conjoined political and psychological terrors of brainwashing. Most famous, ironic, and perhaps most imitated of all works in this tradition was The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Meanwhile, many specialist commentators in the human sciences explored the vulnerability of the ‘captive mind’, considered the psychic effects of ‘totalitarianism’, the nature of induced desires and manufactured anxieties, advertising, not to mention extreme sensory experiences (and deprivation) in shaping behaviour and thought. The limits of an individual—or a group’s—capacity to remember, to will, to know, and to organize were probed; and terms such as ‘regression’ and ‘automatism’ gained a substantial new purchase.

In this workshop we ask whether the Cold War obsession with brainwashing was a break with past narratives and anxieties over mental manipulation and suggestion. We consider how far cinema, television and video have been caught up in this history of hidden or coercive persuasion, and how far they have changed the terms of debate. What forms of human experimentation inspired interest in brainwashing, and vice versa? And how and why did depictions of automatism on screen so often connect to fears of the ‘psy’ professions?

In addressing these questions we revisit some iconic and obscure brainwashing sagas of the past. By re-examining Cold War films and some of their precursors, we invite discussion of the representation of coercively altered states of consciousness—the dangerous spell that film and ‘the talking cure’ have been said to exert. We ask: how have ‘suggestion’, ‘hypnosis’, ‘automatism’ and ‘brainwashing’ featured in these stories? What plot lines and visual aesthetics has ‘brainwashing’ inspired? Why did the clinical expert feature so prominently in such films? How and why have fears of brainwashing figured in the critique of the therapeutic encounter? What should we make of the role of hypnosis in the early warnings about the dangers of cinema (and its darkened rooms)?How might we map and historicise such fears and fantasies? Do the same fears recur, the same plots unfold, or do hypnosis and brainwashing play out differently, in Europe and the US, East and West, pre-war and post-war?

Continue reading 2-Day Workshop: “Brainwash: History, Cinema and the Psy-Professions”

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July 18th Workshop, Psychoanalytic Filiations: Mapping The Psychoanalytic Movement

UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines is hosting a one-day workshop on how to write the history of the psychoanalytic movement. The workshop, which marks the publication of Ernst Falzeder’s book, ‘Psychoanalytic Filiations: Mapping the Psychoanalytic Movement’, will be held from 2-6pm on July 18th, 2015 at UCL. Full details follow below.

Written over a span of nearly a quarter century, the “red thread” running through the book is its focus on the network of psychoanalytic “filiations” (who analysed whom), and how crucial concepts of depth psychology were developed before the background of those intense relationships: for example, Freud’s technical recommendations, the therapeutic use of countertransference and the view of the psychoanalytic situation as a social, interactive process, the introduction of the anal phase, the birth of the object-relations-model as opposed to the drive-model in psychoanalysis, or the psychotherapeutic treatment of psychoses. Several chapters deal with key figures in that history, such as Sándor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, Eugen Bleuler, Otto Rank, and C. G. Jung, their respective relationships to each other and to Freud, and the consequences that their collaboration, as well as conflicts, with him had for the further development of psychoanalysis up to the present day. Other chapters give an overview on the publications of Freud’s texts and on unpublished documents (the “unknown Freud”), the editorial policy of the publications of Freud’s letters.

Discussants:

Dr. Ernst Falzeder (UCL)
Dr. Shaul Bar-Heim (Birkbeck College)
Arthur Eaton (UCL)
Prof. Brett Kahr (Roehampton University)
Dr. Matt ffytche (University of Essex)
Dr. Sarah Marks (University of Cambridge)
Dee McQuillan (UCL)
Dr. Richard Skues (London Metropolitan University)
Chair: Prof. Sonu Shamdasani (UCL).

Cost: £20, UCL staff and students: free.

Register online here.

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Contribute to The Psychologist’s “Looking Back” Column!

The British Psychological Society’s magazine, The Psychologist, is looking for brief contributions for its regular history column “Looking Back.” Previous articles from the column are largely open access and can be read online here.

If you are interested in contributing a piece of 1800-3000 words, on the history of psychology or the psychology of history, get in touch with Managing Editor Jon Sutton at jon.sutton@bps.org.uk or engage with the magazine on Twitter @psychmag.

 

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Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning Optioned as a Film

Psychologist Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he attempts to make sense of the Holocaust, has been optioned as a filmThe Guardian reports,

Frankl, a contemporary of Freud, lost his whole family during the Nazi’s attempted extermination of the Jews. He developed his theory of “healing through meaning”, known as logotherapy, while a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Kaufering concentration camps. He counselled his fellow prisoners, many of whom were suicidal, with a philosophy that argued that striving for meaning, not pleasure nor power, is what keeps us alive.

The book is being adapted for film by screenwriter Adam Gibgot.

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A Recent Resurgence of “Excited Delirium”?

The Washington Post recently featured a piece on the resurgence of “excited delirium” as cause of death for a number of individuals held in police custody. Amnesty International estimates that as many as 75 of more than 300 deaths in police custody between 2001 and 2008, following the use of a Taser, have been attributed to “excited delirium.”

Some trace the condition – which includes wild bursts of violent behaviour, insensitivity to pain, and is often associated with stimulant use –  as far back as the mid-nineteenth century. Despite these kinds of claims to historical standing, the condition is not among those in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders leading many to argue that the condition is being invoked as a means diverting attention away from the excessive use of force by police. As the Post describes,

Police, medical examiners and some doctors say the condition is real and frightening. Influenced by mental illness or the use of such stimulants as cocaine and methamphetamine, those in its grip often have extraordinary strength, are impervious to pain and act wildly or violently. Then, suddenly, some die.

Other medical experts and civil libertarians have questioned the existence of excited delirium and its frequent citation in cases that involve violent encounters between police and members of the public. Some say it is a cover for the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

The full piece can be read online here.

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New Issue History of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia Symptoms, British Colonial Asylums, & More

Hans W. Gruhle

The June 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. The issue includes articles on the symptoms of schizophrenia, British colonial lunatic asylums, and “senile dementia” in the decades before 1979. Also in the issue is a classic text on symptoms in psychiatry by Hans W. Gruhle (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“First rank symptoms of schizophrenia: their nature and origin,” by J. Cutting. The abstract reads,

Kurt Schneider’s insight nearly 80 years ago that schizophrenia could be demarcated from other psychoses by a small set of particular delusions and hallucinations powerfully influenced diagnostic practice. The theoretical status of such ‘first rank symptoms’ as a whole, however, has rarely been addressed. But if they are sensitive and specific to the condition, it is about time that their essential nature and potential origin be considered. This is the purpose of the present paper. I argue that these psychopathological phenomena are indeed relatively sensitive and specific to the condition, that their nature can be formulated within a Schelerian model of what constitutes a human being, and that their origin fits anthropological and neuropsychological notions of the make-up of contemporary human beings.

“‘At variance with the most elementary principles’: the state of British colonial lunatic asylums in 1863,” by Warwick Brunton. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue History of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia Symptoms, British Colonial Asylums, & More

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BBC Radio4’s “Ritual Sexual Abuse: The Anatomy of a Panic”

BBC Radio4 is currently airing a two-part programme on “Ritual Sexual Abuse: The Anatomy of a Panic.” As their website describes,

David Aaronovitch of The Times traces the powerful intellectual influences behind what he sees as one of the most important cultural shifts of the past 40 years: from a society in which accusations of sexual abuse were wrongly ignored to one in which the falsely accused were crushed by a system where the mantra was “victims must be believed”.

In the first of two programmes, Aaronovitch will examine the role played by unproven psychoanalytic theories which, from the 1980s, spread from the world of therapists in Canada and the USA to social work, medicine and then to law enforcement in Britain.

From the NSPCC to academia it was believed that children were being sexually abused in group Satanic rituals, which involved murder and animal sacrifice. The programme will explore how these bizarre ideas took hold, how they were related to mistaken psychotherapeutic practices, and how they resonate still.

The programme will look at the influences of four books which played a key role in influencing the intellectual and cultural climate. These are Sybil, Michelle Remembers, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and The Courage to Heal.

….

In the second of two programmes, Aaronovitch re-examines the role played by unproven psychoanalytic theories which, from the 1980s, spread from the world of therapists in Canada and the USA to social work, medicine and then to law enforcement in Britain.

The programme explores the parallels between the belief in ritual abuse with some of the claims being made today about VIP paedophile rings and group murder.

Some of the mistakes of the past – such as the false accusations made against parents in the Orkneys and Rochdale of satanic abuse – have been acknowledged. But, Aaronovitch argues, without a profound understanding of how and why such moral panics arise we are unlikely to avoid similar mistakes in the future. And when such mistakes recur we risk an over-reaction and a return to a culture of denial.

Episode one can be heard online here and episode two can be heard here.

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