FALL 2016 VOL 44 ISSUE #2

FALL 2016

A Psychobiographical and Psycho-Political Comparison of Clinton and Trump, Paul H. Elovitz

Abstract: A comparison of the family backgrounds, childhoods, personal lives, personalities, and political views of the Republican and Democratic nominees in the 2016 presidential election. The author is a presidential psychobiographer who has been presenting and publishing on candidates and presidents since 1976. He uses his training in child development and psychoanalysis to demonstrate some of the influences of early development on the candidates’ subsequent lives and careers. The strengths and weaknesses of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are discussed. Included in the analysis are family background, childhood, character, coping mechanisms, temperament, role models, foreign policy, health, interpersonal relations, marriage, parenting, and religious views, as well as the appeal and obstacles to election faced by each candidate.

Keywords: psychobiography, political psychology, psychohistory, comparative-candidate-research, personality, Trump’s narcissism, Hillary Clinton, presidential election, Republican, Democrat, nominee

The Psychohistory of Climate Change: A Clear and Present Danger, Kenneth Alan Adams

ABSTRACT: The inability of contemporary society to transition from fossil fuels to green energy was engineered by the oil industry, which has worked for decades to stifle the emergence of ecological awareness. Climate change presents a clear and present danger to our society. The present dilemma is the result of the psychopathic corporate system, that pillages the earth for profit (extractivism), evades the real costs of production (externalizing costs), and pursues only self-interest (the best interests of the corporation). The well-being of the environment is thereby sacrificed for profit and our collective future is jeopardized. The corporate practice of creative destruction has gained such Thanatos-like momentum that it threatens the earth in its obsession with profit. Conservatives, under the sway of the unreality principle, dismiss climate change and block efforts to solve climate issues. For them, science is wish fulfillment based on denial. Their willingness to endanger the world results from their authoritarian upbringing. The corporal punishment they endured as children left a residue of rage—the impulse to destroy life—that underlies corporate rationality’s assault on the environment. Fearing death, they inflict death in a perverse ritual to feel alive. Compensating for the narcissistic wounds of childhood through the formation of a grandiose self, they are identified with the omnipotent parent, and alternate between suicidal impulse and escape via godlike technology. Conservative attacks on women highlight the residual wounds of relatedness to their dragon mothers, just as their relatedness to the environment involves a restaging of their encounters with their breast and toilet mothers. Solving environmental problems, however, will require more than overcoming conservative intransigence. The concept of ecological debt accentuates the importance of consumer choice for the environment. The United Nations Human Development Report 2015 regarding CO2 emissions demonstrates the massive environmental debt of Northern Hemisphere societies and suggests the magnitude of the transformation necessary to resolve the problem of climate change.

“Let us not however flatter ourselves over much on account of our human conquest of nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us.” Frederick Engels[i]

“The fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent their cultural development will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction…. Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty in exterminating one another…They know this, and hence comes… their current unrest, their unhappiness and their mood of anxiety. And now it is to be expected that the other of the two ‘Heavenly Powers,’ eternal Eros, will make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with his equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and with what result?” Sigmund Freud[ii]

[i] Frederick Engels, The Dialectic of Nature. Chapter 9. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch09.htm.

[ii] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton, 1961. p. 92.

“Sailing in Paper Boats”: Sexual Trauma, Psychosis, and a Critical Examination of the Freudian Metaphor in Antonia White’s Autobiographical Fiction, Marcia Anne Newton

Abstract: This paper is part of a larger project on Catholic writer Antonia White’s series of autobiographical novels, Frost in May, The Lost Traveller, and The Sugar House, in which readers are presented with a Freudian Oedipal drama that reaches a dramatic climax in the last autobiographical novel in the series, Beyond the Glass, where the main protagonist spirals into psychosis. A central question addressed is whether or not White’s autobiographical fiction is an unconscious projection of sexual trauma from her own history. Psychoanalytically speaking, the answer depends upon whether one subscribes to Freudian or Ferenczian perspectives.

The paper also addresses the question of whether White’s accounts of psychosis in her autobiographical fiction are real and meaningful descriptions of lived traumatic experiences. Jacques Lacan asserts that it is impossible to authenticate narratives of psychosis and for readers to draw any meaningful value from them because they lack a coherent transfer of metaphorical language from the unconscious to the conscious in the pursuit of truth of a lived experience. He uses Judge Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness to support his case, a text in which Schreber confesses to only being able to communicate his experiences in similes and metaphors; therefore, he claims his experiences cannot be understood. I argue that Lacan does not give due credit to Schreber’s attempts to grapple with spiritual and sexual preservation in the throes of delusion through the agency of his alter egos. These alter egos are the other “self,” a deluded self that offers, paradoxically, truth to emotional experience of a man’s ego in crisis. Schreber shares these pursuits with White’s alter egos in her autobiographical fiction, “The House of Clouds” and Beyond the Glass. In an analysis of White’s texts as recollections of her personal history, I highlight how White’s experiences shape her testimony in its raw portrayal of an identity in crisis.

A Brief Outline of Social Darwinism and Its influence on 19th Century Britain and Elsewhere, Helene Lewis

ABSTRACT: The following is the second chapter of a soon to be published book about the history of South Africa and the origins of Apartheid. The preface, the Introduction, and Chapter One were published in previous issues of the journal. The book is titled: Britain’s Bastard Child. The author is Psychologist and Psychohistorian, Helene Lewis, who has been doing research for the book for the last fifteen years.

         The book seeks to understand the psychohistorical factors that influenced the thinking and behavior of the European settlers who emigrated to South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries and came to be known as Afrikaners. The intergenerational transmission and re-enactment of trauma are seen as the pathway that led from the trauma induced by the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the twentieth century to the establishment of Apartheid in 1948.


Social Darwinism was the context from which British Jingoism arose and the Anglo Boer War resulted. The British concluded that they were the fittest in the competitive struggle between the races and so would justifiably conquer and rule over lesser (sic) nations and groups.

John Atkinson Hobson, British economist, early socialist and war-correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in South Africa during the Anglo Boer War, wrote in 1902:

‘the Englishman believes he is a more excellent type than any other type; he believes he is better able to assimilate any special virtues others may have; he believes that this character gives him a right to rule which no other can possess’.[i]

[i] John, A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (1902) p.159


“To Purify the Dialect of the Tribe”*: An Essay Review on Two current Works in the Psychoanalytic Field, and Their Bearing on Psychohistory, Dan Dervin

(*Quoted from T.S. Eliot’s poem “Little Gidding”)

Freud and the Sexual: Essays 2000-2006, Jean Laplanche, New York: International Psychoanalytic Books, 2011.

Political Freud: A History, Eli Zaretsky, New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.

Most psychohistorians keep a certain ring of keys close at hand. These are our theories, which we deploy to unlock the elusive and complex mysteries of our world: specifically, historical change, political turmoil, family dynamics, and internal conflicts of key figures. The invaluable keys have had varied origins. Some are indigenous to our field: Lloyd deMause’s Evolution of Parenting Modes comes to mind; others are adapted from mixed sources, such as Group Fantasy and the Role of the Leader as Delegate. The question of how capable are those theories, is worth raising from time to time, if only to keep us current and focused on maintaining our keys in good operating order.

The two books under review offer opportunities for catching up on developments in the psychoanalytic field and for revisiting our own discipline’s overlapping issues. Prominent French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche has an extensive scholarly record in the field, most notably, The Language of Psychoanalysis (with J.B. Pontalis, NY: Norton, 1967), outstanding among the guides and dictionaries appearing in recent years. Eli Zaretsky is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research with an extensive record in the applied field, notably Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis.

But first we should drop back and consider how the interplay between our field and Freud’s has been seminal for our theories (think “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” [1921]), and recall how we have repaid this debt in our fashion by putting Freud on the couch along with the history of his revolutionary movement and its spreading branches of heretics and disciples — at which point the couch and the overcrowded consulting room have morphed into a scholarly library. It may be surprising to find ourselves confronting such a plurality of voices, turf battles, vigorous debates, and hair-splitting semantics in light of Freud’s own writings being honored with the Goethe Prize in 1930. But even allowing for over-determined interpretations and personal stakes, we can appreciate how Freud’s challenging thought evolved over the decades and continues to provoke.


How did this state of affairs come about? Psychoanalysis was born with the discovery of “psychical reality,” but getting there entailed an arduous and uncharted route. Early milestones were passed in the 1880s and 90s during Freud’s and Breuer’s work with hysterical patients. Breuer’s famous patient Anna O. precipitated a crisis, personal as well as marital, for Breuer when she summoned him to attend her imaginary childbirth stemming from her “phantom pregnancy” (Jones, p. 224). Breuer wanted out, but Freud found it interesting, and their collaborative efforts soon foundered. Freud had already been tracing the aetiology of hysteria along a puzzling sexual path that seemingly revived early memories, but when these pivoted on scenes of seduction typically from a male parent, Freud suffered his own crisis, being unable to rationalize such a role for his own father (Jones, p. 266). Increasingly, inconsistencies in these reminiscences cropped up. It transpired that a patient’s reported seduction by an uncle one summer in the family gazebo could not have occurred as he was absent during that time-span. Jones summarizes Freud’s revised hypothesis thus: “If hysterics trace back their symptoms to fictitious traumas, this new fact signifies that they create such scenes in phantasy, and psychical reality requires to be taken into account alongside actual reality” (Jones, p. 267; Laplanche 1967, pp. 363-4). This new thing, “psychical reality,” became for psychoanalysis what the splitting of the atom would be for physics.

Trauma Time, Kenneth Alan Adams

Listening to Trauma: Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of Catastrophic Experience, Cathy Caruth,  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, pb, foreword, photos, index, notes, 367 pp., npi.

         This book of conversations about trauma is a volume to ponder, a compendium of exceptional breadth and depth, that will amply repay repeated perusals. However, it is also packed with pithy aphorisms, with more than enough highlights to fill an entire website. One of the most provocative is the statement of a patient of Francoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudilliere, a mad man who introduced himself by saying, “I am an encoded of the anti-past.” Translated, his statement suggests that what is erased from history, i.e., anti-past, is encoded in madness: thus, study madness to comprehend what history has cut out. Similarly, Judith Herman speaks of PTSD symptoms as “a kind of attempted witness to trauma,” and Shoshana Felman refers to K-Zetnik, the witness at the Eichmann trial who feinted and was excused, as bearing “mute witness.” Geoffrey Hartman, agrees, contending that “muteness is not always negative.” Mute dialogues with nature or one’s mother, for instance, can even rise to be “the shadow cast by ecstasy.” Though muteness may have a euphoric dimension, the essence of trauma is wounding and pain. However, Robert Jay Lifton suggests that a focus on trauma per se is misguided. It colludes with our grandiosity. Instead, stressing “survival, rather than trauma, puts the death back into the traumatic experience.” Appropriately, the Nia Project trauma team in Atlanta conceptualize their traumatized, suicidal women as being “deathstruck.” AIDS activist Gregg Bordowitz sees discussion of “the lack of secular thinking around death, the lack of philosophical options for people with AIDS and HIV” as “more important than anything else.” Dori Laub envisions the Freudian death drive as “against knowing.” Jean Laplanche is of the opinion that it is death of the other that “raises the question of death.” For Freud, the fear of death was “a displacement of castration anxiety,” according to Lifton, who argues that the health of survivors and society involves confronting the certainty of death and “witnessing” to the community the reality of what one has experienced. Onno van der Hart shifts the focus, suggesting that “the essence of trauma” is being “utterly left alone with the experience and having no one listening.” Tragically, Dori Laub, Shoshana Felman, and Arthur S. Blank, Jr., all refer to the mass extinction of the Holocaust as “an event without a witness.” And this is just the beginning.

         Divided into three parts—Death in Theory, A Revolutionary Act, and the System is Weeping, this meditation on catastrophic trauma is a series of interviews, conducted from 1990 to 2013, with psychoanalysts, psychologists, psychiatrists, political activists, filmmakers, literary critics, intellectuals, activists, institutional leaders, and researchers. Those interviewed in Part I include Robert Jay Lifton, Jean Laplanche, Dori Laub, Francoise Davoine, and Jean-Max Gaudilliere; in Part II, Gregg Bordowitz, Douglas Crimp, Laura Pinsky, Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, Onno van der Hart, Geoffrey Hartman, and the Members of Atlanta’s Grady Hospital Nia Project Team; and in Part III, Arthur S. Blank, Jr., Mieke Bal, Francoise Davoine, and Shoshana Felman.