SPRING 2016 Vol 43 Issue #4


Britain’s Bastard Child, Helene Lewis

The following is the first chapter of a soon to be published book about the history of South Africa and the origins of Apartheid. The preface and Introduction were published in Volume 43, Issue #3 of this 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.

Helene Lewis 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.


What cannot be contained, mourned, and worked through in one generation is transmitted, for the most part unconsciously, as affect, mission, and task to the next generation.                                                                                                    Professor Vamik Volkan

A month after my return from the Little Karoo I was wandering around the campus of Stellenbosch University, thinking about my strange reaction to that Oudtshoorn poster, when I ran into Professor Bodley van der Westhuysen, former head of the university’s psychology department. The conversation that ensued changed my life.

I told Bodley I’d become obsessed with trying to understand why apparently ‘good’ Afrikaners like us had invented something as ugly as apartheid. It seemed to me that psychology was worthless unless it could offer diagnoses and healing to nations as well as individuals. I expected him to tell me I was naïve. Instead, he advised me to sign up for the University of Port Elizabeth’s doctoral program in Psycho-biography. I did and registered to do a dissertation titled ‘The Development of a Social Conscience amongst Afrikaners.’ The reaction from fellow Afrikaners was interesting. Their eyebrows would tilt and they’d say something skeptical like, “Oh, you’re going to get a lot of attention.” I took this as a veiled warning

I started by re-reading the pioneering work of American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987), whose work on moral reasoning had made a profound impression on me as a young student.

Kohlberg was born in Bronxville, New York. He served in the merchant Marine towards the end of World War II. For a while he worked on a ship, the Haganah, smuggling Jewish refugees from Romania through the British blockade into Palestine. He was captured by the British but managed to escape and returned to the States. This tangential brush with World War II and the Holocaust forced Kohlberg to start pondering some very deep questions, foremost of which was: what inspires us to commit atrocities against fellow human beings? He spent the rest of his life searching for answers. In 1958 he wrote a landmark dissertation on Moral Development. As he saw it, moral development passed through six stages during an individual’s lifetime. This process could, however, be arrested at any stage in its evolution, often by severe trauma, leading to a situation where the moral sense is numbed or blunted. When I read this, it seemed to offer the first clue to why my people had committed deeds that seemed at first glance to be irrational and immoral.

Post Civil War African American History: Brief Periods of Triumph, and Then Despair, Gilda Graff

Abstract: During Reconstruction, which is often called the most progressive period in American history, African Americans made great strides. By 1868 African American men constituted a majority of registered voters in South Carolina and Mississippi, and by 1870 eighty-five percent of Mississippi’s black jurors could read and write. However, Reconstruction was followed by approximately one hundred years of Jim Crow laws, lynching, disenfranchisement, sharecropping, unequal educational resources, terrorism, racial caricatures, and convict leasing. The Civil Rights Revolution finally ended that period of despair, but the era of mass incarceration can be understood as a reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. This article attempts to understand the persistence of racism in the United States from slavery’s end until the present.

Where Have All the Children Gone?, Dan Dervin, Ph.D.

Abstract: Despite declining infant-mortality rates and a cottage industry of publications devoted to improving parenting/childcare, birthrates in the U.S. and Western Europe continue to fall. But the present inquiry is directed less to the disappearance of actual children than to that more fragile and contested state of childhood. Changes in the spaces reserved for childhood might be compared to the erosion of Arctic ice due to climate change. In both, human factors play a contentious role. The examples cited below will show how children are susceptible not just to parental influences but also to other adults in the community and especially now to unprecedented cultural changes. How these transformations impact the evolution of parenting modes laid out by Lloyd deMause will be assessed in due course.

Sexual Trauma at the Salpetriere, Colin Ross

Abstract: Jean-Martin Charcot who studied hysteria at the Salpetriere hospital in Paris late in the nineteenth century is often portrayed as a great neurologist. According to standard accounts, his female hysterical patients imitated the seizures of epileptic patients at the Salpetriere in order to get attention because of their dramatic, self-centered natures. They were also prone to making false allegations of childhood sexual abuse. In fact, the so-called hysterical seizures were often abreactions of rapes. The patients commonly had extensive childhood sexual abuse histories, and sexual misconduct by doctors was endemic at the Salpetriere. The pathological counter-transference towards “hysterical women” at the Salpetriere has been repeated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in attitudes expressed towards dissociative identity disorder.


ABSTRACT: The American dream altered. In the 19th century, it was focused on male success in the marketplace. With the rise of the consumer culture, ideals changed. Women were brought in, as companionate marriage, home ownership, and a successful domestic life with children became central in American life. Since the mid-sixties, singer-songwriter Paul Simon has been writing songs reflecting these changes. He has two songs with America in the title, and is one of the few rock stars that write extensively about marriage and parenting. He also writes about love as romance, with a spouse, and towards offspring. Simon too composes songs about affluence, technology, and what brings happiness and joy. His work illuminates the United States in what he says is “the age’s most uncertain hour.” He believed that affluence was a key to our fulfillment. The changes in American life since the 1970s, show that much of what was held as ideal, has been through troubled times. We can gain insight into the fate of the American dream through Simon’s songs.



How do recent changes in the study of the past impact psychohistory? The very nature of what history covers is now being transformed. Until recently, historical writing has almost exclusively covered the period of literacy. As this includes only the last 5,000 years of our 300,000 years or so as a species, it leaves most of humanity’s existence outside of history’s purview. There is a recent approach called “Deep History,” which includes all the time there have been Homo Sapiens. “Big History,” another development, reaches from the big bang to the present.

I will review three books, which discuss these changes in the scope of history, and examine their implications for psychohistory.

The History Manifesto, Jo Guldi and David Armitage, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2014, 165 pages.

 Jo Guldi, and David Armitage, the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard are concerned not only with the familiar refrain that we know more and more about less and less, but that historians have been covering narrower periods and ignoring the larger picture. “We live in a moment of accelerating crisis that is characterized by the shortage of long-term thinking” (1).   This includes corporations focusing on quarterly profits, and public officials preoccupied with the next election. Among historians, the authors tell us, between 1900 and 1975, doctoral dissertations in these United States covered about seventy-five years. By 1975, it averaged 30 years, and this shorter period covered lasted until 2005, and since then the range has increased.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,Yuval Noah Harari, New York: Harper Collins, 2015, 443 pages.

Historians also have long focused on global history, and this usually remains within the period of written records. Deep History goes much farther back, and could not have developed the necessary knowledge base without the findings of scholars from other disciplines. One of the more recent forays into this arena is Yuval Noah Harari’s 2015 translation of his own Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Originally published in Hebrew, this volume has been translated into twenty-six languages and reached the bestseller list in Europe and Asia. Harari gives a brief nod to Big History by starting with the Big Bang, still his main thesis concerns Homo Sapiens. He sees three major revolutions in human existence: the cognitive, agricultural, and scientific. The first, Harari says began about seventy thousand years ago ….

Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History,David Christian,  Berkeley: University of California Press,2011. 642 pages.

Christian begins by showing that the universe itself has a history, as the world has a beginning, a middle, and is still expanding. He points out that Homo sapiens are part of a primate group known as hominoids, who originated about twenty-five million years ago.   There were predecessors among the hominoids, but only we have survived. Humans he says have shown the capacity to “develop new ecological tricks” that are innovative. “Our challenge is to explain, how, when, and why human beings acquired their new level of ecological creativity” (145). Among the clues to this understanding, Christian maintains, is that the brains of our predecessors started getting much larger about 500,000 years ago, and afterwards symbolic language appeared. These are the pre-conditions for our astounding creativity. This creativity is both individual and cultural. Christian maintains that “collective learning is the most important distinguishing feature of human history” (182). A prime example of learning as a collective enterprise is how symbolic writing developed, with the first alphabets appearing in Phoenician cities in the eastern Mediterranean around four thousand years ago (276).


America on the Couch: Psychological Perspectives on American Politics and Culture, Pythia Peay, New York: Lantern Books, 2015, xxiii + 593 pages, $35.00. Reviewed by Stephen Juan

Over the course of 20 years, Psychology Today journalist Pythia Peay interviewed 40 noted psychologists on the topics of “Violence in America”, “Addicted America”, “America’s Vanishing Environment”, “A Poverty of Meaning: Capitalism and Consumerism”, “Politics, Presidents, Power, and Polarization”, and “The Soul of America: These Are the Times that Try Men’s Souls”. The interviews are presented in this book prefaced by a short introduction by the author. Readers of the Journal may find the interviews interesting as a window on aspects of contemporary psychological thought in 1995 to 2015 even if the form and depth of the interviews are a bit too Psychology Today-like for the taste of academic psychohistorians. Bringing a self-described Jungian perspective to her book, Peay writes that

[r]eaders will find in this book two repeating themes: the need for more connection, relationships, and community to offset what many thinkers see as the culture’s exaggerated emphasis on individualism; and equally as important, the vital necessity to pay less attention to the demands of our outer lives, in order to give more serious reflection to our inner, subjective, feeling, emotional states (p. xviii).

In “Violence in America”, Robert Jay Lifton examines “the symbolism of the gun and our pioneer origins, America’s unaddressed guilt around Hiroshima, and the psychological implications of our role as the first country to use the atomic bomb”. Charles Strozier discusses “the lingering trauma of 9/11 on the nation’s psyche, how hidden end-of-the-world fears rooted in Biblical beliefs around the apocalypse (sic) shaped our response to that event, and the rise of a ‘new’ American violence”.