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Psychoanalysis and society

 

Disciplines > Psychoanalysis > Articles > Psychoanalysis and society

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Within any society there is a shared unconscious dynamic.

The psyche of a society has been described as emanating from its leaders and hence infecting their followers with not only goals and values but also disorders and dysfunctions.

Much of our sense of identity comes from the people with whom we associate and exist as we constantly socially reconstruct our selves.

Discussion

Institutions

Goffman (1961) examined the socialization of people entering asylums. An asylum is a bounded field, making it a conveniently contained and separate unit of study. that can tell us something of wider social systems. He identified how the institution is constituted in three elements that provide an exaggerated system of control:

  • An overall rational system and authority that connects the separate phases of sleeping, eating, work and play, thus providing stability, cohesion and meaning.

  • Each phase is carried out in the company of others who are treated alike, thus validating the rules and treatment through fairness and conformance.

  • All phases are tightly scheduled, again offering predictability and reinforcing control.

Goffman sees life as a struggle between the inner 'I' and the outer-defined 'me' (as with the Psychoanalytic tensions between inner and outer worlds). As a social interactionist, he was particularly concerned with the social 'me' that performs as an actor, projecting an image to others.

A common form of institutional control is through manipulation of the inmate's self-image, where the former self-image is attacked and modified through such methods as defacement that changes physical appearance and the mortification of attacks on the self, much as is used in conversion techniques.

Institutional carers may replace the mother and without good-enough acceptance and support may further damage and cause repression of any deviant tendencies.

Such methods of control may miss the further aspects of the self that may see, reflect on and respond to these methods. In their structuralist views, man is created as a deterministic machine that may be perfectly controlled, both on the outside and hence on the inside. As in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', the 'I' is still alive and inmates may yet think for themselves.

See also

Goffman, (1961). Asylums,

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