1st Edition

Psychoanalysis in Social and Cultural Settings Upheavals and Resilience

By Sverre Varvin Copyright 2022
    286 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    286 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Psychoanalysis in Social and Cultural Settings examines the theory and practice of psychoanalysis with patients who have experienced deeply traumatic experiences through war, forced migrations, atrocities and other social and cultural dislocations.

    The book is divided into three main sections covering terrorism, refugees and traumatisation, with another two focusing specifically on transcultural issues regarding establishing psychoanalysis in China and on research related to themes outlined in the book. Major key psychoanalytic themes run through the work, focusing on identity and the self, fundamentalism, resilience, dehumanisation, cultural differences and enactment.

    Offering key theory and clinical guidance for working with highly traumatised patients, this book will be essential for all psychoanalysts and therapists working with victims of terrorism, war and other deeply traumatic life events.

    Part I: Social terror

    1. Terror and Mourning in Norway
    Sverre Varvin

    2. Psychoanalysis and the situation of refugees: A human rights perspective
    Sverre Varvin

    3. Genocide and ethnic cleansing: Psychoanalytic and social-psychological viewpoints
    Sverre Varvin

    4. Humiliation and the victim identity in conditions of political and violent conflict
    Sverre Varvin

    5. Fundamentalist mindset
    Sverre Varvin

    Part II: The situation of refugees: The enigma of traumatisation

    6. Our relations to refugees: Between compassion and dehumanisation
    Sverre Varvin

    7. The present past: Extreme traumatisation and psychotherapy
    Sverre Varvin

    8. The influence of extreme traumatization on body, mind and social relations
    Bent Rosenbaum and Sverre Varvin

    9. Psychoanalysis with the traumatised patient: Helping to survive extreme experiences and complicated loss
    Sverre Varvin

    Part III: Research

    10. When dreaming doesn't work: Traumatic dreams, anxiety and the capacity to symbolise
    Sverre Varvin, Vladimir Jović, Bent Rosenbaum, Stephan Hau

    11. "The essay method": A qualitative method for studying therapeutic dialogues
    Sverre Varvin

    Part IV: Psychoanalysis in China: A transformative dialogue

    12. "Yu Hua: A narrator of Chinese recent history"
    Sverre Varvin

    13. Western-Eastern differences in habits and ways of thinking: The influence on understanding, and teaching psychoanalytic therapy
    Sverre Varvin and Bent Rosenbaum


    Sverre Varvin is a training analyst at the Norwegian Psychoanalytic Society and professor emeritus at Oslo Metropolitan University. He has extensive experience in research and clinical work with severely traumatised people. He is a leading person in the development of psychoanalytic therapy in China as chair of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) China Committee.

    "For our demographically shifting world --- marred by widespread xenophobia, rise of religious fundamentalism, bouts of 'ethnic cleansing' , and messianic sadism----Sverre Varvin's book is a shining light of considered optimism. Varvin has decades of experience in working with refugees and his clinical work and research extends to culturally diverse global settings. His voice is one of reason and wisdom. Far from a pollyannish whitewash, his views offer a thoughtful and nuanced , if sobering, commentary on what we know about human cruelty and massive trauma, what we do not yet know, and where we need to go in the future to look for more answers. This is a conceptually profound and strategically useful contribution of great contemporary importance."

    ~Salman Akhtar, Jefferson Medical College, USA

    "It would be hard to think of a book that is more prescient, more relevant to the painful and complex issues we face in contemporary world. Sverre Varvin has combined passionate commitment with a searching intellectual gaze to cast a unique light on the malaise of social terror. Starting with Norwegian massacre of 2011, he moves on to discuss genocide, the institutionalisation of hatred of the other, the world refugees crisis probing our ambivalent attitude to refugees. We are also provided with a moving and detailed account of the work of Varvin and his colleagues with individuals suffering from massive trauma. Throughout the book, draws on psychoanalytic understanding showing just how this enriches and deepens our engagement with this complex subject."

    ~David Bell, British Psychoanalytic Society, UK

    "Sverre Varvin, thanks to his recognized long experience, as a clinician and a researcher in the field of Human Rights, Terror and Trauma, engaged for many years in the China Committee of the International Psychoanalytic Association, is a pioneer, an expert and an institutionally acknowledged leading figure regarding these topics. This book presents a fascinating and absolutely coherent exploration of the psycho-social tragedies affecting the contemporary human context all over the world, observed and reconsidered under the very special viewpoint of Psychoanalysis."

    ~Stefano Bolognini, International Psychoanalytical Association, UK

    "Sverre Varvin has for many years been the political-social conscience of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalyst who has done more, clinically and programmatically, for victims of political and racial-ethnic violence, in his home country of Norway and throughout the world. In this riveting book, required reading for every clinician, Varvin describes his work in helping victims and the traumatic, tragic consequences of victimization, as well as the individual and group psychology of the terrorist, torturer, and humiliator. An extraordinary contribution!"

    ~Nancy J Chodorow, Author, The Psychoanalytic Ear and the Sociological Eye; book festschrift, Nancy Chodorow and the Reproduction of Mothering: 40 Years On

    "Sverre Varvin offers us the best we may expect from a friend, a book, a summary of the best of his thought, for which we can only be grateful. Dr. Varvin is an experienced clinician and researcher, active on the International Psychoanalytical Association board, militant in human rights causes, and an untiring disseminator of psychoanalysis in diverse cultures such as China. His reflections signal interdisciplinarity in the field of humanities, with specific focus on some of the most perturbing symptoms of our times: refugees and contemporary forms of genocide. We will gain in-depth insight into the contribution made by psychoanalysis and a broad philosophical, cultural, social and economic retrospective of these questions without which psychoanalysis would retreat into a reductionism unfortunately common in analytical groups. The grandeur of his thought will be evident in his reflections on the arrival of psychoanalysis in China and the challenge that other cultures pose for our European habits. Similarly, the perplexity of analytical method which is so challenging in the field of culture and the human sciences will also be revisited, as will the challenge that other cultures pose to our Eurocentric vision. In addition to the interest practitioners of psychoanalysis might have in these subjects, this book will appeal to anyone concerned with the humanities. The style is highly agreeable, making the book difficult to put down. At the end, we inevitably gain in height. Who could ask for more?"

    ~Leopold Nosek. Psychoanalyst, Sao Paulo. Former President of SBPSP (Brazilian Psychoanalysis Society of São Paulo), FEBRAPSI (Brazilian Federation of Psychoanalysis) and FEPAL (Latin American Psychoanalytical Federation). Former member of IPA board. Resipient of Sigourney award, 2014.

    "This book is written by a psychoanalyst who treated his patients including traumatized refugees in his consulting room and who also participated in practical world with Human Rights work. He spent decades trying to find answers to what makes a person develop malignant prejudice against other individuals, societies or religions or become a killer and even participate in genocides. The author demonstrates that if atrocities are not worked through in the consulting room and in society at large they will be repeated and will lead to devastating events. The reader learns how trauma causes disturbances in mentalization. Dealing with this issue in the therapeutic setting is described with moving case examples. The last part of this book builds on the author’s experiences in supervising several hundred Chinese therapists for 20 years beginning in 2002. This section details the need for help with widespread human suffering and also allows us to note how cultural, historical and religious elements are linked to human psychology. This book makes extremely important contributions to psychoanalytic theories and treatment issues, but it should be read by anyone who is interested in understanding the aggressive aspects of human nature and who wishes to collect background information about today’s societal divisions, war-like situations and collective traumas."

    ~Vamık VolkanUniversity of Virginia, USA

    "This book is a crystallization from author’s accumulation of over 20 years clinical works, especially for the refugees, and the research on traumatization. Reading this book is not only learning psychoanalytic theory and techniques, but also being touched as a human being."

    ~Yunping Yang, China