Freud in the Antipodes : A cultural history of psychoanalysis in Australia
These are relatiuely new theories, of course, and to what
degree they will proue worthy of acceptance must be decided as time goes on.
‘Psychoanalysis’, noted the Melbourne analyst Frank Graham in 1967, no matter where, always arouses interest, friendly or hostile … rarely is it ignored altogether’. In Australia, as in many Western countries throughout the twentieth century, Freudian ideas have been alternately hailed as holding the key to understanding modern civilisation, and dismissed as fraudulent nonsense. Yet, despite ongoing controversies regarding their veracity, many of the concepts Freud developed relating to trauma, repression, defences, the unconscious, the Oedipus complex, projection and displacement have not only endured but have provided the very framework through which Australians have come to understand their own version of the Western self’ at the juncture of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Psychoanalysis – the body of thought which brings Freudian ideas into a coherent theory -differs from other theories of the self because it takes the unconscious as its key organising principle. Unlike psychology, which is concerned with the conscious world and aspects of socialisation, psychoanalysis privileges the life of the unconscious as the way to understanding psychic life.
This book is a history of Freudian ideas in Australia and, as such, it is an attempt to fill the gap in the history of the practice and ideas of psychoanalytical thought. It is also a way of adding a further dimension to our understanding of the complexity of cultural life and the history of ideas in Australian society. While some aspects of this book have been the subject of several short studies by both historians and psychoanalysts, this is the first time a cultural history of psychoanalysis in Australia has been written in its own right.
Although Freud has never been a dominant force here as he has been in many other countries, his theories have permeated aspects of cultural life and to some extent clinical practice. I argue that there is a little known, yet important, story to tell about the influence of psychoanalysis in this country, especially in intellectual circles and within sections of the medical profession.
So why is this a significant story? A key underlying aim of this history is to challenge assumptions that Australian intellectuals and Australian culture in general have not embraced questions of inner life through psychoanalytic understandings. Australia is often constructed as a land of pleasure and opportunity: symbolised by the beach’ -synonymous with unreflective hedonism6 – and populated by Australian males who value independence and individualism, negate emotion and self-expression and have no care other than for immediate, material concerns. But. despite the stereotypes, this does not mean there have not been efforts to explore interiority through psychoanalytic frameworks.
While historians have interrogated the mythical images of the national type’ to illuminate the class, gendered and racialised assumptions which inform the image of the larrikin, the noble bushman, and bohemian intellectual, they have not taken into account material which suggests that Australianness’ embodies a psychological as well as a cultural dimension. This study will consider how Australians have reflected on the diversity, complexity and depth of their emotional lives through the insights and methods that psychoanalysis has to offer.
1 Seeing is believing: Victorians and insanity
2 ‘I can speak if the listener will be patient’: Listening to the shell-shocked
3 ‘Do I really get better by just talking?’: The auditory self in the age of modernity
4 Psychoanalysis and intellectuals
6 Shaping the child
7 The War of Specialists
8 ’Europe’s loss is Australia’s gain’: The advent of institutes of psychoanalysis in Australia 1940s and 1950s
9 War. Freud and art
10 The self and society: 1950s and 1960s
11 In and out of the asylums
12 The politics of the self and consciousness raising: Women’s liberation and Freud
13 Recent psychoanalytic thought and practice Conclusion: Listening in the age of drugs