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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

May 2, 2021

"I started to notice that the very things that I was seeing in patients on the couch were occurring at a much greater macro level in society - the issues of disavowal, of exceptionalism, of abandoning reality if it means that you have to give something up. That is why I got so interested in the subject as an analyst because I thought: We have something to say about what is happening in the world."  


Episode Description: We discuss the differing states of mind with which the climate crisis is currently being viewed. One assumption is built on exceptionalism with its characteristic omnipotence of thought, idealization, and denial of separateness. The other is object-related with its recognition of fragility, mourning, and the potential for joy. 

We consider the implications of applying insights from the couch to the culture. We appreciate the importance of 'lively entitlement' as contrasted with its narcissistic version and how that liveliness invigorates so many of our passions. We review case material, the recognition of both manifest and latent levels of meaning, and the role of 'therapeutic activism'. We conclude with learning a bit about Sally's early years and its role in her current dedication. 


Our Guest: Sally WeintrobeBScHons, Chartered Clin. Psychol., a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytic Society, and chair of the International Psychoanalytic Association's Climate Committee. Formerly she was a member of senior staff at the Tavistock Clinic, Hon Senior Lecturer at the Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London and she Chaired the Scientific Committee of the British Psychoanalytic Society. Her published areas of interest are entitlement attitudes and their relationship to grievance and complaint, prejudice, our relationship to nature and psychoanalytic reflections on the climate crisis. She is one of the 31 Global Commissioners from different disciplines for the (2021) Cambridge Sustainability Report. She edited and contributed to (2012) Engaging with Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, New Library of Psychoanalysis. 

Her new book is (2021) Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare, published by Bloomsbury. 



Recommended Readings: 

Psychoanalytic and Psychosocial Perspectives on the Climate CrisisHoggett, P. (2012).  

Climate Change in a Perverse Culture. In S. Weintrobe (Ed.), Engaging with Climate Change: Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. London: New Library of Psychoanalysis and Routledge. 


Orange, D. (2017). Climate Change, Psychoanalysis and Radical Ethics. Oxford: Routledge. 


Randall, R. (2012). Great Expectations: The Psychodynamics of Ecological Debt. In S. Weintrobe (Ed.). op cit. 


Searles, H. F. (1972). Unconscious Processes in Relation to the Environmental Crisis. Psychoanal. Rev., 59 (3): 361–74. 


General Background to the Climate Crisis. Higgins, P. (2015). Eradicating Ecocide. London: Shepheard Walwyn. 


Klein, N. (2019). On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal. London: Penguin. 


Nixon, R. (2011). Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 


Raworth, K. (2017). Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. London: Penguin. 


Thunberg, G. (2019). No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference. London: Penguin. 

Wallace-Wells, D. (2019). The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future. London: Penguin.