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09/19/2019, 04:53, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH




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(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)

Brexit Q&A with Susie Orbach

Author: Susie Orbach / Sabrina Zehetner (TVP)

(03/06/2019)
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Thank you for giving the psychoanalytic community outside of Britain the opportunity to ask questions related to Brexit – a topic that many people across the globe, and especially fellow Europeans, follow with a great deal of interest.


Britain’s decision to leave the European Union came as a great surprise to many Europeans - Were the British surprised by the referendum’s result?

Susie Orbach: Yes, I think the results were a huge surprise on both sides. Certainly when Cameron decided to call a referendum to quieten his right wing, he never expected to lose. If you look at the faces of Gove and Johnson they are stunned by the result.


How would you describe the current state of Britain’s identity/self-image and how would Britain like to be perceived by the rest of the world? Can psychoanalysis help us understand a nation´s identity (crisis)?

Susie Orbach: I think the issue is that there isn’t one identity. There are competing identities to do with class, region, politics, age, ethnicity. I think the Brexiteers wish to appear strong but in reality, we are a laughing stock.
In our current world, we have reduced to splitting when faced with difficulty. Complexity degenerates into binary thinking of good and bad and psychoanalysis obviously has a lot to say about those mechanisms.


Do you think that Brexit is partly the result of a type of mass hysteria triggered by a small group of populists?

Susie Orbach: Would I call it mass hysteria? NO. I don’t think so. I think Brexit was the result of mendacity and political shenanigans, which then played on issues of exclusion and racism.


Why is Britain’s relationship with continental Europe still fraught with ambiguity?

Susie Orbach: Britain has never settled into a post imperial social democratic moment. It tried to but it has been opportunist in relation to Europe. It likes to remind us of the ´golden´ days when we ruled the world. At the same time, Thatcher and Cameron were always telling us how they were fighting Europe. That is a strange way to cooperate in an economic and social union.
One commentator, Anthony Barnett says that the UK saw Europe as a way to regain UK power via the EU not to be part of something.


Some political commentators have used Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” as an analogue for Brexit - Would you agree with them?

Susie Orbach: That doesn´t really speak to me.


Can the refusal to hold a second referendum be interpreted as an act of defiance, an emotional rather than a rational decision?

Susie Orbach: I am puzzled why it has been so difficult for our political leaders to do leadership, which is what has been required and call for a second referendum which seems to me would make a lot of sense. They appear so weak and frightened.


What do you predict will happen when Brexit´s divorce deal is finally sealed, and the populists lose the EU as their main target?

Susie Orbach: What a good question. The sad answer is to make divisions in the UK based on race and ethnicity.


Is Brexit being discussed in the British psychoanalytic community?

Susie Orbach: Yes, there was a meeting at the Tavistock last month.


Have your patients’ concerns regarding Brexit changed now that the end of the divorce is in sight? What type of mental health issues will people have to deal with post-Brexit?

Susie Orbach: This emphasis on feeling states was developed in several of his (Freud) papers and created a link between classical drive theories and object relations theories.
In terms of technique, he emphasized the importance of allowing the psychoanalytic process to take place without prematurely interpreting the transference, either positive or negative, in a way that would impede its unfolding. Sandler slowly developed a theory of technique that had a profound effect on all the groups in the British Society. He emphasized the importance of giving a balanced interpretation to patients that incorporated both aspects of their conflicts.



Dr. Susie Orbach is a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist with a practice seeing individuals and couples and, also, consulting to organisations.  She co-founded The Women’s Therapy Centre in London in 1976 and The Women’s Therapy Center Institute in New York City in 1981. For ten years, she served as Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis and Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the University of London. She is the recipient of many honorary doctorates and has lectured and has supervised in Australia, New Zealand, North America, Europe, Brazil, Peru, India, and China.


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