Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Ethnic Chinese Societies: New Developments1

Article excerpt

Many professionals, intellectuals, and politicians expectantly await the awakening of the 'sleeping giant', as Napoleon once referred to China. Members of the psychoanalytic movement appreciate how difficult will be the task of introducing and developing our science in that country, and this panel was organized to give initial perspectives. Before inviting the panelists to present, the moderator, with practical experience since 1995 of working in the People's Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong and Taiwan, remarked that 2005 represents the 10th anniversary of the IPA starting operations in the PRC, which have knock-on effects throughout the region. Psychoanalysis is a cross-cultural discipline whose international discourse and practice face new challenges in ethnic Chinese societies. Although much research is required into these new encounters and developments, psychoanalysis will never lose its unique and metaphorical identity. This is one of the discipline's creative convergences and motive of inspiration for the Chinese thinking.

Alf Gerlach presented the paper 'Psychoanalysis, an inspiration for Chinese culture?' Until the beginning of the 1990s, psychotherapeutic methods used in the PRC were oriented to behavioral therapy or supportive techniques. The techniques were based on traditional Chinese models, which exclude disclosures about one's own feelings and thoughts to a stranger as well as openness to sexual desire. These cultural patterns are more oriented to conflicts of shame than to feelings of guilt and impede the adoption of insight-oriented psychotherapy.

First, Gerlach discussed psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in pre-revolutionary China. Western medicine was first introduced in the 19th century by Christian missionaries, the first psychiatric clinic opening in Canton in 1898. In 1935-9, Dr. Bingham Dai, a psychiatrist born in China and psychoanalytically trained in the USA, worked at the Peking Union Medical College, but was forced to emigrate to the USA after the Japanese occupation. Adolf J. Storfer, a member of the Viennese Psychoanalytical Society, who had escaped to Shanghai from Nazi persecution, started to publish the Gelbe Post, a German-language journal, but he too emigrated in 1939 due to the occupation. In the period 1920-49, Freud's ideas, which were interpreted as attempts to explain upheavals in society and the discomfort of man with culture, became widely accepted in philosophy, literature, and criticism.

Second, Gerlach referred to the reception of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in the PRC, founded in 1949. Initially the revolution caused drug abuse to disappear, prevention being the main goal. Psychiatry was oriented towards dialectical materialism and to Pavlov's ideas. From the start of the Cultural Revolution until 1976, Western psychiatric methods were radically rejected. The opening of the country to the West, which began in the early 1980s, brought a rush of several psychotherapeutic trends. In the 1990s, a continuous advanced teaching and training program of the Chinese-German Academy for Psychotherapy was set up (1997-9), providing psychodynamic courses in Shanghai for professionals from all over the PRC. Meanwhile, the moderator had been teaching and training professionals in several Chinese cities, including Beijing, and was followed by other analysts.

Finally, Gerlach reviewed his experience with Chinese patients both in Germany and in the PRC, where therapies of five-weekly sessions to participants of the German courses are given, with supervision and case-report study, giving a picture markedly different from that of the 1990s. He emphasized that psychoanalysis is able to provide ideas both in the context of its clinical application as a psychotherapeutic technique and for Chinese intellectual life.

Jung-Yu Tsai, as a representative of the Taiwan Center for the Development of Psychoanalysis (TCDP), then presented 'Contemporary psychoanalysis in ethnic Chinese societies: New developments in Taiwan'. …