A Society on the Run: A Psychology of Northern Ireland

A Society on the Run: A Psychology of Northern Ireland

A Society on the Run: A Psychology of Northern Ireland

A Society on the Run: A Psychology of Northern Ireland

Excerpt

Life 'on the run' has been a common feature of existence for the ordinary person in Ireland during the past one hundred and fifty years. At various periods of Irish history one or another class of people survived as a class through living on the run, but Ireland in the 1970s has become a society in which persons of all strata, classes and conditions are existing on the run. This commonality becomes apparent in the clinical study of individuals and the social psychological study of groups, particularly in Northern Ireland. Some of the data obtained through studies of individuals and groups in the Irish Republic suggest that the syndrome is not entirely absent from that part of the island.

Being on the run means, for the individual, that one's own identity is in danger. It means that it is impossible to 'be yourself'; impossible to relate in any consistent fashion with those closest to you; impossible to sleep in the same bed more than a couple of nights in a row, nor traverse the same streets without dread. It means experiencing a constant fear of being 'discovered' for what you are and who you are. There is a feeling of guilt, of course -- either the guilt of knowing that one has done something for which punishment of one or another sort is customary, or guilt for having wanted to do something punishable or being believed by others to have done something against the law. The fear itself is not paralyzing. It is a screen through which everything else is perceived in a skewed perspective, because the constant need for self protection makes various details magnified or diminished. The fear approaches the circumstances of dread rather than anxiety. It is not a formless ambiguity: it is a recognition of the painful prospect of torture, of dishonour as the prospective reality of one's own flesh.

In contrast to other frenetic modern societies, often described as being 'constantly on the go or on the run', this syndrome in contemporary Northern Ireland does not entail . . .

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