Psychoanalysis in Persia

By Shafti, Saeed Shoja | American Journal of Psychotherapy, October 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Psychoanalysis in Persia

Shafti, Saeed Shoja, American Journal of Psychotherapy

Dear Editor,

Psychotherapy as a non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention plays an important role in mental heath, and its various approaches makes it appropriate for people of differing cultures, subcultures, intelligence, inclinations or potentials.

But there is a type of psychotherapy that holds hidden barriers, preventing theoretical discussions about it and the diffuse use of it in traditional, conservative cultures, such as Iran, that are not yet prepared to discuss openly interpersonal relationships, personal fantasies, unconscious motivations and ideals. Although there are some psychotherapies in which the characteristic traditionalism of these cultures may be integrated, in this paper I focus on the difficulties surrounding the adoption of psychoanalysis and it's derivative methods, such psychoanalytic and short-term psychotherapy, in Iran.

Why have there been such obstacles in applying psychoanalysis in traditional societies? First, psychoanalysis has a theoretical structure that is nearly unacceptable to most of the practitioners brought up in the context of a society that favors its own culture. These therapists prefer to study in secret theses that are in opposition to widely held opinions and traditions. second, there is little support from senior advisors or educators, who often are more comfortable with existing standards of practice.

In recent centuries, scientific discoveries have moved mainly from west to east, and it is the foreign aspects of psychoanalysis that play an important role in its slow integration into practice in Iran. The elements necessary for elaborating on these scientific concepts and innovations are not established in Iranian society, and it is difficult for these foreign inventions to influence long-held customs.

In traditional societies, the adoption of foreign scientific concepts is directly influenced by its perceived acceptability to the public and cultural dictates. This is particularly the case when there seem to be no immediate, remarkable benefits or solutions attributable to the new concepts. Further, in developing countries many people are involved in fulfilling basic needs and satisfying self-preservation. In such societies mental health, although important from a clinical and therapeutic perspective, is not regarded as a priority, and its appropriate position has not been identified clearly. In such a societal framework, cultural beliefs easily inhibit opinions that shake old traditions and totems or break taboos, even if the opinions present themselves in the guise of science.

Oedipus complex, castration complex, transference phenomenon, unconscious object relations, infantile sexual process, psychosexual development, division of instincts into the sexual and aggressive, Eros and Thanatus, and so on, are themes that conflict with extreme conservative perspectives. The main imputations against psychoanalysis are that it spreads incestuous, impious beliefs and encourages sexual liberties (Freud, 1905; Freud 1910). In addition, the perception that psychoanalysis has a materialistic profile and alienates spirituality hinders its easy acceptance. Expressions in the early psychoanalytic literature, for example, "Freud's Future of an Illusion, Totem and Taboo," and "Moses and Monotheism," draw a mask of paganism on the clinical and scientific foundations of psychoanalysis. This view is not associated with other modes of psychotherapy. The use of therapies that are separated from a "philosophy," such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, and therapeutic modes that have a "magical" element, such as hypnosis, which provide an easy prompting of spiritual beliefs, are encouraged.

Understanding and accepting the metaphors of psychoanalysis require education, elasticity in the ability to reflect, and a mind open for permitting their consolidation as scientific inputs before they can be accepted into a firm and structured conviction. Considering the difficulties encountered in changing traditionalist viewpoints, we can now appreciate the great efforts expended by Sigmund Freud in establishing his findings in the world of the last century. …

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