Lionel has been rector of his poor inner city London parish for a long time.  He is a compassionate man, who offers support and pastoral care to his parishioners,  visits hospitals and prisons and is a good shepherd to his flock,  but Lionel’s  faith is slipping.   This is reported to Charlie, Bishop of Southwark, who urges him to express his  true faith in the liturgy.  ‘It’s not so much what you believe’,  he asserts, ‘as what you are seen to believe’; the Christian ritual is clearly more important than pastoral care.   Lionel and his friends have quietly ignored this while paying lip service to it.  Donald ‘Streaky’ Bacon, cannot see what all the fuss is about.  He glories in God’s natural world and can’t be doing with the dogma.  Things come to a head when the newly ordained Tony, who has discovered  his evangelistic zeal and rejected his much more realistic relationship with his perceptive girl friend, persuades one of Lionel’s practitioners to leave her husband.  In the meantime, Harry’s live-in relationship with Ewan has got into the Sunday papers.  But it’s Lionel, who the Bishop, furious at the ordination of women, is after.   He may succeed in the short term, but change is inevitable.        

David Hare’s play reminds me of recent deliberations of the future of British psychoanalysis.  Are those trained in the dark arts a  loose philosophical conglomeration of curious and reflective individuals driven by a desire to understand and make sense of our collective existence in order to help their clients or are they  constitutionally bound to uphold the belief and values of a particular dogma, to practice the ritual, intone the liturgy.  Is is there any difference between the psychoanalytical institutions and certain Christian sects or even the Orwellian ‘Thought Police’?  The threat of Big  Brother is ever present.  Dare to express a different opinion and you could be excommunicated.      

The difficulty is that however much we may try to maintain the faith, however much we may fear change, we can’t stop it happening.  If we are going to survive, we have to adapt.  Psychoanalysis is very different than it was in the 1930s; beliefs, attitudes, forms of communication, the structure and even the existence of the family are all different.  We are all divided from our children by time and change. 

Psychotherapy has become more accountable, more measurable; like it or loathe it, most therapists and counsellors are practicing a modified form of cognitive behavioural therapy.  Like the tribes of Papua New Guinea, the culture of psychoanalysis is not so much dying but being assimilated into more generic forms of psychotherapy.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.   I believe that psychoanalytically inclined psychotherapists should communicate and work with the new breed of counsellors and psychotherapists and lend their considerable insight to bring about an evolution of thought and practice?   

But isn’t that what’s happening?  How many psychoanalytical psychotherapists practice a pure form of psychoanalysis?  Haven’t we all found in various ways that we have had to develop our own eclectic blend of practices?  Isn’t this what education is about?  We learn a method and then adapt it according to the environment in which we work.   Our training provides a way of thinking that we cannot ignore, but doesn’t this create opportunities to cross pollinate and produce more robust cultivars?  Shouldn’t we embrace and be as curious about the new influences as we are about the old doctrines?  The question for all refective beings is how we can create the sort of integrative, lively meeting of minds from which we can grow.  Were Sigmund Freud still alive, I don’t think he would cling to the ideas he had a century ago.  He always tried to move with the times. 

Racing Demons has been one of three plays in the recent David Hare season in Sheffield.  The Cameron government is seeking to regulate  psychotherapy as a discipline under the Health Professions Council.    

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