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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM23-PP3: Community Psychoanalysis: An Introduction to an Emergent Paradigm in American Psychoanalysis

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Parallel Papers Session 1

Friday 30 June 13.30pm-14.45 SAST - ONLINE
Paper Code: PP3

Community Psychoanalysis: An Introduction to an Emergent Paradigm in American Psychoanalysis

Presenters: George Bermudez, Ph.D., Psy.D.


The emergence in American Psychoanalysis of the Community Psychoanalysis paradigm proposes a path toward the dismantling of disciplinary and communal walls. Can it be the future of psychoanalysis as Twemlow & Parens (2006) rhetorically inquired in their seminal article in the journal, Psychoanalytic Psychology? This presentation proposes that the paradigm may be the integrative path forward with which psychoanalysis can contribute robustly to multidisciplinary strategies to addressing the multivalent “wicked problems” (Kreuter et al, 2004), which are challenging our global communities.

The Community Psychoanalysis paradigm, integrated with systems psychodynamics, is analogous to the bioecological systems perspective outlined by Brofenbrenner (Bronfenbrenner & Evans, 2000). It is a potentially comprehensive paradigm —a biopsychosocial-spiritual perspective—which seeks to go beyond the “depressive position” to a “spiritual position” : a paradigm which is aligned with Africanist values, epistemology, and ontology in which. “….the human condition as well as spiritual life is founded on the ethics of mutuality, interdependency and cooperation, and trust and humility.” (Nwoye, 2017, p.17)

Community Psychoanalyst Francisco Gonzalez advocates for a more expansive and inclusive paradigm –a “community psychoanalysis”: “The established order has been wracked by tectonic forces—globalization, convulsive capitalism, climate change, unprecedented migrations, technological accelerations.” At a keynote speech (2019, Division of Psychoanalysis Conference, American Psychological Association), Dr. Gonzalez expanded his vision and articulated a call, in response to our global crises (moral, socio-political, and environmental), for social justice, advocacy, and community building, which would mean a radically transformative socio-centric turn and application of psychoanalytic principles.

The Community Psychoanalysis paradigm proposes proposes an integrative path forward with which psychoanalysis can contribute robustly to multidisciplinary (multi-systemic, multi-theoretical, and multicultural) strategies to addressing the multivalent “wicked problems”, which are challenging our global and indigenous communities.

“Wicked problems” have no definitive formulation: problems which in a seemingly infinite regress are symptoms of other problems; problems which involve multiple stakeholders who like the proverbial blind men and the elephant have divergent and often incommensurable perceptions of the problem and its causes; problems which generate attempted solutions which in turn generate unintended consequences and new problems; problems with no objective right or wrong , requiring reliance on human judgment, subjectivity, and collective wisdom.

In addition to summarizing the theory and practice of “community psychoanalysis”, the presentation will provide examples of application in collaboration with and respect for communities and describe contemporary expansions of the paradigm:

  • Social Dreaming” : focused explorations of the social unconscious [American Xenophobia; Whiteness; Religion; and Climate/Biospheric Emergency ;
  • Open Space , inspired by African communal organization ; and
  • “Future Search”, a potential process of “Deliberative Democracy”.

Biographical Summary

George Bermudez, Ph.D., Psy.D. is a Psychologist/Psychoanalyst, Training & Supervising Psycho-analyst, at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis-Los Angeles; Director of the Child /Family Studies Specialization at Antioch University-Los Angeles (AULA). Dr. Bermudez has pre-sented on social dreaming, the social unconscious, and collective trauma at regional, national, and international professional conferences. Author of the article, “The Social Dreaming Matrix as a Container for the Processing of Implicit Racial Bias and Collective Racial Trauma” (Inter-national Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 2018), Dr. Bermudez is developing a synthesis of social dreaming and community psychoanalysis that contributes to the engendering of reflec-tive citizenship and the emergence of an inclusive and “deliberative democracy”.