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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021



Defenses and Discontents: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Emerging Technologies.

Presenter: Mike Langlois

One hallmark of civilization is the use and advancement of technology. Technology can be used to amplify ego defenses, but can also be seen as drive derivatives. A psychoanalytic perspective on emerging technology, which one could argue is one technology looking upon another, requires us to regard how social media, AI, video games & other newer technologies interact with human psyches and the social milieu within which they develop. Drawing from Freud (1930), Bion (1959), Harari (2015), and others, this paper aims to examine how certain aspects of technology such as filters, tagging and curation/aggregation may parallel defenses such as repression, reaction formation, and sublimation, among others.

At the same time, technology may amplify and raise to consciousness seemingly irreconcilable differences and force individuals to locate themselves in binaries and conflicts that civilizations/colonizations struggle with, i.e. the Israel-Hamas war. Lastly, differing access to technology and bandwidth may privilege certain ways and speeds of “knowing” that risks further divisions both interpersonally and intrapsychically. Holding all of this in “evenly suspended attention” rather than idealizing or devaluing technology becomes the project of psychoanalysis, and the paper concludes by building on that project with suggestions for leadership in a world that cannot be accurately described as global, colonial, or, in any of the multiple meanings of the word, “settled.”

Biographical Summary

Mike Langlois received his BA from Connecticut College in 1991, and his MSW from Smith College School for Social Work in 1994. He has over 30 years of experience counseling adults and families. He started out working in public school and clinical settings to advance the access of students with differing abilities and learning challenges. He quickly identified the crucial role of emerging technologies for equity and health. He is currently a Teaching Associate in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, where he supervises interns and clinicians. He also served on the Massachusetts Commission for LGBTQ Youth. Mike serves as a resource on digital literacy & social justice issues such as dismantling racism, LGBTQIA awareness & safety, disability awareness, cultural awareness, & non-traditional families. He was appointed to the Massachusetts Commission for GLBT Youth, & serves in an advisory capacity to the NASW on issues including youth suicide prevention. Mike is licensed in CA, DC, MA, NY and OR. He is a member of APsaA and Division 39 of the APA.


Bion, W. R. (2013). Atacks on Linking. Int. J. Psychoanal, 82(2), 308–315. htps://
Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its discontents. In Civilization and its discontents. Hogarth.
Harari, Y. N. (2015). Sapiens : a brief history of humankind (Y. N. Harari, J. Purcell, & H. Watzman (eds.); First U.S.). Harper.
Harari, Y. N. (2018). 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Random House Publishing Group.