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Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2016, 61, 4, 465–480

‘You were not born here, so you are classless,

you are free!’ Social class and cultural complex
in analysis1

Emilija Kiehl, London

Abstract: The unconscious impact of differences in culture and social class is discussed from
the perspective of an analyst practising in London whose ‘foreign accent’ prevents patients
from placing her within the social stratifications by which they feel confined. Because she is
seen by them as an analyst from both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the British psycho-social fabric
and cultural complex, this opens a space in the transference that enables fuller exploration
of the impact of the British social class system on patients’ experience of themselves and
their world. The paper considers this impact as a trans-generational trauma of living in a
society of sharp socio-economic divisions based on material property. This is illustrated
with the example of a patient who, at the point of moving towards the career to which he
aspired, was unable to separate a sense of personal identity from the social class he so
desperately wanted to leave behind and walk the long avenue of individuation. The dearth
of literature on the subject of class is considered, and the paper concludes that not enough
attention is given to class identification in training.

Keywords: cultural complex, social class, foreign accent, transference,

trans-generational trauma, socio-economic division

Encounters between people from different cultures or social classes bring up the
whole history of the relationship between their two cultures or social classes.
The unconscious impact of this history finds expression on different levels of
intra-psychic and social relationships and is alive in the analytic session. In
this paper I hope to bring a glimpse into this aspect of psychic life from my
personal experience and clinical work.
As an analyst I was ‘born’ in England but my country of origin is Yugoslavi,
which, following the civil war of the 1990s, no longer exists. This, and the fact

A shorter version of this paper was first presented in August 2015 at the Second European
Conference for Analytical Psychology in Trieste, Italy.

0021-8774/2016/6104/465 © 2016, The Society of Analytical Psychology

Published by Wiley Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
DOI: 10.1111/1468-5922.12243
466 Emilija Kiehl

that London has been my home town for longer than Belgrade had been makes
me feel a citizen of both and at times of neither, as my perceptions and
experience of the British and Serbian cultures seem to hold an angle which
has elements of both and where both are ‘mine’ as well as being cultures that
are ‘other’ to me.
This personal mixture also includes the Yugoslav cultural complexes that
remain quite present in the unconscious of many of its former citizens.
Although Yugoslavia as a political entity no longer exists, those of us who
had moved elsewhere long before the civil war grew up at a time when,
despite the later rise of nationalism in all its quarters, Yugoslavia was still
held together by common ideals of social justice. The basic tenets of social
justice in a socialist society meant that good education and health care were
available to all and there was equal pay for men and women doing the same
job. In my unconscious understanding of social processes, this would have
been the norm and when I moved to London in the late 1970’s I was
surprised to find that the expectations in Britain were quite different.
Consciously I resented the Yugoslav one-party political system and as a
student planned to leave in protest one day. As a burgeoning ‘seeker after
truth’ I also wanted to bring a spiritual dimension into my formal education.
The place to look for it was London, which was also the place of pilgrimage
for my generation growing up with the Beatles and the 1960’s cultural
revolution. Exploration of London’s fascinatingly rich spiritual scene took me
through a number of groups and societies studying and practising
philosophical systems from different cultures and epochs, all the way to the
British Association of Psychotherapists – BAP (what was then the Jungian
section of BAP is now the British Jungian Analytic Association – BJAA – at
the British Psychotherapy Foundation) where I trained as a Jungian analyst.
In this long process London became my home.
Perhaps inevitably culture has played an important part in my work as an
analyst: my accent arouses curiosity and an array of projections. I am
compared to Polish au-pairs or imagined to be a German intellectual or a
European princess, but whatever my country of birth or my real or imagined
social class, for my British patients I am a foreigner and this carries its own
transference implications from: ‘I hate your accent, wherever it comes from!’
to: ‘It’s only thanks to your sophisticated European accent that I am spending
time with you in this grotty (mental hospital) place’. Or referring to the class
system in Britain: ‘You were not born here, so you are classless, you are free!’,
the title of this paper.

Class: the elephant in the room

The question of social class has been present in my work with my British
patients since I was in training and I have become interested in its
Social class and cultural complex in analysis 467

implications for the sense of self and individuation. Both my training patients
were professional people from working class backgrounds, which they would
bring up in the sessions. We would explore their feelings about their class
roots and the desire to leave them behind and move up the social hierarchy.
This brought to light features of what I came to see as the trans-generational
trauma of being born in a society of pronounced economic and cultural
inequality and privilege, based largely on money and property which were
often inherited, not earned. One patient described the typical working class
response to the British social system as a ‘paradoxical mixture’ of resentment,
self-loathing, guilt and pride. I imagine that this collective attitude may have
arisen in the Victorian era, when what became the working class emerged
from the former peasantry who migrated to cities looking for work. On the
one hand they found themselves in harsh living and working conditions; on
the other they felt themselves to be part of the unprecedented rise of the
British industrial and colonial power.
Circumstances have afforded me the opportunity to move along the spectrum
of the British social hierarchy and to see some of the intricate ways in which
socio-economic inequality has woven itself into the cultural complex. This has
become so accepted that class rarely features in the psychological discourse
and very little can be found about it in the British psychoanalytic literature.
Not much space was given to thinking about social class in my training,
either. I was advised instead to focus on the transference lest my curiosity
about my patients’ experience of their class background might be seen as my
avoiding the negative transference.
I struggled to see why, together with the transference, the social aspects of my
patients’ experience would not be explored in the sessions too and decided to
return to the subject of class when I ‘grew up’ and qualified. It took many
years and the II IAAP European Conference for that to happen and again I
found that very little had been written about it in the meantime. My
occasional attempts to discuss class with my British colleagues usually ended
quickly – it just does not come up in their work. One colleague, an analyst
who is upper class, added that this might be because patients ‘just know’. It
seemed that neither the feelings each party in the analytic couple might have
about this implicit knowledge of each other’s social class, nor its possible
implications and impact on the transference and countertransference, merited
exploration in analysis. A poet I met socially, who moved from far away in
the Scottish Highlands to have a Jungian analysis in London, told me how he
felt ‘like a sweaty peasant’ in his analyst’s impeccable Hampstead home but
never sensed that it was a space where he could address and explore his
socio-economic concerns and his feelings about that particular aspect of their
relationship. The shared cultural attitude that he and his analyst ‘just knew’
which class each of them came from seemed to prevent the emergence of that
space in analysis, despite the patient’s clearly felt need to bring up the subject
of class. I imagine that if he had done so, his analyst (who, like me, had
468 Emilija Kiehl

received a Developmental Jungian training) might have responded with

transference interpretations. In my view, these on their own might not have
adequately addressed the unconscious aspects of the British class-cultural
complex that the patient and his analyst shared. Instead, transference
interpretations might have served as a defence against the pain of shame and
guilt in the shadow cast by this elephant in the consulting room. The complex
certainly was in the room but the work that went on never brought it into
shared consciousness.
This is not to say that transference interpretations (whether voiced or silent)
should be replaced by socio-economic and cultural references but rather that
analysis needs to permit a space where cultural and socio-economic aspects of
the life of the psyche can be addressed in their own right. There may be
moments in the analytic hour when what a patient communicates, vocally or
silently, may not be about the transference (even though everything that is
communicated in the analytic hour is in the transference). This level of
experience needs to be allowed into analysis, to be thought about and made
conscious by both parties in the analytic relationship.
The experience of the Scottish poet with his analyst brought back a distant
memory when a fellow member of a London Zen Buddhist society revealed to
me an unspoken communication between him and our meditation teacher:
‘He treats me differently because I am upper class and he is working class –
we both know where we stand in relation to each other’, he explained. I was
at the time affiliated with the British upper class so this comment was
probably meant to make me aware of some unspoken internal posture I was
supposed to present in relation to the working class teacher. The comment
threw a cold shade of disappointment on my hitherto glowing picture of our
(in my imagination, classless) group, having realized that the power of money
was among us, mingled with our shared spiritual aspirations and the sweet
smell of incense.

Some reflections on rank, equality, attitude

In the words of the American poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘Tis
very certain that each man carries in his eye the exact indication of his rank
in the immense scale of men, and we are always learning to read it’ (Emerson
1866/1876, p. 385). While I was writing this paper synchronicity brought
back another distant memory: the film, My Dinner with Andre, by Louis
Malle. The film is set in a New York restaurant with the playwrights Wallace
Shawn and Andre Gregory who are discussing the dramatic change in
Gregory’s view of life when, in the 1970’s, he abandoned the New York
theatre scene for experiences with the avant-garde theatres in Europe. He
worked in Poland and visited Belgrade in its heyday as a city of culture.
Reminiscing on a series of glimpses of spiritual and social awakening that led
Social class and cultural complex in analysis 469

him to the decision to leave New York and seek a new dimension of experience,
Gregory describes a moment when he entered his luxury apartment block and
suddenly became aware of the fact that the porter always greets him with:
‘Good evening, Mr. Gregory’ and he replies: ‘Good evening, George’. ‘This
old man calls me “Mr. Gregory” and I call him, “George”, as if I were an
adult and he a child!’ Gregory exclaimed. Wallace Shawn listened, unmoved
by this angle on the money-based social ranking.
While fighting against the German occupation during the Second World War,
Yugoslavia also went through a socialist revolution which abolished the old
social order and introduced, what was meant to be, a classless society with
new values and social mores. In the Yugoslavia of the 1950’s and 1960’s in
which I grew up, both the famous playwright and the porter in the film
would have addressed each other as Drug, which is translated into English as
Comrade, synonymous to fellow, companion, friend. Drug (masculine) and
Drugarica (feminine) replaced the pre-revolution titles of Mister, Missis and
Miss throughout the social strata [the etymology of the word drug stems from
drugi (m), druga (f), drugo (n), meaning other] and only the profession-based
titles, such as doctor or professor, remained in use. Whilst some of the old
ways of addressing people lingered on in some private communications, they
were seen as signs of clinging to old-fashioned, bourgeois values by people
slow to process the fruits of the forces of progress.
With the collapse of socialism, the ensuing influx (and imposition) of
capitalist values is changing the norm in the societies which were until
recently stratified on the basis of political power or intellectual and
professional achievement, rather than money. Meanwhile the rising inequality
in the capitalist countries that have not experienced any other way of running
a society may bring cultural and social changes not yet seen in these parts of
the political world too.
Decades of research by the epidemiologists Wilkinson and Pickett (2009),
published in their book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for
Everyone, show that social and health problems (both physical and
mental) are more common in rich countries with big economic inequalities
than in poorer but more equal societies. Singapore, USA, Portugal and the
UK were shown to be the most unequal societies. In countries where there
are bigger differences in income, the social distances are also bigger and
social stratifications are more important. Their study shows how the
perception of one’s status on the social scale profoundly affects physical
and mental health, which may explain the substantial increase in rates of
depression in the so-called ‘developed countries’. ‘Social status carries the
strongest messages of superiority and inferiority’ they write (Wilkinson &
Pickett 2009, p. 43). Excessive disparities of wealth correlate
internationally with levels of illness and mortality. The implications of
their findings for psychotherapy could be the subject of a future research
470 Emilija Kiehl

Class, poverty and moral judgement

Attached to the class-related feelings of superiority or inferiority is also a moral
judgement. In his memoir, Self-Consciousness, the American writer John Updike
describes the painful shame and pity he felt towards his father, an educated
schoolteacher who never managed to make much money. Updike recalls a
dream of his father being publically shamed, cast out by society, pushed in a
barrel ‘like a cartoon bankrupt’ (Updike 1989, p. 127) down the town hall
steps. His father’s father was also an educated man of modest earnings: ‘His
life smelt of financial failure and the guilt and shame that attaches to such
failure…’, Updike writes. ‘It was the inspiriting genius of Calvinism to link
financial prosperity and virtue … and Presbyterians would be specially sensitive
to this link. A failure of economic fortune must be a moral failure’ (ibid., p. 182).
Poverty was seen as a dishonourable state in early Victorian Britain too and this
perspective is making a comeback right now. The ‘undeserving poor’ and the ‘dirt
poor’ lived in ‘poorhouses’ also known as ‘workhouses’, which Charles Dickens
depicts in his novels, notably Oliver Twist (1837), as not unlike detention centres,
often housing whole families. Under a penal labour regime and manual work, the
poor were often subjected to physical punishment. Men and women were split
up, generally with no communication between them. Dickens witnessed the plight
of these people, living as a child across the road from the infamous London
Cleveland Street Workhouse. The historian Ruth Richardson (2011) imagines the
scenes Dickens would have watched from his window in her research article
entitled: ‘Finally identified, the real Oliver Twist workhouse reveals stories more
brutal than even Dickens dared tell’.

[Dickens] would have seen girls and boys of only six years old – just a year older than
him – bundled into carts and transported like cattle, often hundreds of miles away, to
work in the factories and mills of Britain’s industrial heartlands, where they would be
beaten as they laboured 16 hours a day in exchange for a few spoonfuls of gruel.
(Richardson 2011)

These scenes had made a powerful impact on the child Dickens, Dr. Richardson

‘He never forgot the sight, sounds and smells of that workhouse. And when he grew
up he drew on those memories to reveal to Victorian Britain the inhumanity that
went on under their noses in the name of progress’.

This article appeared on the internet while I was researching material for this
paper and I was in two minds as to whether or not to include these two
quotations from Dr. Richardson. Do they really contribute to my thinking in
this paper or do I want to press my point (on the trans-generational impact of
social injustice on the individual’s sense of self) too strongly because I am
Social class and cultural complex in analysis 471

angry with Victorian Britain and with the fact that its Social-Darwinist spectre
still seems to be playing a part in the materialistic political and socio-economic
thinking of today? How would I be feeling and thinking about it if I were born
in Britain and my cultural heritage carried my own ancestors’ traumatic
experiences of extreme poverty or enslavement on one side, or wealth and
privilege created by exploitation or enslavement of others on the other?
Would I have wanted to think about it let alone write about it if I were not a
foreigner? And as a foreigner might there be an area in this collective trans-
generational experience that I just cannot ‘get’? That area (the one I cannot
‘get’) may hold the answer to the dearth of psychoanalytic literature on the
subject. It may also be a limiting factor in my understanding of the
unconscious collective psyche of my British patients and colleagues.
Our ancestors’ experiences reaching through time affect our psychological,
cultural and social attitudes. My own cultural and socio-political background
carries both the values of the pre-revolution Yugoslav bourgeoisie and of the
intellectual left. The political left was illegal in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
and members of my family who belonged to the Belgrade leftist intelligentsia
were risking their lives for their ideals as well as betraying the values of the
royalist side of the family. After the revolution the left became the only legal
political party and anyone with political ambitions had to be a member.
Membership of the party also offered faster progress up the social ladder,
which meant higher salaries, larger apartments (owned by the state and
allocated to people through their work place) as well as more influence in the
work place and society at large. On the other hand, the free, high quality,
mixed gender education and health care available to all citizens made it
possible to create a relatively fulfilling and successful life without membership
of the party, so long as no attempts were made to challenge the system. Those
who did usually ended up in prison.
The cultural and socio-political movement of the 1960s, which brought
about an awakening to the shadow (corrupt) aspects of the political systems
in the USA and Western Europe, also swept through Yugoslavia. Student
demonstrations in Belgrade challenged the political establishment’s departures
from the values of socio-economic equality and demanded freedom of speech.
A number of students and professors were arrested and nothing changed.
Still, the thinking and the debates on social and cultural issues pertaining to a
progressive society continued, particularly among university students. When
in the mid-1970s I visited my pen friend in London, I was looking forward to
hearing these discussions from the British point of view. To my surprise,
neither my pen friend nor anyone in her family or social circle were, or were
planning to be, university educated. They were working class people, my pen
friend explained, who usually left school at 16 to look for work and were not
used to talking about the subjects I seemed to be interested in. Nevertheless, I
thoroughly enjoyed my first time in London with my pen friend and
exploring her social circle gave me an opportunity to see the strata of the
472 Emilija Kiehl

British society which seemed, economically at least, to be placed at a relatively

safe distance from the abysmal poverty I read about in Dickens’ novels, yet very
far away from the rich and idle characters in Jane Austin. During that visit I also
came to an unexpected realization about the social stratification in my own
country: even though education was free and all children went to primary and
secondary schools according to where they lived, all my friends happened to
be children of highly educated professional people, diplomats or prominent
political figures. I searched in my mind for a friend whose parents worked in
a factory or did manual work (which would have been the equivalent to
‘working class’ in Britain) and found none. What did that mean? I wondered.
Was social class a factor in my unconscious selection of friends? This would
not have been based on how much money my friends’ families had, but on
their intellectual achievement (often coupled with knowing the right people in
the echelons of political power). The unconscious intellectual snobbery that
had become part of the cultural complex of the social group I was born into
was unexpectedly brought to light by this encounter with the British working
class. I never forgot that moment of revelation.
According to Tom Singer, cultural complexes accumulate experiences that
validate the shared point of view within a collective:

[They] create a store house of self-affirming, ancestral memories which are based on
historical experiences that have taken root in the collective psyche of a group and in the
psyches of the individual members of a group. The complexes of a given culture are built
up over time and multi-generational experience, some of which have been traumatic.
(Singer 2010, p. 234)

Updike’s response to the social stigma towards the economic status of his family
was a desire for revenge. One day, he vowed to himself, he would become rich
and famous and would avenge his humiliated father and grandfather.

Sam – a case study

Contrary to Updike, my patient Sam felt debilitated by his working class
background. His father grew up in an orphanage then lived with a number of
different foster families. His mother came from a village in the Midlands
where almost everyone was working class. Sam recalled a sense of an
unspoken shared attitude of resentment towards life and towards work –
work put food on the table but it was not meant to be fulfilling as it was also
a form of punishment for those who had nothing to sell but their labour.
How do we know our class, asks the relational psychoanalyst, Stephen
Hartman (2007, p. 214): ‘How did we learn that our parents’ class somehow
belonged to us?’ How is class absorbed into the psyche (just like race or
gender)? According to Hartman, parents communicate ‘enigmatic messages’
about class to their children in the form of spoken or unspoken, often
Social class and cultural complex in analysis 473

embodied attitudes towards work. ‘We are accustomed to thinking about how
anxious mothers communicate affectively with their children but we rarely
think of them communicating their experience of work’, he writes. ‘Does
parents’ affect teach children about class or does class structure perpetuate
itself through parents’ affect?’ (ibid.).
As a child, Sam developed asthma, which continued into his adulthood. He
used his inhaler during the first couple of our analytic sessions and needed to
sit up for a while. Soon, however, he began to feel safe enough to allow an
opening of space between us where he could breathe freely – where he was
able to begin to deintegrate and reintegrate his experience of our relationship
– to begin ‘to branch out’ as he put it – something he had not felt able to do
within his family and social environment.
Sam described his family as ‘common, uncouth, ignorant and racist’. He
was the first person in his wider milieu who wanted to go to university.
When he told his parents of this wish, his mother shouted: ‘What do you
wanna do that for!?’ Both parents believed that Sam should stick to his
manual job. He felt that they wanted to hold him down, to make sure he
remained ‘one of us’. Education and ‘things like music lessons, holidays or a
family meal in a restaurant were for “people out there, not for people like
us”’, he paraphrased his mother as saying. Sam felt that his longing for
creativity and personal expansion beyond the constraints of the collective
psyche of ‘people like us’ had been curtailed by his parents’ perception of the
class-divide they were born into and succumbed to with a mixture of bitter
resentment, envy and self-defeating pride. Sam’s deeply ambivalent sense of
self reflected his experience of the culture of his parents and his own bitterly
resentful and narcissistic response to it: ‘nothing good can ever come out of
me because of where I came from!’ This statement of Sam’s unconscious
conviction that whatever he manages to accomplish externally, internally he
will forever remain in the same inferior place, illustrates the powerful impact
of the cultural complex on an individual’s sense of self worth. As Singer says
in his paper, ‘The cultural complex and archetypal defences of the group
spirit’: ‘“Cultural complexes” are lived out in group life and they are
internalized in the psyche of individuals’ (Singer 2004a, p. 20). Cultural
identity can be gripped by a cultural complex which limits the freedom of
interaction with different cultures/classes. Cultural complexes are ‘often built
up over centuries of repetitive traumatic experience’ (Singer & Kimbles
2004b, p. 186) and like individual complexes ‘tend to be repetitive,
autonomous, resist consciousness and collect experiences that confirm their
historical point of view’ (ibid.). They offer a simplistic view of the world and
one’s place in it.
Sam described his upbringing sometimes as ‘shielded’ and at other times as
‘blinkered’ in an environment of other ‘blinkered people’ who, for him, had
no distinguishing features of personal identities, in what Singer calls ‘a
mixture of sheltering kindness and persecutory attack, which directed
474 Emilija Kiehl

inwardly results in self-loathing and directed outwardly results in

impenetrability and hostility to other groups’ (ibid., p. 192).
The American born psychoanalyst and group analyst Earl Hopper, in his
book The Social Unconscious (2003), places the effects of social constraints
on intra-psychic life and interpersonal processes in the realm of the
‘unknown’ together with the instincts and fantasies: ‘people are affected
profoundly by social and cultural facts and forces, and such constraints are
largely unconscious at all phases of life trajectories’ (Hopper 2003, p. 131).
On subordinate groups in a social-class setting, he says: ‘In England, for
example, there is an emphasis on self-restraint in all social classes, particularly
regarding the interactions between the classes (ibid., p. 34)’.
Despite his university degree and some professional success, Sam found it
difficult to mix with people who were born middle class – the moment he
opened his mouth they would know where he came from, he said. I asked
him once where he saw me on the social class-scale. Surprised by my question
he paused before answering: ‘You … I see as a middle class, educated person.
… But, you have an accent.… In England, people with accents are viewed as
classless.… You were not born here, so you are classless, you are free…’
Like Updike, Sam wanted to become an artist. He applied to an art college
and to his surprise he was accepted and invited for an interview. Carrying his
portfolio, Sam made a long journey to the end of an underground line and
stepped out into a wide, tree-lined avenue leading to the college. He felt
unable to move. The prospect of walking through the long, wide avenue to
his cherished goal overwhelmed him. He turned back into the underground
and went home.
This was some years before Sam began his analysis with me and we worked
with this evocative image in the context of the transference and analysis.
However, as our work seemed to be reaching a point where a new level of
understanding his internal landscape could become possible, Sam left his
analysis (and once more turned back into the underground). I now think that
Sam might have benefited from a space in analysis where the class-related
material he was bringing up in the sessions could have been explored in the
social context too, and his fear of the social transition he longed to
accomplish was made part of the work in its own right. This is because I do
not feel that transference interpretations alone had sufficiently addressed his
very real social concerns. I have since learned to be attentive to the impact of
these concerns on my patients’ (and my own) sense of self, sense of self-worth
and belonging, in the unfolding lifelong process of individuation. This has
also become an important part in my work with patients who did manage to
make the external social transition that Sam had not been able to make, but
who internally found themselves stuck in a no-space between the class of their
parents that they had externally left behind and the class that they appeared
to have successfully entered into. I have found that the (in some cases
paralysing) effect of the guilt they feel for having betrayed the world of their
Social class and cultural complex in analysis 475

parents, and the shame and fear of being ‘found out’ as not really belonging in
the world they have apparently become part of needs to be identified and made
conscious in its own context before these patients can take a step through the
no-space and make sense of transference interpretations. As Wilkinson and
Pickett write:

The powerful mechanism which makes people sensitive to inequality cannot be

understood in terms either of social structure or of individual psychology alone.
Individual psychology and societal inequality relate to each other like lock and
key. One reason why the effects of inequality have not been properly
understood before is because of failure to understand the relationship between
(Wilkinson & Pickett 2009, p. 33).

I am grateful to Andrew Samuels for drawing my attention to the paper by the

American psychoanalyst Elizabeth Corpt (2013): ‘Peasant in the analyst’s chair’.
The author explores the impact of her own lower class family background of
Polish emigrants on the development of her analytic identity and gives examples
of colleagues and patients who like her secretly felt ashamed of their social
backgrounds. Like me, she found a limited psychoanalytic literature on the
subject. In Corpt’s view, psychoanalysis as a whole lacks ‘an experience-near’
way of considering class as a significant aspect of the analyst’s/analysand’s self-
experience. Her research has shown that trainees from a lower class background
often find it difficult to openly address their class-related concerns and awareness
within their institutes or even personal analyses. ‘Class-related anxieties are made
up of the deepest, most shame sensitive vulnerabilities regarding belonging,
wanting, and worries about being found wanting’, she writes (Corpt 2013, p. 8).
She refers to the American sociologists, Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb
(1972)2 and their notion of the ‘hidden injuries of class’. According to Sennett
and Cobb, class-related relational injuries come from one’s primary identification
with a social class of people who have suffered ‘power discrepancies, assaults to
their dignity, lack of opportunity or a compromised sense of positive possibilities’
(ibid., p. 11).
Our theoretical orientation can in effect inhibit our ability to hear and address
adequately our patient’s social concerns, Corpt writes further, saying it can:

inadvertently work to silence the analysand’s bringing forward such concerns.

Analysts may misread class concerns as merely surface defenses covering deeper
underlying issues. Under such assumptions, class matters fall outside the realm of
what an analyst may believe to be worthy of extensive analytic exploration.
(ibid., p. 7)

See: Sennett, R. & Cobb, J. (1972). The Hidden Injuries of Class. Cambridge. London.
Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
476 Emilija Kiehl

In response to this lack, the analysand may resort to hiding or disavowing the
importance of their class-related concerns in order to maintain a sense of
belonging with their analyst or analytic community.
My patient Sam was unable to separate a sense of personal identity from
the social class he so desperately wanted to leave behind (in the
underground) and walk the long avenue of individuation. There was
something he was afraid he would lose, have to disavow, in the new life he
was longing for.
The frightening gap between the class of Sam’s birth and the class he aspired
to, which he only tentatively managed to touch but not really to enter,
prevented Sam from making both the internal and the external transitions.
The transcendent function had not been activated. Nor was it activated in the
cases of my patients who were more successful than Sam in making the
external transition but who, as Corpt suggests:

had to protect themselves from the injuries of class divisions by maintaining a divided
self, i.e. a splitting between the domains of love – one’s primary attachments and
sources of affection (the realm of belonging), and the domains of power – one’s
function in the world of work (the realm of wanting).
(ibid., p. 10).

Corpt sees this as a relatively common experience among immigrants as well as

those who move from one social class to another: they may have to disavow
aspects of self that seem not to belong in their new home.
This resonates with my personal experience of the unconscious effects of
the need to belong, expressed in the realm of language. My professional
mother tongue is English and my ethnic mother tongue is Serbian. I
speak, write, think and dream in both. Years of learning English since
early childhood had somewhat smoothed my Slavic accent into a version
of the BBC English taught at Belgrade University, together with a slight
American twang I picked up from Hollywood films and songs by Bob
Dylan. As a result, the people I met when I first came to London often
thought that I was Canadian. As I spent more and more time speaking
mostly English, my thinking was more and more in English too and my
accent reflected the class echelons I was moving through at the time. It
felt like an effortless, natural flow of thinking and speaking until a
moment, many years ago, when I suddenly became aware of very subtle,
minute pauses in my spoken English. I wondered what went on during
those pauses. And then I realized: when I spoke English I wanted to
sound English; when I spoke Serbian, I just spoke. But I am not English!
And I am no longer a student in front of University professors! This
unexpected realization allowed some of my Slavic accent to return. As a
result, I now sound less English (or Canadian) then when I first arrived in
London decades ago. But I have gained a sense of space and freedom in
my bilingual inner home that I hadn’t known before.
Social class and cultural complex in analysis 477

Thanks to Jung’s inspiring legacy and the formidable work of our IAAP colleagues,
analytical psychology continues to flourish in all parts of the world. Very different
cultures encounter each other in the extraordinary realm of our shared
fascination with the life of the psyche and Jung’s approach to it. The fact that
depth psychology is diminishing in the so-called Western civilization into which it
was born may mean that the way forward depends on our ability to bridge the
differences between cultures inside and outside of Western influences. Exploring
our own cultures and their shadowy complexes could provide the foundation for
the hoped for understanding of the cultural complexes of others. In his
presentation ‘European cultural complexes’ at the XIX IAAP Congress in
Copenhagen, Joerg Rasche, reflects on the ideas of Levinas (1969)3 in the context
of the otherness of cultures: on the inner side we can deeply and thoroughly
understand only our own culture, he writes (Rasche 2013, p. 959). We may
reflect our face in the face of the other or in the masks they wear but to realize
our own face we have to experience it from the inside.
British culture is my culture by choice rather than birth and this paper offers a
view from the inside of the British cultural identity which I share but outside one
of its prominent features: the cultural complex of social class and inequality. So
I belong and do not belong – this might be the freedom my patient perceived.

Corpt, E. (2013). ‘Peasant in the analyst’s chair. Reflections, personal and otherwise, on
class and the forming of an analytic identity’. International Journal of Psychoanalytic
Self Psychology, 8, 52–69.
Dickens, C. (1837/2002). Oliver Twist. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Emerson, J.W. (1866/1876). The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New Revised
Edition, Vol. II. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co.
Hartman, S. (2007). Relational Psychoanalysis, Vol. 3: New Voices, eds. M. Suchet, A.
Harris & L. Aron. New Jersey: The Analytic Press.
Hopper, E. (2003). The Social Unconscious. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley
My Dinner with Andre (1981). Film starring and written by Andre Gregory and Wallace
Shawn, directed by Louis Malle.
Rasche, J. (2013). ‘European cultural complex’. In 100 Years on: Origins Innovations
and Controversies. Proceedings of the 19th Congress of the International Association
for Analytical Psychology, ed. E. Kiehl. Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag.
Richardson, R. (2011). ‘Finally identified, the real Oliver Twist workhouse reveals
stories more brutal than even Dickens dared tell’. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/

See: Levinas, E. (1969/1991). Totality and Infinity: an Essay on Exteriority. English translation,
Alphonso Lingis. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publisher.
478 Emilija Kiehl

Singer, T. (2010). ‘The transcendent function and cultural complex: a working

hypothesis’. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 55, 2, 234–40.
Singer, T. & Kimbles, S. (eds.) (2004a). The Cultural Complex, Contemporary Jungian
Perspectives on Psyche and Society. Hove and New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Taylor & Francis Group.
——— (2004b). ‘Emerging theory of cultural complexes’. In Analytical Psychology:
Contemporary Perspectives in Jungian Analysis, eds. J. Cambray & L. Carter. Hove
and New York: Brunner-Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group.
Updike, J. (1989). Self-Consciousness. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K. (2009). The Spirit Level. London: Penguin Group.


L’impact inconscient des différences de classes sociales et de culture est discuté du point
de vue d’une analyste exerçant à Londres et dont “l’accent étranger” empêche les
patients de la situer dans les stratifications sociales dans lesquelles ils se sentent
enfermés. Parce qu’ils la voient comme une analyste étant à la fois à l’intérieur et à
l’extérieur du tissu psycho-social britanique et de son complexe culturel, un espace
s’ouvre dans le transfert, qui permet une exploration plus large de l’impact du système
de classe britanique sur l’expérience que les patients ont d’eux-même et de leur monde.
L’article considère cet impact comme le traumatisme trans-générationnel qu’il y a à
vivre dans une société où existent des divisions socio-économiques fortes fondées sur la
propriété matérielle. Ceci est illustré par l’exemple d’un patient qui, au moment
d’embrasser la carrière à laquelle il aspirait, fut incapable de séparer le sentiment de
son identité personnelle et la classe sociale qu’il voulait ardemment laisser derrrière lui,
pour cheminer sur la longue voie de l’individuation. La pénurie de litérature sur le
sujet des classes sociales est notée, et l’article apporte la conclusion qu’on n’accorde
pas assez d’attention à l’identification à la classe sociale durant la formation.

Mots clés: complexe culturel, classe sociale, accent étranger, transfert, traumatisme trans-
générationel, division socio-économique

Der unbewußte Einfluß, den Unterschiede in Kultur und sozialer Klasse ausüben, wird
aus der Perspektive einer in London praktizierenden Analytikerin diskutiert, deren
’ausländischer Akzent’ Patienten daran hindert, sie innerhalb der sozialen
Schichtungen einzuordnen, durch die sie sich selbst eingegrenzt fühlen. Da sie von
ihnen als Analytikerin sowohl aus dem ’Innen’ wie auch dem ’Außen’ des britischen
psychosozialen Gefüges und Kulturellen Komplexes gesehen wird, eröffnet sich ein
Raum in der Übertragung, der eine vollständigere Untersuchung des Einflusses erlaubt,
den das britische Klassensystem auf die Erfahrungen des Patienten nimmt, die dieser
mit sich und seiner Welt macht. Der Text betrachtet diese Beeinflussung als ein
transgenerationales Trauma, das durch ein Leben in einer Gesellschaft mit starken
sozioökonomischen Trennungen, die auf materiellem Besitz basieren, verursacht wird.
Dies wird am Beispiel eines Patienten verdeutlicht, der in dem Moment, in dem er die
von ihm angestrebte Karriere beginnen wollte, nicht in der Lage war, ein Gefühl der
persönlichen Identität von der sozialen Klasse zu trennen, die er so sehnlich hinter sich
Social class and cultural complex in analysis 479

lassen wollte, um den langen Weg der Individuation einzuschlagen. Der Mangel an
Literatur zum Thema der Klasse wird in Betracht gezogen und der Beitrag folgert
daraus, daß während der Ausbildung dem Problem der Klassenidentifikation nicht
genug Aufmerksamkeit gewidmet wird.

Schlüsselwörter: Kultureller Komplex, soziale Klasse, fremder Akzent, Übertragung,

transgenerationales Trauma, sozioökonomische Trennung

L’impatto inconscio delle differenze cuturali e della classe sociale viene discusso nella
prospettiva di un’analista che esercita a Londra il cui accento straniero previene i
pazienti dal collocarla nella stratificazione sociale in cui si sentono confinati. Per il
fatto che viene vista dai pazienti come un’ analista proveniente sia dall’interno che
dall’esterno della connotazione psico-sociale britannica e dal complesso culturale,
questo apre uno spazio nel transfert che consente la piena esplorazione dell’impatto
della classe sociale sull’esperienza dei pazienti di se’ e del loro mondo. L’articolo
considera questo impatto come un trauma transgenerazionale di una societa’ che vive
marcate divisioni socio economiche basate sui possedimenti materiali. Questo viene
illustrato con l’esempio di un paziente che al momento di progredire verso la carriera a
cui aspirava non e’ stato in grado di separare un senso di identita’ personale dalla
propria classe sociale, che voleva disperatamente lasciarsi alle spalle, per intraprendere
la lunga strada dell’individuazione. Viene considerata la mancanza in letteratura
dell’argomento sul ceto sociale e l’articolo conclude sul fatto che non venga posta
sufficiente attenzione all’identificazione del ceto di classe durante la formazione.

Parole chiave: complesso culturale, classe sociale, accento straniero, transfert, trauma
transgenerazionale, divisione socio-economica

Бeccoзнaтeльнoe вoздeйcтвиe культуpныx paзличий и coциaльныx клaccoв

oбcуждaeтcя c тoчки зpeния aнaлитикa, пpaктикующeгo в Лoндoнe, чeй
«инocтpaнный aкцeнт» нe пoзвoляeт пaциeнтaм paзмecтить ee пo paнжиpу в тex
coциaльныx cтpaтax, пpигoвopeнными к кoтopым oни ceбя чувcтвуют. Пocкoльку
oнa видитcя ими кaк aнaлитик oднoвpeмeннo нaxoдящийcя «внутpи» и «внe»
бpитaнcкoгo пcиxo-coциaльнoгo пoлoтнa и культуpнoгo кoмплeкca, этo
oткpывaeт в пepeнoce пpocтpaнcтвo, пoзвoляющee дaльшe иccлeдoвaть влияниe
бpитaнcкoй coциaльнoй клaccoвoй cиcтeмы нa oщущeниe пaциeнтaми ceбя и
cвoeгo миpa. Cтaтья paccмaтpивaeт этo влияниe кaк мeжпoкoлeнчecкую тpaвму
жизни в oбщecтвe c peзкими coциo-экoнoмичecкими paздeлeниями, ocнoвaнными
нa мaтepиaльнoй coбcтвeннocти. Этo иллюcтpиpуeтcя пpимepaми из paбoты c
пaциeнтoм, пpиблизившимcя к тoчкe кapьepы, к кoтopoй oн дoлгo cтpeмилcя, нo
был нe в cocтoянии oтдeлитьcя oт чувcтвa личнoй пpинaдлeжнocти к
coциaльнoму клaccу, кoтopый oн oтчaяннo xoтeл ocтaвить пoзaди, двигaяcь пo
дoлгoму пути индивидуaции. Hexвaткa литepaтуpы нa клaccoвую тeму тaкжe
oбcуждaeтcя в cтaтьe, и aвтop пpиxoдит к зaключeнию o тoм, чтo клaccoвым
paздeлeниям удeляeтcя нeдocтaтoчнoe внимaниe и в тpeнингe.
480 Emilija Kiehl

Ключевые слова: культуpный кoмплeкc, coциaльный клacc, инocтpaнный aкцeнт,

пepeнoc, мeжкпoкoлeнчecкaя тpaвмa, coциo-культуpныe paздeлeния

El impacto inconsciente de las diferencias culturales y de clase es discutido desde la

perspectiva de un analista practicando en Londres, cuyo ‘acento extranjero’
previene a los pacientes de ubicarla dentro de las estratificaciones sociales, por las
cuales se sienten confinados. Debido a que ella es vista por ellos como una
analista desde el ‘interior’ y ‘exterior’ de la matriz psico-social Británica y el
complejo cultural, esto abre un espacio en la transferencia que posibilita una
mayor exploración del impacto que tiene en la experiencia de sí mismos y de su
mundo, el sistema de clases sociales Británico. El ensayo considera dicho impacto
como un trauma trans-generacional de vivir en una sociedad con fuertes divisiones
socio-económicas basadas en la propiedad material. Esto es ilustrado con el
ejemplo de un paciente quien, al momento de realizar un movimiento hacia la
carrera profesional que él aspiraba, no fue capaz de separar el sentido de
identidad personal de la clase social que él quería tan desesperadamente dejar
atrás y caminar el largo camino de la individuación. Se considera la falta de
literatura en el tema de clases, y el ensayo concluye que no se presta suficiente
atención a la identificación de clases en las formaciones de analistas.

Palabras clave: complejo cultural, clase social, acento extranjero, transferencia,

trauma trans-generacional, división socio-económica


关键词: 文化情结, 社会阶层, 外国口音, 移情, 代际创伤, 社会经济分层