Psychically immigrants live double lives, simultaneously dwelling in the world they have left and the world in which they live, and into which most try to fit to avoid the alienating experience of being “other”. Doubleness is not a conscious act, but it is a preconscious counterpoint to just about every social interaction. I argue that successful psychodynamic treatment allows immigrants to take the doubleness for granted, in effect seeing double and being double. In this way they come to effortlessly privilege one self-state over the other. The recognition and acceptance of competing self-states proves transformative in any treatment, but never more so than in working with immigrants who contend with several culturally competing selves in their daily lives and seek one relationship in which they can all be seen and heard. I describe treating an immigrant who, when I began to work with her, excelled at seeing double, but being double posed a terrifying dilemma. At least two self-states were engaged in a tug of war; she feared that the winner would take all.
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Mizrahi Jews are those who immigrated to Israel from other Middle Eastern countries, as opposed to the dominant Ashkenazim who came from Eastern Europe. Traditionally the Ashkenazim have represented the political, social, economic, and military establishment in Israel, while the darker skinned Mizrahis’ absorption into Israeli society has been fraught with racism and prejudice.
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This paper is based on the author’s keynote address at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies’ annual conference in New York City on May 10, 2014.
1Ghislaine Boulanger, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.
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Boulanger, G. Seeing double, being double: longing, belonging, recognition, and evasion in psychodynamic work with immigrants. Am J Psychoanal 75, 287–303 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/ajp.2015.27
- dissociated self-states