Seeing double, being double: longing, belonging, recognition, and evasion in psychodynamic work with immigrants

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

References

  1. Ainslie, R. C., Harlem, A., Tummala-Narra, P., Barbanel, L. & Ruth, R. (2013). Contemporary psychoanalytic views on the experience of immigration. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30, 663–679.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Akhtar, S. (1995). A third individuation: Immigration, identity, and the psychoanalytic process. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43, 1051–1084.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Baldwin, J. (1956). Giovanni’s room. New York: Dell.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Beebe, B. & Lachmann, F. (2002). Organizing principles of interaction from infant research and the lifespan prediction on attachment. Journal of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychotherapy, 2 (2002), 61–89.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Beltsiou, J. (forthcoming). Locating ourselves: Immigration in psychoanalysis. New York; London: Routledge.

  6. Benjamin, J. (2002). The rhythm of recognition. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12, 43–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bernstein, K. (forthcoming). What matters between us: Cultural specificity in the psychoanalytic dyad. Psychoanalytic Dialogues.

  8. Bodnar, S. (2004). Remember where you come from: Dissociative process in multicultural individuals. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 14, 581–603.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bollas, C. (2009). The evocative object world. London; New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bonowitz, J. (2004). The child immigrant. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 64, 129–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Boulanger, G. (2004). Lot’s wife, Cary Grant, and the American dream: Psychoanalysis with immigrants. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 40, 353–372.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Breuer, J. & Freud, S. (1895). Studies on hysteria. Standard Edition (Vol. 2, pp. 1–323). London: Hogarth Press.

  13. Dimen, M. (2011). With culture in mind: Psychoanalytic stories. New York; London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Druckerman, P. (2013). An American neurotic in Paris. Downloaded from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/opinion/druckerman.

  15. Fonagy, P., Gergely, G., Jurst, E. & Target, M. (Eds.) (2002). Affect regulation, mentalization, and the development of the self. New York: Other Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Grossmark, R. (2012a). The unobtrusive relational analyst. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 22, 629–646.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Grossmark, R. (2012b). The flow of enactive engagement. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 48, 287–300.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Harlem, A. (2010). Exile as a dissociative state: When a self is “lost in transit”. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 27, 460–474.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hoffman, E. (1999). The new nomads. In A. Aciman (Ed.) Letters of transit: Reflections on exile, identity, language, and loss (pp. 41–63). New York: The New Press in collaboration with the New York Public Library.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Ignatieff, M. (1998). Isaiah Berlin: A life. London: Chatto and Windus.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Ipp, H. (2010). Nell—A abridge to the amputated self: The impact of immigration on continuities and discontinuities of self. International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 5, 1–13.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Kuriloff, E. (2001). A two-culture psychology: The role of national and ethnic origin in the therapeutic dyad. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 37, 673–682.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kuriloff, E. (2013). Contemporary psychoanalysis and the legacy of the third Reich: History, memory, tradition. New York; London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Lee, C.-R. (1995). Native speaker. New York: Riverhead Books.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Lobban, G. (2006). Immigration and dissociation. Psychoanalytic Perspective, 3, 73–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Mann, M. (2004). Immigrant parents and their emigrant adolescents: The tension of inner and outer world. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 64, 143–153.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Martinez-Conde, S. & Macknik, S. (2010). Sleights of mind: What the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions. New York: Henry Holt & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  28. McCarroll, J. (2009). Analysis of an undocumented Latina immigrant. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, 14, 225–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Mitchell, S. A. (1984). Object relations theory and the developmental tilt. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 34, 473–499.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Philips, T. (2011). Race, place, and self in the experience of a bystander. International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 6, 405–426.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Rozmarin, E. (2009). I am yourself: Subjectivity and the collective. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19, 604–616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Rozmarin, E. (2011a). Dori: O thou seer, go, flee thee. In M. Dimen (Ed.) With culture in mind Chapter 5 (pp. 35–40). New York; London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Rozmarin, E. (2011b). Asaf: I am yourself. In M. Dimen (Ed.) With culture in mind Chapter 15 (pp. 137–142). New York; London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Said, E. (1999). No reconciliation allowed. In A. Aciman (Ed.) Letters of transit: Reflections on exile, identity, language, and loss (pp. 87–115). New York: The New Press in collaboration with the New York Public Library.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Sander, L. W. (1995). Identity and the experience of specificity in a process of recognition: Commentary on Seligman and Shanok. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 5, 579–593.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Tummala-Narra, P. (2004). Mothering in a foreign land. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 64, 165–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Tummala-Narra, P. (2009). The immigrant’s real and imagined return home. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, 14, 237–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Winnicott, D. (1965). Maturational processes and the facilitating environment. New York: International Universities Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ghislaine Boulanger.

Additional information

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.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • assimilation
  • culture
  • dissociated self-states
  • immigration