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Re-creating a Community: Politics, Education and Depth Psychology in a New Challenge

The care of a community has been my primary activity for about 20 years. Working as a psychoanalyst and as a teacher, I have always been involved in the dynamics of groups, both in their actual and symbolic form: families, couples, class of students, study groups in training and supervision settings, and the imaginary group in the mind or the mind group.

An additional administrative experience as City Councillor has brought to may previous knowledge the depth and the breadth of further understanding into bureaucratic issues, the complexity of big communities in old urban settings with contemporary lifestyle, the basic needs of people, political intricacies and institutional problems. Parallel to the actual and practical involvement, I could not help, given my Jungian background, to observe this scenario from a psychological point of view, particularly attracted by the relational dynamics between the individual and the collective group and between the individual and the physical environment. Consequently, I found myself reflecting upon the dramatic changes occurred in the last few decades: the technological impact, the turmoil in traditions, the split between memory, consciousness of the past, and present, globalized, confused ideals, so visible and meaningful in an old Etruscan, Medieval, central Italy town. Its 20.000 inhabitants grow to almost 50.000 including a surrounding group of 12 minor cities, all villages with a similar structure, that revolve around the main city for health, education, social services and many other issues and problems. Orvieto is the town where I chose to live, after a series of metropolitan environments, started from my birth in Buenos Aires (Argentina), then Caracas (Venezuela), then Rome (Italy), Los Angeles (for short periods), plus many other cities I visited, travelling or staying for sometime.

I actually dwell in the countryside, close to a frazione, that is a minor village around a dismissed medieval palace, that used to be autonomous in the past, with now about 300 inhabitants, some located in the few central houses, many other in country houses with cultivated land.

As a City Councillor I had the responsibility for Health, Education, Social Services, Youth and Women policies, Sports of the entire widened system. I had to care about both institutions and people, that is: on one side administration of laws, rules, finances, projects, buildings etc. and on the other side organizing activities, meetings, listening to individuals and specific groups, working for special events, finding solutions to human problems. Great part of this work had to do with dealing, negotiating, discussing, mediating, connecting between the local reality and the regional and national indications, and within the local groups. Participating to the internal life of a political party, which is another form of community, and to the interaction between this and the public institutional Italian setting, has completed the cycle.

A part from the participant observation of all these different levels, my primary attention has always gone to the individual in his environment, and due to my specific profession, towards improvement, implementation, care and cure of liveable conditions and psychologically sustainable settings for children, adolescents, adults and old people, considered in their daily, normal life. The backgroud knowledge I use is what science and culture have made available to everyone, regarding the body-mind structure, its functioning and limits, psycho-social dynamics and their interactions with the natural and urban environment. But nobody seems to remember or really care about all this information.

Knowledge does not bring directly to change, obvious damage does not bring to immediate reparation, no cry seems to awaken from a kind of sleepwalking that affects all the major political and economical powers in the world. As a doctor, my diagnosis is alarmist. People suffer, at different ages and with different modes, they suffer in spite of the welfare in their life. Stress, depression, panic are growing to an epidemy, also in wonderful and appearently peaceful settings like central Italy. Clearly, all this has to do with lifestyle, values, meanings, personal freedom, choices, psychological issues as much as with physical environment. Patients in psychotherapy can find a solution to their personal situation, can get better regarding their symptoms, can proceed in their deep individuation, but the community will remain sick and confused, because nobody thinks of it in terms of its function of holding and support, space for reciprocity and exchange, meaningful containment for its participants. Authentic and spontaneous coming together of individuals has become a very exceptional and unusual event. Corporativism, mafias, minor groups built around power interests, hyperorganized forms of activities, including simple and normal ones, have become a perverse, deteriorated form of community, while the real modern community is still to be born.

Can internet be a road to it, while it serves as a road to anything else? Has a community of natural, human origin a specific form, development and goal? Does a consciousness of community exist and can it grow? Can we speak of a natural community nowadays? What about false, superimposed forms of community? These are some of the unanswered questions to be discussed.

For sure I know that human beings still need to be in physical, emotional, mental relation, one to another, that they suffer deeply in isolation and lacking meaningful relationships, that they need friends, love, recognition, mirroring to be able to tolerate differences, distances and separations.

That they need to cultivate their soul, or whatever you want to consider under this word. They feel joyful with hope and ideals, they are new at each birth, as they were thousands of years ago.

They want to discover and re-create the world by themselves and feel part of an integrated social environment, while today they feel empty, helpless and with no personal direction. One by one, they suffer and complain. But, still, nobody seems to care, except the pharmacological industries. Books denouncing this malaise are published, in different fields, criticism exists – it did exist since the 60’s, by the way – I am only integrating contemporary sociological themes of discussion in my specific field, depth psychology, which has been asleep for too long in the meantime.

I personally believe, that the technological acceleration and the imposition of new space-time coordinates in the global paradigm, will take a very long time to be assimilated in a non dangerous form by individuals and groups of our civilization.

In my own way, which is the way of individuals in the community, I try to contribute to a new consciousness, self and other oriented, a consciousness that could include technology and structural changes only if based on a Self, on a responsible Subject of action and citizenship,

My clinical work is gradually leaving space to formative, educational, training interventions directed to teachers, educators, instructors, social workers, therapists, etc., people who work for and with other people. I do this for public institutions and because some recent laws in Italy expect some professional groups to be updated and some problems to be addressed also in terms of social relations and communication – i.e. parenthood, juvenile delinquency, early infancy education, old age isolation, and so on. I therefore contact different professionals and different age groups, giving courses and using other forms of contact and communication to work within there areas.

The paradigm of my work, as should be now clear, is not oriented along the lines of success at any cost, efficiency, productivity as they are proposed by our present society, but along the lines of natural psychological processes of gradual opening to internal and external life of the individual within his community. This is, to me, the ground, the seed, the potential on which to create new adaptations, compatible with the limits of human nature.

If onnipotence is kept at bay, also the catastrophic views upon our future will be lightened by the awareness of our limits. The Shadow, as Jung defined it both individually and collectively, will not become reality if we do not ignore it.

What seems to be urgent, now, is how to make people aware at higher levels, how to call the attention of individuals and groups who take decisions on specific issues and who are involved in some crucial changes, on the fact that some of these imposed and global changes are not only damaging individuals and groups, but that they could in turn subvert the entire system, if not faced, discussed and possibily adapted to the needs of real human beings who form the community.

This – and not an onnipotent dream – is what I mean by re-creating the world. What we consider as a discovery, because adults are already in the scene, the child feels as a personal creation: the world as it gradually unfolds to him in the transitional space between inner and outer reality. Remembering D.W. Winnicott and his idea of play and creativity as the psychological foundation of cultural experience.