chapter  1
18 Pages

Off the couch and round the conference table


It was, at least in part, the struggle to ®nd a more persuasive way of understanding the communal con¯ict where I was growing up in Northern Ireland which led me to psychoanalysis. The political explanations which were current at that time amongst intellectuals answered my questions no more satisfactorily than the attitudes of the people on the streets who similarly understood the problem as a struggle between good and evil, though the intellectuals couched it in more sophisticated terms. It seemed to me that psychoanalysis had found a way of understanding how and why individuals engaged in self-damaging and self-destructive behaviour. I wondered if one could think of the community as an organism divided against itself, and apply psychoanalytical ideas to the violent political con¯ict in my community ± a con¯ict that had intruded on my own life and family, though much less than it had for many others who lived in Northern Ireland. Since then I have devoted a good deal of my life, ®rstly to coming to an understanding of psychoanalytical ideas in clinical practice and then to exploring their application to violent political con¯ict, not just as a theoretical postulate, but directly in the development of an approach to negotiation in political peace processes.