The Unanalysed Race Complex and its Implication for Psychoanalytic Training Organisations, Psychotherapists and their Patients

Saturday 12th June 10:15 - 12:45


Racism has played a major role in the development of western societies, and although there has been progress towards racial equality, it remains a repressed organising principle in our culture and forms an unconscious part of our psyches, identities and relationships. This paper contends that as a result of this history there exists within the psyche a complex about race that is usually hidden, rarely explored and largely unanalysed. The race complex consists of feelings, images and beliefs, consciously and unconsciously held, which seems to autonomously influence our attitudes and behaviour and can obstruct or disturb our relations to reality. Although psychoanalysis has concepts and tools that can develop our understanding of this complex, psychoanalytic training organisations have historically failed to think about race and racism in the training of psychotherapists. Consequently, a psychotherapy culture has been inherited, which mirrors the wider culture, one in which race within the psyche is a largely unthinkable subject and is an unanalysed part of most therapists’ minds. In this paper, I will draw on clinical and other material to illustrate the race complex, and propose that the profession needs to create a non-judgemental environment where resistance towards thinking about race and racism in oneself is better worked with in order that greater personal and professional understanding of race in the psyche and in our relationships can be achieved in our profession.