How Culture Runs the Brain: A Freudian View of Collective Syndromes

How Culture Runs the Brain: A Freudian View of Collective Syndromes

by Jay Evans Harris


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Freud was right: mind and brain evolved together, adapting progressively to cultural change; responding regressively to wars, genocides, and forced migrations. Freud traced innate conflicts between pleasure and aggression in each stage of individual development to corresponding development in cultural stages. Cultural trauma that induces PTSD with a loss of secure identity in one generation induces collective phantasies (mythologies) among succeeding generations, and this may form cultural syndromes of revenge and restitution. Families, tribes, clans, and religious communities can regress together to infant and childhood stages. They may breed heroes, sociopaths, revolutionaries—or potential terrorists vulnerable to the siren call of internet shamans.

How Culture Runs (and sometimes ruins) the Brain presents neuroscience findings, revealing fantasy as the brain’s default mode, as it alters identity during unbearable trauma or loss. The book presents case histories of cultural conflicts among individuals, tribes, and nations, using the examples of the Boston Marathon Bombers, Bowe Bergdahl’s iconic trial, the Orlando Shooter, and regressive American players in the election of 2016. Conflicting forms of cultural narcissism determine economic survival: the immature narcissism of Trump and his followers challenges the mature narcissism that hid Hillary Clinton’s hubris. Immature narcissistic oligarchs can act out their economic dominance to deal with the fear of extinction of their own identity. Some terrorists groups use mature global technology in the service of immature fundamentalist identity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781498562478
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 06/10/2019
Series: Dialog-on-Freud Series
Pages: 286
Product dimensions: 5.99(w) x 8.67(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Jay Evans Harris, MD is clinical associate professor at New York Medical College.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Contemporary Cultural Syndromes
Chapter 2: The Cultural Regulation of identity
Chapter 3: The Freudian Brain
Chapter 4: How Mind Enters Trauma
Chapter 5: From Gilgamesh: The Oldest Culture We Know
Chapter 6: Darwin through Freud’s Eyes
Chapter 7: From the Primal Horde to the Primal Scene
Chapter 8: Freud’s Self-Specimen
Chapter 9: Freud As Goethe
Chapter 10: Modernism and Cultural Disciplines
Chapter 11: Gender and Surrender: Lessons in Ego Identity
Chapter 12: Freud’s Ambivalence about America
Chapter 13: The Pretense of Cultural Leaders
Chapter 14: The Evolution of Fantasy
Chapter 15: Syndromes of Restitution and Retribution: The Tsarnaev Case

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