INHERITANCE: JEWISH IDENTITY AND THE LEGACY OF THE HOLOCAUST MEDIATED THROUGH ART PSYCHOTHERAPY GROUPS
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INHERITANCE: JEWISH IDENTITY AND THE LEGACYOF THE HOLOCAUST MEDIATED THROUGH
ART PSYCHOTHERAPY GROUPS
ABSTRACT This paper is offered with the aim of alerting practitioners to the implications of theHolocaust in the experiences of Jewish clients who may themselves be unaware of its significance.Many Jewish people who come for psychotherapy today were not necessarily, nor apparently,directly affected by the Holocaust and yet they carry the inter generational scars. Beginning withmy own personal experience, as well as the insight I have gained from conducting analytical artpsychotherapy groups on Jewish identity, I will show how subtle and pervasive is the legacy of theHolocaust. The paper is based in Jewish experience but there are implications for work withrefugees and immigrants from many other current situations. Discussion includes consideration ofsome of the psychological affects of anti-semitism. The intention is to draw attention to issueswhich may not be immediately apparent when people first come for analysis or psychotherapy.
This paper is about Jewish identity and about the effects of the Holocaust. However it is alsoabout the ways that a form of unconscious, collective memory transmits trauma and griefthrough generations. For this reason it is not merely addressed to Jewish people and thoseworking with Jewish clients in therapy. I am intending that wider implications may bedrawn from the experiences which I will describe. I begin with my own experience and thenwiden discussion to include those of others with whom I have had contact. My intention isto make explicit the continuing effects of events which, whilst receding into the realms ofhistory, are nonetheless still psychologically active and troubling to many individuals today.There are, I suggest, implications to be drawn from this experience, for workingtherapeutically with individuals from other exiled groups.
In my work as an art psychotherapist, and in my analytic practice, I have come acrosscertain imagery and themes which are recurrent in the work of Jewish people from manydiverse backgrounds. These resonate with themes of my own which I have come to realizehave wide implications. For many Jewish people, particularly those whose families haveconnections with Europe, Jewish identity cannot be easily separated, even today, from theeffects of the Holocaust. I will give a personal example.
Imprinted on my memory is the polished oak sideboard of my childhood home. Therewere three drawers at the bottom of it and my sister and I were forbidden to open the centreone. We knew that in it my father kept his tallith (prayer shawl), kipa
JOY SCHAVERIEN PhD is an Associate Professional Member of the Society of Analytical Psychologyin private practice. She lectures in Britain and abroad on gender and on the links between art andpsychoanalysis. She is the author of The Revealing Image (Routledge 1991) and Desire and the FemaleTherapist (Routledge 1995).
British Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol 15(1), 1998 The author
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(skull cap) and his prayer books but these were not the reason for the taboo. The reason thatwe were forbidden to open this drawer was because, as well as the prayer books, the drawercontained two books of photographs taken at the liberation of Belsen. Inevitably we didopen the drawer and I remember looking at the pictures with a kind of appalledincomprehension and also fascination. Piles of corpses and half dead human beings lookedout at us with empty eyes. The pictures were disturbing but more so was my mother'sreaction when she found us looking at them. Although she said little, merely putting themback in the drawer and telling us not to look at them again, there was something worrying inthis. There was something unstated that nevertheless communicated itself to us - it was asense of what it meant to her. I realize now that she was attempting to protect us from thefull impact of the horror of the story these pictures told. However, the subliminal message,communicated by the juxtaposition of the prayer books, the photographs and the reaction,was that to be Jewish was dangerous. This unconscious message was conveyedsimultaneously with the conscious one of warmth, care and of belonging.
In talking to others of my generation I have come to realize that there are numerousstories like this. The photograph of a parent released from the camps, or those of relativeswho had been murdered, were hidden in other childhood drawers. For some there are nofamily photographs, and their very absence records the annihilation of all traces of thatparticular extended family. The Holocaust is a legacy which continues to haunt manyindividuals. It seems that it was the common and unspoken aim of the parents of Jewishchildren born during, or just after the war, to attempt to protect them from the full horror ofwhat had happened. This was even when, as in my own case, the immediate family had beenin Britain.
My grandparents had immigrated to this country from Germany in the early years of thecentury. They had maintained contact with their family in Germany travelling to visit andeven living there with their children for a few years. When Hitler came to power many ofthese relatives escaped but there were others who did not. As a child, when Germanrelatives visited, I would be told their story: some had experienced great kindness from apriest or neighbours who had hidden them, at immense personal risk, throughout the war.Some had survived physically but never recovered psychologically. The experiences ofpersonal tragedy were very present and always a part of my childhood landscape eventhough my immediate family had been in England during the war.
I offer this personal history because I have come to realize that there are generalimplications to be drawn from it. This is a personal account of one aspect of my ownpsychological development but it is also an aspect of the psychological development ofother Jewish people, many of whom seek psychotherapy, often for some unspecific problem.Increasingly I have come to realize that this is a collective history. For many years, theinability of the generations directly affected to process the unprocessable meant thatvestiges of the experience were transmitted unconsciously. It was known but could not bespoken about openly - the immensity of the Holocaust was too great and incomprehensiblefor it to be integrated.
It may seem that I am stating the obvious: however this is far from the case. This is avery specific history and needs to be recognized as such. The affects of the Holocaust arefrequently missed in the recounting of a case history. I have observed colleagues insupervision, or a case presentation, mention that the patient's family came from a country inEastern Europe in the 1930s or 40s but this often remains
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merely a passing reference. Such a history should alert the therapist to the possibility thatthis may well be the context from which a psychological crisis in later life emerges. Thereare many people who are troubled by unspecific fears and, in some cases - but not all, this isa legacy of the effects of their parents' or even their grandparents' experience of theHolocaust.
There are other ways in which the experience is diminished; for example, it issometimes stated that each person has their own personal Holocaust. Very often this is saidin response to a personal history which includes some form of traumatic abuse or cruelty.However to describe it thus is to conflate two significantly different experiences and bydoing so the impact of both is diminished. Personal cruelty, experienced on whatever scale,is certainly a tragedy, but it is not the same as the cold-blooded, mechanical and systematicattempt to destroy a whole race of people (Gilbert 1987).
Intergenerational influences are a factor in all families but I am arguing that this is of adifferent order than other family trauma and needs to be understood as distinct from it.Awareness of the import of such material is of crucial importance and particularly in thelight of recent revisionist theories, which challenge that the Holocaust ever happened (Seidel 1986). My point is that the influence of family dynamics cannot be analysed inisolation from the culture from which the family emerged (see Jewish Women's HistoryGroup 1984). It is important to differentiate collective experience from the personal,otherwise we do violence to the psyche. However, whilst it is important not to underestimatethe impact of such experiences, a careful balance needs to be drawn because it is alsoimportant not to assume that all Jewish clients are traumatized. The danger of this is thatassumptions may be drawn which mean that the individual client is not seen for her orhimself but as a member of a damaged group. There is a delicate balance to be struckbetween awareness, on the one hand, and attribution of all disturbance to this experience, onthe other. This is especially the case when the client is second or even third generation.
When people come for therapy because they are troubled they may not realize that, atthe heart of their problem, is the legacy of their parents' relation to the Holocaust and it iscertainly not the role of the therapist to insist that this is an issue. However, sometimes theeffects are quite subtle or hidden and it is easy for the therapist to miss the import of thecasual comment that the parents, or one parent, was Jewish. It is essential to be alert to thepossible implications of this and aware that the effects may become manifest in those intheir sixties or their twenties; each may carry the intergenerational scars of theseexperiences. It is the metaphorical drawer in the houses of their parents and grandparentswhich many of the subsequent generations still carry. The reaction to the trauma of anexperience which was both unthinkable and unspeakable took the form of repression on botha personal and collective scale.
The Grief Process
The grief process is described by Murray Parkes (1972) in terms of stages, one of which is aconstant retracing. This is both an attempt to find and reinstate the lost object and also tounderstand what happened. Part of the process of integrating the experience is a repetitivethinking of how things might have been different. It is the phase of mourning characterizedby the phrase... if only! In the case of major trauma the mourning process becomesimpossible. Lifton (1969, quoted in Illich 1977) writes
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of this in referring to the effects of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In cases of massdestruction the incomprehension is such that there is no pain: instead it is replaced with anumb sensation - an anaesthesia. For many of the generation who lived through the years ofthe Holocaust, I think that it was similar - it is impossible to mourn for six million,especially when there are no graves. It is also, for some, impossible to cope with the guilt ofsurviving.
This history has been well documented as well as the psychological affects (Wiesel1981; Bettelheim 1986; Levi 1987; Gilbert 1987). In the last ten years the intergenerationalinfluences within psychotherapy have been increasingly addressed. In Cooper's (1988)edited volume, Dale (1988) gives a moving example of the need for cultural as well aspersonal understanding. In this Journal, Kestenberg (1992) analysed the continuing effectsof the Holocaust on both Jewish and German children and Gampel (1992) developed thistheme through interviews with child survivors. Strasser (1996) gives a very personalaccount of the effects through the topic of anxiety, while Glassman (1996) writes about thelives of survivors. This is by no means a definitive list of publications on the topic but itgives a background to my discussion. It is evident that the subject is now well documentedin Britain, Israel and the USA. There have been a number of conferences, in different partsof the world, and organizations, initially set up to help survivors, have gone on to helpchildren of survivors and now even their grandchildren (Shalvata and the HolocaustSurvivors Centre in London, for example). However it remains the case that, on a personallevel, there are hundreds of people who have been unable to find ways and means ofprocessing, or even becoming conscious of, the pain they feel.
There are many reasons why discussion of the Holocaust has been taboo for ageneration of children born at the end of the war or just after it. There is guilt in evenconsidering their own pain in view of the magnitude of the suffering of those moreimmediately affected (Garwood 1996). Even more surprising is the fact that those who werenot even born at the time are carrying elements of this grief and anxiety. However, if weremember that it was Hitler's intended aim that none should have survived, and that thosewho were born after the war should never have been conceived, then we see that all theJews alive in Europe today - and those in many other parts of the world - are survivors. Thishas had an effect on what might be understood to be the collective psyche.
The Collective and Cultural Unconscious and Inherited Mourning
The collective unconscious is understood by Jungians to be a layer in the psyche whichunderlies the personal unconscious (Jung 1959, p. 3). Jung likened the psyche to geologicalstrata where, as one layer is revealed, it is discovered to be founded on another and yetanother. The collective unconscious is similar to the deepest and least accessible of these.Jung writes that it can never be fully known nor depotentiated and all we can hope for is togain a conscious attitude in relation to it. The collective unconscious is expressed througharchetypes, which are instinctual patterns which have no form in their own right; they arenot tangible, nor visible, but rather sense perceptions. They may constellate in dreams, mythand art. These patterns may govern behaviour and at times motivate our response to certainsituations. In Jung's view, the psyche is made up of opposites; i.e. any conscious attitudehas its opposite in an unconscious one. These opposites manifest themselves in culture aswell as in the
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psychological development of the individual. This is problematic because, in the languageof opposites, there is always an `other' who may become the convenient and unthinkingrepository for unwanted projections. Jungian theory aims at a conscious resolution of theseelements.
However, Jung's theories, applied in this context, present a problem; it cannot beignored, in the context of this paper, that it has long been rumoured that Jung was anti-semitic. Researches into the history of Jung's association with the Nazis by Samuels (1993),Von Der Tann et al. (1993), and Samuels and Allan (1995) have discovered evidencewhich confirms this. In response many Jungians seem to consider that Jung must bedefended. This is evident from the correspondence in the Journal of Analytical Psychologywhich followed these disclosures. There seems to be an anxiety that to accept the evidenceis to betray Jung or else to find that it is no longer acceptable to apply his theories.However it is questionable whether it is the role of present-day Jungians to make amendsfor Jung. Casement (1996) suggests that those who have researched the evidence `speakopenly of the need for Jungians to make reparation for some of Jung's "thoughtlessutterances" about "Jewish psychology"' (Casement 1996). Further that there is now a `soundbasis for a recovery of more positive aspects of Jung's attempt to create a culturalpsychology' (Casement 1996). This may be possible but it will take time and can onlyhappen in conscious awareness of the evidence. It is clear that Jung's letters on these topicsare more than 'thoughtless utterances' and so they can be neither ignored nor defended.What is certain is that his theories cannot be applied uncritically.
In this context it may seem particularly paradoxical that I continue to find much ofJung's work applicable. However, the collective unconscious makes sense of the continuingintergenerational effects of the Holocaust. There are times when what has been experiencedby one generation cannot be assimilated by the individuals of that generation. In such casestrauma may be transmitted, through unconscious processes, to the next generation. This hasbeen the case with the experience of the Holocaust (Epstein 1980; Wardi 1992; Karpf1996). However, this is an experience which goes way beyond the experiences of individualfamilies as Gilbert's (1987) account shows only too clearly. It is a history which destroyedmore than individuals and more than families; whole ways of life were devastated in thosefew years.
Therefore when, in the consulting room, a client casually mentions that their parentscame from some country in eastern Europe this may well be significant, and even when theperson is not Jewish. They may come from a country which was complicit in the murder ofthe Jews. It has been my experience that people who grew up in Germany, many years afterthe end of the Second World War, are also haunted by its effects. They feel, an oftenunspecified, guilt which comes from suspecting their parents' and even grandparents'complicity. Often they dare not ask about it. This too is inherited through the generations,and many children and grandchildren of Nazis carry this legacy. There are now workshopsin Britain and Germany which are organized in attempts to open up dialogue in this regard (Leo Baeck College organizes some such workshops on a regular basis).
In the clinical setting there is an added dimension, in terms of both the transference andthe countertransference, when the client is, for example, German or from some othercountry which collaborated, and the therapist is Jewish. The countertransference ismonitored in assessing such a client and the therapist has to be realistic about her/ his ownlimitations; there may be times when the therapist recognizes that she/he is
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unable to work with a certain client. There are similar potential problems when the client isJewish and the therapist German. It is not easy for German therapists working in Britain;they are already working in a foreign country and sometimes suffer great anguish inworking with Jewish clients. In both these cases significant factors may be missed becauseeither or both dare not mention it (Cooper 1996). This then remains unconscious becauseneither can permit it to come to consciousness; this is one reason why we need to speakmore openly of this history. It is important to own such complex feelings and process them.It is then that this work can be rewarding as well as challenging and may begin to free us allfrom a painful legacy.
This has implications for work with refugees from other communities today. Whenwriting on a topic such as this, one is inevitably aware of the more pressing immediacy ofcurrent events in many parts of the world. The magnitude of what is communicated via ourTV screens and newspapers can have the effect of silencing one from speaking on a subjectwhich is, after all, in the past. However it is important that we understand the particularityof each experience and take what we can learn from the past into the present. It is alsoimportant not to conflate different experiences.
Even within professional groups there may be a taboo on establishing the particularityof any one racial group's traumatic experience. This can engender a form of racism.Therefore, before discussing the art psychotherapy groups which I have run on the theme ofJewish identity, I will give an example of unconscious processes acted out in a group ofprofessional colleagues. In recounting another example from my personal experience, I amintending to draw attention to the general point that none of us is above unconsciouslyacting out primitive forms of racism. Awareness and discussion of this might helpconsciousness in the consulting room where such processes may become manifest in a lessovert manner. Furthermore it seems to validate the point that it is impossible to work withthe inner world without paying attention to the cultural context.
Visibility and Invisibility
Anti-semitism and other forms of racism are at the interface of the inner and outer worlds.For many years, in common with others, I used to ignore anti-semitism. I would turn away,excusing it on the grounds that the person did not or could not really mean it. In tellingmyself that they knew no better I was also turning away from my own pain in confrontingthe irrational hatred which the casual comment might mask. At the same time I was fiercelyanti-racist on behalf of other groups. This is common and in part because it is often easier tospeak in defence of someone else than to recognize the impact of something that affects oneso personally. Anti-semitism is often hidden but, like other forms of racism, we cannotafford to ignore its manifestation whether in the consulting room, on the street, or withinourselves. Sometimes one hears anti-semitism when it is not there; but my argument is thatwe need to recognize it when it is present, even if it is hard to believe, rather than alwaysassuming it to be merely a paranoid reaction. I will give an example.
A few years ago I attended a weekend conference; it was a small annual gathering oflike-minded colleagues with about 75 participants. It was housed in an old mansion in theheart of England. It was the time of Chanukkah (the Jewish festival of lights), and oneJewish colleague and myself decided that we would take our menorahs (candlesticks) withus and light the candles on the Friday and Saturday evenings. We
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placed the candlesticks by the window at dusk, as is the tradition, and invited anyone whowished to do so to join us. A number of people gathered in the living room, we said a briefprayer, lit the candles and let them burn down while we had our evening meal. It seemed tobe a pleasant experience on both evenings.
It was later on the Saturday evening that the anti-semitism began. There was to be aspontaneous, cabaret style entertainment with anyone who volunteered to do so performing.A number of musicians played and people told jokes. As the jokes progressed it becameclear that they were becoming increasingly anti-semitic. The first `comedian' to make aJewish joke was greeted with amusement. This set the tone and several of those whofollowed him did the same. I need to make the point that, on this occasion, this was notmerely my paranoia. It was later confirmed by a number of friends and colleagues (notJewish) who were present. As already stated, it is often my internal excuse for not hearinganti-semitism when it is present that the person does not intend any harm by it. However, aswe know, anti-semitism, as well as other forms of racism, may have serious consequences.The words spoken in jest may be the first manifestation of something more sinister.
The point here is that my colleague and I made ourselves visible as Jews. We alsoasserted our cultural identity in a simple act and perhaps this was experienced as excludingothers. Present was another colleague who is African - a black woman. By the time the anti-semitism had begun she had already left the room. She said afterwards that she hadrecognized the atmosphere and left the room so that she heard only the first (so-called) joke.In the plenary session the following day it was she who drew attention to the need to discussthe issue and there was then an attempt to understand what had taken place. The anti-semitism was regretted by some of those responsible. The group conductor, for the plenarysession, brought out the fact that, in the history of this particular group, there was a cultureof attempting to exclude negative feelings.
Over the years I have discussed this incident with those who were present and we havecome to understand that, by making our difference explicit, we became the focus for thepreviously repressed negative emotions. The anxiety levels of those who had not addressedtheir own feelings of difference were raised. The shadow was projected and our differencebecame the focus. I have learned much from the experience and it has enabled me to realizethat, although I look Jewish, I can often pass unnoticed. I have never trusted this as I wasbrought up to know that, in Nazi Germany, there would have been no hiding place.However I know that it is completely different for me than for my black friend. She cannever for a moment hide; her difference is evident when she walks down the street. Theproblem is not difference itself but what is attributed to it.
This is very evident in conferences where issues of difference are directly addressed.Confusion often follows the same painful route; people hear each other for a while and thenstart to bring in their own experiences of pain; black therapists accuse white therapists ofnot hearing them. Jewish, Irish, lesbian women and gay men - all start to compete with theirstories of victimization. The discussion becomes heated, projections are rife, and everyonefeels the pain of being misunderstood. Too often participants leave feeling muddled andoften angry (for example, the Changing Minds conference in London (1996) and the AGIPconference on Countertransference and Racism (1993)). The problem is that all experiencesof oppression and persecution are
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not the same and each needs to be valued in its own way and for its own particular meaning.None of us is immune from this type of discussion and, personally, I am affected when I
hear phrases like the `African Holocaust' or prisoner of war camps being discussed asconcentration camps. I see the sweep of too wide a brush. It may be that the genocide,which has taken place in certain African countries, parallels the experience of the Holocaustand in no way do I wish to make light of these events. My point is that these experiences arenot the same as each other. The decimation wreaked by slavery, the horrific concept of `ethnic cleansing', which clearly has echoes in Nazi ideas, the systematic murders of peoplefor their beliefs or religious or ethnic origins in whatever country leave equally traumatizedpeople. However each event is specific to time, place and situation and each needs to beunderstood as such. The systematic attempt to murder all the Jews in Europe was aparticular event in history, with its own particular repercussions in the psyche of thefollowing generations. The considered mechanization involving the designing, building andoperation of machines for murder was planned with a precision which is chilling tocontemplate. It was mundane, logical and organized down to the last details, including train-timetables, to transport the entire Jewish population of Europe to the death camps. It is theextent of the bureaucracy and the lack of passion involved in the planning and realization ofthe scheme which is so particular to this event. This was clearly shown in the documentaryfilm Shoah (Landesmann 1986) and in Gilbert (1987).
There are many common factors in the intergenerational effects of these events but thepoint is that, unless we can listen to each other, we cannot work together. Perhaps thedifficulty is that in our consulting rooms we listen in silence to stories of all kinds ofinhumanity. However, if we are underneath seething with the resentments that becomemanifest at some of these professional conferences, we cannot be effective therapists cross-culturally. It is my hope that, if we can differentiate the particularities of our ownexperiences and listen to the painful details of each other's histories, we will indeed come torealize that we are ultimately not so very different.
Sensitizing ourselves to the impact and affects of the Holocaust on later generations isonly one of many cross-cultural issues which need to be addressed. The point that I ammaking is that these issues are very present and current and need to be openly discussed,even though the pain and misunderstanding they engender are at times almost unbearable.
Art Psychotherapy Workshops - The Participants
Group approaches are often very helpful for those who are actively seeking understanding ofthe psychological affects of their history. It was through art psychotherapy workshops whichI was facilitating during the 1980s that I became aware of similarity in the imageryproduced by Jewish people, who happened to be in the groups. Many of these people werenot actively aware that they were troubled by this material but it emerged in response to acertain simple introductory exercise (Schaverien 1996). Very often, as a warm-up, I askpeople to make a picture of their name and to tell the story which it reveals. This is notusually particularly emotive but I noticed that, if there was a Jewish - or half Jewish - personin the group, certain imagery, suggestive of the Holocaust, commonly appeared. On severaloccasions discussion of the person's name elicited a tragic story, the telling of whichsurprised
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the teller. Many similar histories were recounted by different people. Some, for example,carry the names of murdered relatives and with that the burden of a history which existedoften before they were born. The names of others had been changed to accommodate a newidentity. Even people who were born in this country very often have an awareness of thethreat of being `different'. Their parents' concern about this manifested itself in those whohave an English first name with a `hidden' middle `Jewish' name. For many peoplememories of anti-semitism, experienced in school, are associated with their name. A secondname which is very obviously Jewish draws attention to difference. Thus this exercise, andothers which I have developed since, reveal a sensitivity to particular common themes,which are markedly different from people from other backgrounds. It was this which led meto decide to run specific art psychotherapy groups for Jewish people.
Beginning in 1988 I conducted one and two day art psychotherapy workshops entitled, `Inheritance: an art therapy workshop on Jewish identity' in many different forums. Thewording of the description was deliberately open; I did not want to preempt the material. Iwanted to see who came and what emerged. The structure and layout of the groups are veryimportant in establishing safety for the exploration of this material, so I will outline how Iintegrate the art making process within a group dynamic framework. There is a circle ofchairs in the centre of the room and tables around the walls. An abundant supply of artmaterials will be set out on one table. I usually provide large sheets of paper in a variety ofcolours as well as tissue paper, paint, charcoal, clay, pastels, pencils, chalks. All talkingtakes place in the inner circle and people are asked not to speak to each other during thepainting phase, nor to leave the room. Thus there is a central circle of chairs for talking anda wider circle bounded by the walls of the room to contain the art process.
The people who attended the workshops covered a wide variety of experience and agerange. Many were second generation survivors who had not previously identifiedthemselves as Jewish. This is more common in the Midlands where there is a smallerJewish community than in London. Some came with the basic question: `what does it meanto be Jewish?' Whilst some had come to England on Kindertransport as small children, andnever seen their families again, others had come as refugees often accompanied by one oftheir parents. These people who were in their fifties and sixties were consciously orunconsciously feeling a need to reclaim their origins. Many who were in their forties hadbeen brought up without awareness of the fact that one, or even in some cases both, parentswere Jewish. Significantly they had usually found out, or been told the truth, when theywere thirteen - the age of Barmitzvah. Having grown up in ignorance of the truth, for theirown protection, the realization had been a shock, but also a relief, because at some level thetruth is always known. For those who had, in the past, identified with anti-semitismunaware of their own origins, there had been considerable conflict.
Very often it is when a parent dies that the person begins to question the meaning oftheir story. Perhaps the parent in question came to this country as a young refugee, marriedsomeone in a family who took them in, and never again identified as Jewish. Many of thosewho escaped were told, as they left their country of origin, by a grandparent or parent, whowas never again seen, to take on the identity offered by the country where they were to stayand to forget they were Jewish. The implicit, or sometimes explicit, message which waspassed on to their children was `hide and survive'. Many of these people live outside themain areas where Jewish communities
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congregate, and they have remained isolated and with this hidden or secret history whichhas been passed to their children. This particular history is of a very different quality fromother forms of family distress or even trauma. The terror of knowing that not just your ownfamily but your whole people is under threat has continuing affects. These are conveyed byall manner of unspoken messages from the family and the surrounding socio-culturalenvironment.
Perhaps most surprising to me was that people in their twenties came to the workshop.For some, Jewish grandparents had fostered a sense of belonging which their parents hadrejected; in them it was as if Jewish identity had skipped a generation. Thus theseworkshops have offered a forum for becoming conscious of some richness of experience, inthe realization that they were not alone, for a very wide range of people. (I would make thepoint that the people who have come to these workshops are never concentration campsurvivors. A very different approach is necessary with survivors and eliciting repressedmemories can compound the trauma. Research has shown that it is important to make adistinction between the first and second generation. Cymberknopf (1996) conductedinterviews in Israel which confirm this.)
The stories which became familiar to me through these groups have alerted me, whenlistening to the narrative of patients who come for analysis today, to hear the potentialimplications of this history, even when the client is unaware of its significance. When, forexample, the person mentions that their parent or grandparent came from eastern Europe, Iam alerted - it may not be significant - but it may be so.
These groups were unusually motivated and group resistances were minimal. Painfulpersonal issues, some of which had never before been discussed, were quickly brought intothe open. It seemed that participants were affirmed by hearing each other's experiences.Common amongst the coping mechanisms, passed through the generations, are denial andforgetting. Very often the parents have encouraged this as a way of protecting their childrenor attempting to ensure their survival. The similarity of history in the group participantsseemed to free them from the silence; it broke an unspoken taboo. Wardi (1992) discussessimilar observations in running such groups with second generation survivors in Israel.
Unusually several of the participants in these groups continued meeting after the groupterminated. Some contacted me later to tell me that they had now been able to ask theirparents questions which had never before been addressed. Others continued to explore theirJewish identity through traditional means, some by joining a synagogue. The extent of theresponse to the workshops convinced me that what I had previously considered to be merelya personal experience, was an issue of much more general significance.
I will now try to draw out some theoretical points with regard to the process of artpsychotherapy in this work. It is my hope that this might help in considering the work withrefugees from other situations as well as recognizing the import when working with Jewishclients in psychotherapy.
Why Art Psychotherapy?
It is not enough to state that art is helpful; we need to understand how it mediates in thiscontext. In order to develop this it is pertinent to reiterate my understanding of the process.Elsewhere I have proposed that pictures in therapy may be unconsciously employed asscapegoats (Schaverien 1987; 1991) and that this may be understood as
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a positive enactment specific to analytical art psychotherapy. In most forms ofpsychotherapy scapegoating is regarded as an unconscious and destructive attempt to rid theself of some rejected element. The scapegoat is usually a person and so disposal is clearlyunacceptable. However if we consider traditional forms of scapegoating, such as the JewishDay of Atonement, we see that the scapegoat was originally a positive enactment. In manycultures it is a cleansing ritual, for both individual and the community, whereby a goat, orpaper object, is embodied with the sins or ill-affect of the community and then disposed of.This is a result of a `transference of attributes and states' (Cassirer 1955) whereby the goatis experienced as an actual embodiment of the rejected element. This is not a `symbolicsubstitution' but a `real physical transference' and so disposal of the goat is disposal of thesins. I have proposed that a similar processes occurs spontaneously in relation to art worksin psychotherapy. Through what I term the `scapegoat transference' (Schaverien 1987;1991), a picture or art object may, unconsciously, come to be experienced by its maker asthe embodiment of the image it carries. Like the scapegoat, it may temporarily beexperienced as `live' and so, if consciously handled, its disposal may have the effect of acleansing ritual.
To apply this in working with the effects of trauma, transmitted through generations, weneed to understand how the picture is experienced. When the images are diagrammatic theyare experienced as signs; they point to something outside of themselves. Such a picture isnot a scapegoat; it merely reveals the imagery and offers it for further exploration, such astalking. The diagrammatic image can be helpful in developing a conscious understandingbut it needs the addition of words in order to convey its meaning (Schaverien 1987, p. 77;1991, p. 85). Other types of pictures may be experienced as an embodiment of the feared, orpreviously repressed, memory or image. An embodied picture is experienced as 'live' and soin itself offers the possibility of psychological transformation through its creation (Schaverien 1987, p. 78; 1991, p. 85).
An additional feature of art in psychotherapy is that disposal may take place and thismay occur without harm to any person. There is often an impulse to destroy the picturebefore its contents have had time to work on the artist. At times this is a necessary rite ofpassage which has a liberating effect; it may permit the artist/client to take control of apreviously terrifying image. However it may ultimately be more valuable to keep thescapegoat picture. If it is preserved, the artist's relation to it may change and, over time, itscontents may be assimilated. Once this has begun to occur the picture loses its power, andso there may be a conscious resolution. Consciousness of the meanings of the wish todispose of the picture may play a part in transforming the impulse to reject some aspect ofthe self.
For this reason, when confronting unspeakable material, such as the effects of theHolocaust, it may be helpful if it can be pictured (Schaverien 1996). Pictures offer a meansof externalization which bypasses conceptualization. When there are no words which canconvey the extent of the feeling, a picture can show it. The previously unspecific image isthus given substance and, once pictured, is held `out there' separate from the artist. In thisway a psychological separation begins to take place. When the image is experienced as 'live'and truly feared, there may initially be no psychological space in which symbolization mayoccur. During this phase the physicality of the picture plays a part; its concrete existencemakes space. It removes
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the previously internal image and holds it outside, fixing it in space and time. The image isthus transferred from inner to outer world.
Once the picture is made the artist makes a shift from creator to spectator of his or herown picture. As the picture is viewed, sometimes helped by discussion with the therapist orgroup, the 'as if' becomes possible. The ability to symbolize begins to occur through thepsychological distance provided by the picture, and this is enhanced by the artist's ability tofind words to describe what it holds. The continued existence of the picture and the fact thatit is unchanging mean that it is possible to wait for as long as it takes to attain this stage. Inmaking visible that which is usually unseen, art validates experience which defiesarticulation. Moreover it removes the artist from identification with the experience byplacing her/him in the position of witness. As witness of our own experience we can beginto give it weight. Thus art acts as a bridge between experience which is inner and privateand that which is outer and public. It then offers a means of differentiating the affects of thepersonal and collective or inherited experience.
In the cases of major trauma art, as a form of psychotherapy, offers a means of workingat depth and acknowledging, and even sometimes integrating, trauma. In art work theresidual affect, or even particular remembered events, can be externalized and so seen at adistance. Sometimes, through pictures, the unspeakable can be expressed without the needfor words.
Themes and Images
Certain patterns of imagery constellate in the pictures made by people whose history linksthem to the effects of the Holocaust even when geography or generation means that theywere not directly nor personally threatened. Frequently this imagery appears at the interfacebetween the 'public' and `private' aspects of Jewish identity. This is very often evident in asplit between different sections of the picture. The content of each may be characterized byearly memories of anti-semitism experienced in the public arena, on one side, and images offamily on the other. Among the 'public' images yellow stars, swastikas and tangles of barbedwire are common. If we consider the cultural history and the documentation of the SecondWorld War this is hardly surprising; these are recognizable signifiers of the Holocaust.Perhaps they are just that; diagrammatic images which we would all recognize as pointers,consciously intended to convey the Holocaust. But this is not always the case, sometimesthey have the impact of profoundly symbolic and embodied imagery which derives from theunconscious. This difference can only be discerned within the context of the therapeuticrelationship.
Ultimately it may be impossible to fully integrate imagery and emotions derived fromtraumatic experiences; perhaps all we can aim for is to attain a conscious attitude in relationto it. It is for this reason that the collective history has to be fully acknowledged before thepersonal experience can be transformed. The benefit of groups, in this regard, is that throughshared experience some of the problems of alienation may be mediated. However I wouldnot wish to give some idealistic view of these workshops; conflict emerges within thesegroups as in any other, especially when they meet over a consistent period of time.
The effects of racism (and anti-semitism is a form of racism) may be subtle and, in somecases, all pervasive. One impact of this is the effect on body image of cultural
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and racial stereotypes. The Netherlands was occupied during the war and many of theparticipants in the groups I facilitated there, with my colleague Wertheim-Cahen (1991),had been hidden during the war. Some were with their parents during this time but manyothers were alone in strange situations. Problems with body image were common in thisgroup. Children who looked Jewish had been a threat because they might be noticed.Mothers, or other carers, afraid of being discovered because of a child's Jewish appearance,would perpetually comment on this or that aspect of the child's body. This constant rejectionof their physical appearance compounded problems of the rupture in development, andcreated disturbance in their body image.
This is also evident in other groups. People have complex attitudes to their bodies, andsome of these are influenced by culture, as we know from the work that has been done oneating disorders. This may be compounded by racist attitudes which, in some cases,profoundly influence a person's relationship to their own body. Anti-semitism, like otherforms of bullying, may eventually become internalized and transformed into a form of self-loathing. Many blame some rejected part of their anatomy on their Jewishness. This may bea result of being taunted, as a child, by others who pointed out some feature as particularlyJewish. Pictures, made in therapy groups, very often reveal how and where in the bodyaspects of self-loathing are located. Painting can bring the realization that the body, in thiscase, has become a personal scapegoat.
Such personal assaults may be compounded by cultural stereotypes conveyed inliterature and art. These too have an effect on self-image and psychological development.Certain fictional characters have caused discomfort to generations of Jewish children. Forexample, Shylock, in the Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare) and Fagin in Oliver Twist (Dickens) are examples of fictional characters which have caused immense distress to manyof the people who have attended the workshops I have facilitated. Bitton-Jackson (1982)traces the characterization of the `Jewish Woman in Christian Literature' and drawsattention to stereotypical stories where the female heroine is portrayed as beautiful andattractive to the Christian male hero. His quest is to rescue her from her Jewish father whois portrayed as repulsive and evil. The argument is persuasive and accompanied by manyexamples. Furthermore illustrations may present a stereotypical image of these characters.This is compounded with witches who often display the hooked nose associated with the `other' in Western literature. Such stories have had an effect on the development of the self-image of many Jewish children.
In art psychotherapy groups such imagery, which may be associated with the influenceof long-forgotten stories, may be contacted through the art process. The unfamiliar act ofpainting seems to permit access to repressed or forgotten fears, images and memories;perhaps because, for many, painting is an activity associated with childhood. The discussionin the group often elicits similar memories for others and the realization that this experienceis shared is a significant healing experience. This is intensified with 'Hidden Children'.
The art psychotherapy workshops which I have described here offer a means of workingwith one particular group of people; however I consider that this has wider implications. Itis my hope that the paper gives an argument for working with refugees
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from other situations at an early stage, and art psychotherapy is particularly helpful in thisbecause it is a non-invasive technique.
Furthermore my intention has been to alert practitioners to the subtle and pervasiveinfluence of residual affects of the Holocaust even today. The significance of these issues isundermined when interpretation of the inner world is considered to be sufficient irrespectiveof the history of the client. The potential import of such material is not then given theweight it merits in therapy. However it is also important not to overvalue such material norto assume that all Jewish people are traumatized. Thus it is important that the therapist isable to distinguish between different issues in the material the client brings. It is alsoessential that she/he does not avoid consideration of her/his own history, sensitivities andidentifications, whatever they may be.
Responsibility for all points of view expressed in this paper is entirely my own. However Iam grateful to Robina Burke, Paul Goldreich, Peter Tatham, Jan Wiener and Peter Wilsonfor their timely and valuable comments on an earlier draft of the paper. An earlier versionwas given as part of the `Jung Studies Day' at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies,University of Kent in November 1996.
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