What is Psychohistory

 

Psychohistory is currently crystallizing as an important method of historical research. According to Peter Loewenberg (1985), psychoanalysis is to the individual what psychohistory is to the culture's mythology. Psychohistory offers a broader range from which to view cross-cultural differences. Many psychohistorians recognize undiscovered, primitive territory that lies in the study of group psychology. They have discussed collective group fantasies alluding to shame, blame, guilt, projection, persecution, and paranoid anxieties as fundamental concepts in understanding behaviors within groups and nations. For decades critics questioned whether psychologists had any business considering moral and political issues. Many continue to feel there is insufficient justification for analyzing groups in individual terms, that it is difficult enough making distinctions between individuals let alone tackling group diagnoses. Thus, psychotherapists have long shied away from psychohistory, claiming that it will lead to dramatic, wildly speculative interpretations. After all, psychotherapy was originally intended for the individual.

Psychohistory offers two important venues to explore as we delve into conflicts involved in cross-cultural relations. First is the role psychohistory plays in helping us understand cultural patterns handed down from generation to generation, embedded in the very core of the group's identity. These are expressed through mythology, ideology, religion, childrearing practices, and the treatment of women. These ongoing behaviors and characteristics are strikingly similar to those of couples with different ethnic backgrounds. Second is the exploration of the role that group fantasies play and the way they are enacted through identification with group leaders who best play out the group's myths, ideology, and omnipotent fantasies. These venues can help us understand how the architecture of a culture can shape certain personality types. The purpose of this analysis is not so much to assign a "diagnosis" but to explore how the structural design of a culture can engender certain personality types, which I refer to as the "cross-cultural" narcissist ("cultural" narcissist) and "cross-cultural" borderline ("cultural" borderline), what psychohistory is to the culture's mythology. Psychohistory offers a broader range from which to view cross-cultural differences. Many psychohistorians recognize undiscovered, primitive territory that lies in the study of group psychology. They have discussed collective group fantasies alluding to shame, blame, guilt, projection, persecution, and oedipal rivalry within the context of an individual vs. a group self.  

 

View Slobodan Milosevic Psychohistorical Essay  

BOOKS OVERVIEW

Dr. Lachkar is the author of numerous published books and articles including The Narcissistic / Borderline Couple, How to talk to a Narcissist, How to Talk to a Borderline, Courts Beware of the Borderline, and Common Complaints that Bring Couples into Therapy. For more, visit our Books section for more details and to order.