Abstract

This article examines British emotional culture through the lens provided by records of group-analytic therapy sessions held in the 1940s and 1960s. Sigmund Heinrich Foulkes, a Jewish psychoanalyst trained in Germany, developed group-analytic therapy, with the aim of contributing to the creation of a democratic society in which people would operate without reliance on authority. The sessions reveal how the existing culture of rigid emotional control, stronger in Britain than elsewhere, operated in participants’ lifeworlds. They understood mental distress in terms of nerves and sought tonics as cures. Psychoanalytic or psychological concepts were largely absent from everyday working and middle class lifeworlds in the 1940s, followed by growth of awareness among the educated middle-class in 1960s London. The participants’ approach to emotional management was shaped by the demands of respectability and economic forces and opportunities, which changed radically from the early 1940s to the late 1960s. The sessions reveal the erosion of deference taking place as new ideas and economic security enabled greater autonomy. The effort involved in reshaping emotional responses and becoming more expressive is evident in the sessions. New disciplines were required of participants, but the article offers no support for a carceral interpretation of group-analytic therapy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 627-646
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-12
Open Access
No
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