Monica Luci

“I feel, therefore We are”: The body as an emotional map of the world in the interplay between individual and collective psyche

Between the human body and collective psychic life there is a special and mysterious unmediated relationship. This observation, in my experience, stems from the importance of the body in the therapies of people who have survived serious human rights violations. Why does political and social life invariably inscribe its marks on the bodies of those affected? Not only violent collective action, but also peaceful political life often uses the body as a vehicle for its representations and to manage its changes. This paper attempts to develop an argument about the reasons for such importance, developing the concept of oneness as a primordial state of mind that generates the first undifferentiated forms of existence, individual and collective.

Jung's concept of participation mystique and the more recent concept of ‘cultural complexes’ help to understand these phenomena with their related primordial states of mind. Jung used the term participation mystique, borrowing it from the anthropology, to denominate a state of unconscious identity between the individual's psyche and their environment. This expression also indicates all those cases in which the subject is not clearly distinct from the object, but is linked to it in a fundamental relationship of partial identity. This paper is going to pursue the hypothesis that in the interaction between collective and individual psyches ‘cultural complexes’ may have a direct grip on people’s bodies, according to the rules and mechanisms of states of identity, creating states of the mind that make up a sense of collective ‘We-ness’, in a very similar way to which the sense of ‘I-ness’ is to know to arise from basic processes of integration within individual body.


Monica Luci (AIPA, Rome), PhD, clinical psychologist, Jungian and relational psychoanalyst (IAAP&IARPP), works in private practice in Rome. She collaborates with NGOs and national and international institutions and universities in the fields of research on trauma and offers psychotherapy to vulnerable migrants, especially survivors of torture, trafficked women and unaccompanied minors. She teaches in professional and academic context and is the author, translator, and editor of publications on the themes of psychoanalysis, trauma, torture, displacement, collective violence, among which the monographs Torture, Psychoanalysis & Human Rights (Routledge, 2017) and Torture Survivors in Analytic Therapy: Jung, Politics and Culture (Routledge, 2022).


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