Psychoanalysts must pay more attention to patients’ racial issues, defends study


Ato em São Paulo lembra Dia Internacional da Mulher Negra

Note from BW of Brazil: Activists and psychologists of the Movimento Negro have been saying it for years. Racism can be a major cause of trauma in the lives of Brazil’s black population. For some, the effects of racism can even lead to depression. Imagine also Brazil’s particular manner of dealing with reports and experiences with racism; that of denial, downplaying its very existence and placing the blame on the victims themselves. We’ve also seen how racism affects the treatment, lack of treatment and mistreatment of black patients seeking help in the medical system. Due to stereotypical thoughts and ideas about black people, specifically black women, doctors often ignore certain symptoms, misdiagnose their patients and ignore physical issues that are specific to the black population. This treatment also applies to mental health professionals who ignore or don’t know how to deal with issues of racism that can have direct influences on the lives of Afro-Brazilians. Finally, it seems that the issue is beginning to be considered on a serious level. It will be interesting to see if there will be any new developments within the psychological profession in relation to the race issue. 

Psychoanalysts must pay more attention to patients’ racial issues, defends study

Research of the Instituto de Psicologia (Psychology Institute) suggests that, in dealing with black patients, one must take into account the racism present in Brazilian society and how it affects the black population

By Valéria Dias

Ato em São Paulo lembra Dia Internacional da Mulher Negra
For the researcher, racism imprints its marks also on the unconscious, and the psychoanalyst must be careful – Photo: Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil

Psychoanalysis can be understood as the therapeutic method created by the doctor Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) which consists of interpretation, by a psychoanalyst, of the unconscious contents that come by means of the words and actions of a person. This occurs through the so-called “psychoanalytical listening”, carried out in an office.

A survey conducted at the Institute of Psychology (IP), at USP (University of São Paulo) shows that in dealing with a black patient, the analyst must take into account the issues of racial and social inequalities found in Brazilian society. “The unconscious has no color, but are marked by the way we are seen by others,” says the analyst Ana Paula Musatti Braga.

“I don’t believe in race in the biological sense, but I believe in what Lilia Schwarcz (Professor, Department of USP’s Anthropology) defines as ‘segunda pele’ (second skin): the person suffers the consequences when he/she entering a place and is regarded differently with the marks of a past enslavement of black men and women. This goes through the culture by subterranean means, ie very veiled and unconscious,” says the analyst.

She perceived this carrying out work in a public school in the district of Butantã in São Paulo. It was there that she met Silvana, a poor black woman in her 40 years, mother of nine children, three of them being imprisoned. The analyst then decided to do some interviews with her, taking her as a case of her search.

The unconscious has no color, but is marked by how we are perceived by others.

Ana Paula perceived the issue of racism and social inequality through various comments of Silvana. In these meetings, for example, Silvana reported that once she was with one of her children, that has lighter skin than she. A person sees the two and deduces that she’s the child’s babá (nanny), she says: “Wow, your employers must trust in you a lot to leave their child under your care like this.” When Silvana replies that she is the boy’s mother, the person replies: “I hope that it’s not your boss who did this to you.”

“The issue here is to reflect on why a person can only see her in that place of servitude of another, or she is the nanny or that whose body the boss can use. Despite the current female conquests, the black woman is still placed in a place of servitude,” explains the analyst. “How will each person singularly construct their own subjectivity having these marks throughout life? It’s necessary to remember all of this when we treat black patients. Otherwise, we will not hear the singularity that comes to us.”

Virgínia Bicudo

Ana Paula mentions that there are few studies on poor black women in this area. She recalls that one of the founders of psychoanalysis in Brazil was exactly a black woman: Virgínia Bicudo, author of the first doctoral thesis on race relations in Brazil. “Few people know that she was black. This shows that a silencing of these women is perpetuated,” she says.

According to the researcher, the psychoanalysis needs to proceed along with history and social anthropology. And in psychoanalysis sessions, listening to a black woman, the analyst should consider all the erasure of memory experienced by black people, invisibility and social disappearance, genocide and the incarceration of young black men, the joint legacy between racism and slavery. “Silvana has three children imprisoned and this should be taken into account,” says the analyst.

Ana Paula also used texts from blogs, songs and testimonies of black people on racial prejudice. “These experiences can open new listening possibilities for a psychoanalyst to realize how clinical practice needs to be updated and crossed-sectioned by this issue,” she says. For the researcher, racism cannot stand as a problem of only blacks. “We all have to open our ears and ask how it runs through all of us,” she says.

Sensitivity in listening

The researcher found black psychoanalysts reports tending to black patients. But the question is not whether or not black patients come to the office, but if the psychoanalyst listens to them. “They report that racial issues were never heard by white psychoanalysts. Probably the patient talked about it, but it was not heard with sufficient sensitivity and the analyst didn’t realize the importance of racial issues in the everyday life of the patient.”

The analyst also found testimonies of black women citing a certain unease they feel about their body: such as not meeting a certain standard of beauty, they often suffer because their standard is not the one found on the covers of magazines. “I believe the uneasiness  can be, beyond this, bearing a body that is not what’s attractive. It is exactly the opposite: it is a body seen as very attractive, where everything would be possible. The image of the mulata, full of eroticism and sensuality, represents this very well. It must be very uncomfortable and disruptive to have a body that produces in the other fantasies of an unimaginable and licentious pleasure,” she concludes.

The doctoral thesis Os muitos nomes de Silvana: contribuições clínico-políticas da psicanálise sobre mulheres negras (The many names of Silvana: clinical-political contributions of psychoanalysis on black women) was defended on February 2016, under the guidance of Professor Miriam Debieux Rosa.

More information: email with Ana Paula Braga Musatti

Source: Jornal da USP 

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. I have very little faith in all this psychoanalysis mumbo jumbo, which normally exists to serve hysterical rich white women who can’t deal with their daddy issues.

    In any case, for blacks needing help I would suggest simply never going to a white psyco-anything. You can train white folks on these issues all you want but normally this is just like teaching string theory to a 4 year old.

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