The Irish Journal of Psychology, “The Irish Psyche” [Special Issue, ed., A. Halliday and K. Coyle, Vol. 15, Nos. 2 & 3 (Psychol. Soc. of Ireland 1994)

CONTENTS: A. HALLIDAY and K. COYLE, Foreword [243]. IRISH IDENTITIES: J. LEE, The Irish psyche: An historical perspective [245]; G. MOANE, A psychological analysis of colonialism in an Irish context [250]; D. McLOUGHLIN, Women and sexuality in 19th century Ireland [266]; P. GILL, Island psyche: Fieldnotes from an Irish island [276]; K. TREW, What it means to be Irish from a Northern perspective [288]; H. GARAVAN, M. DOHERTY and A. MORAN, The Irish mind abroad: The experiences and attitudes of the Irish diaspora [300]; EXPRESSIONS OF IRISH LIFE: C. BENSON, A psychological perspective on art and Irish national identity [316]; M. O SUILLEABHAIN, ’AII our central fire’ Music, mediation and the Irish psyche [331]; ASPECTS OF IRISH LIFE: S. GREENE, Growing up Irish: Development in context [354]; E. McCARTHY, Work and mind: Searching for our Celtic legacy [372]; M. MORGAN and J. GRUBE, The Irish and alcohol: A classic case of ambivalence [390]; A. HICKEY, G. BURY, C. A. O’BOYLE, F. L. BRADLEY, F. D. O’KELLY and W SHANNON, No (safer) sex please, we’re Irish: Sexual functioning and use of safer sexual practices in an Irish HIV positive cohort [404]; M. BARRY, Community perceptions of mental disorder: An Irish perspective [418]; W. DUNCAN, Law and the Irish psyche: The conflict between aspiration and experience [448]; P. O’MAHONY, The Irish psyche imprisoned [456]; K. HESKIN, Terrorism in Ireland: The past and the future [469]; E. CAIRNS, Understanding conflict and promoting peace in Ireland: Psychology’s contribution [480]; N. SHEEHY, Talk about being Irish: Death ritual as a cultural forum [494-507; END].

Joseph Lee, ‘The Irish psyche: An historical perspective.’ (pp.225-49).
‘Let us assume, however, with a soaring leap of faith, that an Irish psyche does exist, transcending distinctions of time, place, gender, class, creed, party, age, education, &c. Let us assume that the for “cultures” identified by Lyons ... can be collapsed into a single national psyche, however improbably that may seem to some.’ (p.245.)

Comments on the danger of accepting accounts of ‘observers from outside’ who have tended to contrast Irish Protestant and Irish Catholic psyches in varying degrees wtih a ‘standard English psyche’ (p.246.)

Writes cogently of ‘alleged Irish obsession with history’ and notes that it is based on an English idea of normalcy. [246]

Genuine historians will always seek to place matters in their historical context. [246]

‘It is a frequent response of people who feel their identity [sic] under pressure (abstracting from the question of why they don’t simply lie on their backs and enjoy it) to invoke history.’ [247]

Irish history stokes the sense of grievance that features so prominently in the Irish psyche [247]

Much of the inferiority complex that seems to distinguishing feature of the Irish psyche, and of the consequent sensitivity to real or imagined slights, may stem from the combination of cultural and political pressure. [248]

Cites Sean de Freine, The Great Silence (1960).

Lee make much of ‘the glee with which some have greeted the decline of the Irish language’; ‘exude uncomprehending self-loathing’ [248]

Discusses the nature of English presence in Ireland [249]

‘it is important for formerly colonised peoples to “overcome” their history and not use it as an excuse to remain in a state of arrested personality development. But they must, like the maimed individual, first recover it in order to engage with it and become its master rather than its victim. We have some distance to go in that respect.’ [END; 249]

Geraldine Moane, ‘A Psychological analysis of colonialism in an Irish Context’, 251-65.
Thorough catalogue of the social structure of colonial relations and their psychological effects.

the term colonisation was initially used to refer to national movements to resist colonisation and gain independence. More recently it has been expanded to refer to economic, political, social, and cultural transformations that might be required to obtain freedom from colonial patterns. [254]

There are also generational implications … we now have several post-colonial generations. Our analysis at this point must include focussing on our own role in the post colonial state. This obviously a much more uncomfortable task, which may account in part for the prevailing dearth of analysis. [254]

Explicit projects of decolonisation have focused on questions of identity, revision of historical views and reinterpretation of Irish writers as post-colonial (Cairns & Richards, 1988, Deane, 1991, Kearney, 1985, Kiberd, 1984, Lloyd, Said, 1988). [255]

systems of dominant of which patriarchy and colonialism are examples: physical coercion; economic exploitation; sexual exploitation; exclusion from power; control of ideology and culture; fragmentation or divide and conquer.

Psychological aspects of colonisation: dependency and ambivalence; suppression of anger and rage; loss/restriction of identity; difficulties with sexual identity; horizontal violence; lack of shared bonding; vulnerability to psychological stress and to madness

Post-colonial personality: social withdrawal; personal withdrawal [inc. inner world focu, magical thinking, fantasy]; laco of pride; mistrust; divisieness; narrow identity of def. of being Irish; assertiveness; tendency to suppress others; gender polarisation; obsession with sexual identity and the control of women

Decolonisation (involves): recognition of oppression; healthy expression of anger; sense of identity and self-confidence (Deane, 1991; Kearney, 1985; creativity; sense of solidarity; collective action;

Moane (quoting Kenny) writes: [I]n the face of continuing domination, several types of constriction occur, of which four involve social withdrawal and three involve personal withdrawal. The types of social withdrawal are: elaboration of secret worlds, superficial complicance, indirect communication and lack of self-revelation. These are patterns whcih are exhibited in the social world. They can result in behaviours such as passive aggression, evasiveness, understatment, backbiting and avoidance of competition or self-exhibition. Personal withdrawal involves elaboration of the inner world, helplessness, passivity and elaboration of the negative self. A focus on the inner world is associated with fantasy, magical thinking, superstition, and creativity. Helplessness, passivity, and elaboration of the negative self are associated with loss of pride and self confidence, shame, worthlessness, and self-hatred.’ [259]

‘Healthy expression of anger is an important part of decolonisation, or liberation.’ [261]

Processes of decolonisation have been in motion in Irish society for some time. (Ruane, Contemporary Irish culture, Studies, 9, 78-91) both at the cultural and psychological level. Yet large segments of society are still in positions characterised by dispossession and marginality. Not only woudl people in these positions be more like to carry some of the psychological patterns associated with colonisation or oppression, as discussed in previous sections, but they have often been marginalised from processess of decolonisation or liberation initiated by elites. The symbiotic relationship between oppressed and oppressor make it clear that the presence of oppression inhibits the process of decolonisation or liberation even for elites. [262]

NOTE: Exhibits a touching faith in the natural development of a society untouched by colonialism, and the necessary superiority of its social relations. With an agenda of this sort, it would be well to limit the accesof this professional to the education process.

D. McLoughlin, Women and sexuality in 19th century Ireland 266-75.

This article establishes that there were a variety of sexual transactions available variously to Irish women of different classes in nineteeth-century Ireland other than the married-maternal variety increasingly instilled by land-relations and clerical policing.

P. Gill, ‘Island psyche: Fieldnotes from an Irish island’ , 276-87.
‘It my clear observation that those women who have migrated into the island have been under strong pressure to “forget” their own pasts. Physical movement too and from one’s place of origin is made difficult by the very nature of the island but I have observed psychological barriers as well. Indirect evidence can be gleaned from the extent to which inhabitants can trace their paternal or maternal lines. The women themselves may be able to do so but their children will be schooled into identifying themselves as “island” relations. This process is quite explicit and extremely effective. Even the most learnedly sages have difficulty in relating blood lines off the island. This fact ought to influence women’s self-esteem. / There is in other words, a gender specifc islandness ... [281].

Karen Trew, ‘What it means to be Irish seen from a Northern Perspective’, pp,.288-99.
Quotes an unnamed interviewee responding to questions about the ‘sense of Irishness’ in Fionnula O’Connor, In Search of A State (1993): ‘It was hugely anti-Britishness, and it certainly isn’t any longer. To me it was a united ireland, a different language, culture, sport. But I’m changing now. For a start the simple solution of an all-Ireland is impossible to achieve whithout continual bloodshed and it has to be recongnised that a quarter of the people have a different tradition. … We’re not perceived as first class Irish by the Republic, we’re second- or third-class, and it’s getting worse all the time.’ (p.352; Trew, p.295).

Concludes with remarks on current conceptualisations of identity which admit the fact that people experience a multiplicity of identities not necessarily hierarchical, and that they will give different accounts of themselves in different contexts - i.e., Irish in Britain, British in France, Northern Irish in Dublin, and European in America.

The divisions in Northern Ireland are not helped by the use of labels such as Irishness and Britishness which suggest diverse and incompatible aspirations. Both tersm encompass a spectrum of view which overlap as well as diverge. Irishness subsumes a divertsity of meanings which range from the idiosyncratic irishness of the gentry studied by Shanks (1990) to the sophisticated speculation of the respondent who clearly subscribes to a model of change: “There are new layers of identity overlaying the old … [&c.] (O’Connor, 1993, p.376; Trew, p.297.)

Hugh Garavan, et al., ‘the Irish mind abroad: The experiences and attidues of the Irish diaspora’, pp.301-315.

Cites the view that ‘Liam Ferrie should be given the freedom of the City of Galway … [&c.] (p.313.) Notes high level of criticism of the IRA.

Charles Benson, ‘A psychological perspective on art and Irish national identity’, pp.315-30.
Families, schools, churches, political parties, and other public institutions will all have views on the sorts of self which they conceive as an ideal end-product of their formative powers. The newly independent state of Ireland, for example. had quite a clear policy in this regard, even if it never thought about it in these terms. (p.319).

Transposed to the level of national identity, this could include the idea that the nation would have its own distinctive point ofg view on, for example, matters of economy or morality, that it would have the power to act and react in accordace with its beliefs, and that it could engage in tellings its own story and controlling the content of that story as it say fit. (p.319).

Contemporary psychology is fruitfully pursuing the semiotic and discurseive nature of self as an intrinsically social process. (p.320).

If the idea of a nation having an identity means anything at all, then to the extent that the concept borrows by analogy from the psychology of individual selves - idas of selves as discursive; capable of being differently shaped by different sources; having distinctive points of view; having powers to act in accordance with those perspectives, known that they have ideals which they must live up to; knowing who or what they do not want to be like; being plural; and integrating all of these processes into the story of themselves which they tell and retell, especially to their newest and youngest members - these would constitute elements of that complex process which is national identity-formation and -maintenance. (p.321)

It is the idea of invention that unites the concepts of art and national identity. Ernest Gellner has written that ‘Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist - hut it does need some pre-existing differentiating marks to work on … .’ (Gellner, 1964. p. 169). Benedict Anderson (1991), wishing to avoid the possible association of invention with falsification prefers the ideas of ‘imagining’ and ‘creation’. He writes that ‘all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined’ (p.6). Anderson goes on to say that the nation is imagined as limited in its boundaries, sovereign in its freedom, and communal, in that the nation, irrespective of deep internal social divisions and inequalities, ‘is always conceived as a deep horizontal comradeship’ (p. 7). [321]

Benson puts these concepts to work in considering the post-colonial project of Irish art from the Irish Literary renaissance to the present, taking into account particularly the integration (or failure to integrate) varieties, and the travesty of sentimentalism.

Micheal Ó Suilleabhain, ‘All Our Central Fire: Music, mediation and the Irish psyche’, pp.331-53.
The role of music as a mediating force in Irish society, with emphasis on the contrast and conflict between traditional forms and classical tradition; considers closely work of Carolan, Moore, Potts, O Riada, and evokes Stockhausen in particular as a point of reference. See under Ó Riada [RX].

Sheila M. Greene, ‘Growing up Irish: Development in context’, pp.355-71.
Uses Vygotsky’s ‘socio-genetic model of development treating the child’s cognitive growth as a function of the social transmission of culture which is encoded primarily in language; liewise Bronfenbrenner’; importance of historical context (divorce in 1950s being different in impact on child from divorce in 1990s); focusses on position of family in constitution and the implied neglect of the rights of the child; investigates child-rearing practices and questions of discipline; notes implications of fact that 40% of Irish children are living in poverty; remarks on ‘dubious pronouncements of Scheper-Hughes; concludes that Irish families still fall into conservative model of authority rather than dialogue and negotiation; ‘Irish mothers less likely to endorse items expressing democratic attitudes towards children’.

Cites findings of European Value Systems Study (Fogarty, Ryan and Lee, 1984) that ‘The qualities emphasied in Ireland are in many ways those of a solid citizen and reliable worker; tolerant, unselfish, with good manners towards others; hard-working, self-controlled and standing on his or her own feet; obedient to authority, and imbued with religious faith’, with less emphasis on thrift, patience, determination, perseverance, imagination than their European counterparts.

Notes low social mobility and barriers of a scale that marks Ireland out as an exceptional case.

No strong tradition of advocacy of children’s rights’ the rights of the unborn child more emphasised than those of the ‘born’ child.

‘The child’s imagination cannot but be influenced by the iconography of the chruch, which one suspets must jostle for dominance with the inconography of today’s popular culture and with fragments from the nation’s history and from its Gaelic heritage.’ (p.365).

McCarthy, ‘Work and Mind: Searching for our Celtic legacy’, ppp.373-89.
Seeks to advance a Celtic co-operative model of the work-place above the ‘manager-hero’ model of capitalist tradition; in particular, lauds the Meitheal System ‘whereby members of the farming community shared their time, effort, and resources [to] facilitate efficient saving of the harvest (p.376).

‘It is further suggested that Irish women and managers could seek inspiration form our mythological and Celtic women leaders of the past (Queen Mebh and Saint brigid) who embodied the characteristics of independence, autonomous action, clear decision making and caring - our tru Celtic legacy.’ (p.383).

Final appeal to chaos theory.

Mark Morgan and Joel W. Grube, ‘The Irish and alcohol: a clasic case of ambivalence’, pp.391-403.
Contests statistics claiming that Irish drinking more or spend more on drink; inquires into ‘bacehlor group’ theory of Irish alcoholism; gives account of Fr. Mathew’s Temperance Movement and the contribution of John Haughton, a pamphleteer who linked drink with crime as the universal cause; overturns Bales reading of Irish-Americans as heavy drinkers compared with Jewish Americans.

Anne M. Hickey, et al., No safer sex, please, we’re Irish: Sexual functioning and the use of safer sex practices in an Irish HIV positive cohort’, pp.405-17.
The discovery of HIV in the early 1980s has contributed to accelerated changes in Irihs laws on contraception; questionnaires administered to cohort of 52 HIV positives at various stages from asymptomatic onwards; comparison with renal failure cohort shows relatively little disruption of sexual function and activity; onset of symptoms does not leqad to significant decline in sexual functioning compared with that already reported by asymptomatic group, but does register greater difficulty in sexual functioning; 87% of those surveyed sexuqlly active including the majority of drug-users; uptake of protection advice among these is poor and needs more attention.

Margaret M. Barry, ‘Community perceptions of mental disorder: An Irish perspective’, pp.416-47.
‘In order to de-stigmatise the whole topic of mental disorder it is important to acknowledge and understand the basis of existing views’; lack of sympathy found to be associated with mainly older, less educated and lower SES respndents; attitudes to mental depression more positive than those to ‘mental illness’.

William Duncan, ‘Law and the Irish psyche: the conflict between aspiration and experience’, pp.448-55.
The actual experience of Irish law is far less repressive than might at first appear, one reason for this being that the lofty aspirations of the formal law are mitigated byt a certain lack of rigour in their application (p.449); [is a] highly idealised legal standards moderated by a flexibiility in their application […] indicative of something distinctively Irish[?] (p.449); Closer scrutiny reveals that this tension is in fact moderated to so extent by the techniques of fiction, non-enforcement, and evasion (449); e.g., non-prosecution of bigamy in case of church annulment and civil remarriage; use of contraceptive pill as ‘cycle regulator’; cites Eugen Ehrlich’s conception of the difference between formal law and the ‘living law’ of any country (1936); quotes Wilde on Christ’s rejection of the “tedious orthodoxy” of the Philistines: “Christ had no patience with the dull lifeless mechanical systmes that treat people as if they were things, and so treat everybody alike: for him there were no laws: there were exceptions merely …’. (p.453); notes lack of confidence in the individual’s capacity to cope unarided with freedom and the responsibility which freedom brings; ‘there is no one single self-image which dominates Irish legal experience, but a rich collage of images … not unique to Ireland. (p.454.)

Paul O’Mahony, ‘The Irish psyche imprisoned’, pp.456-68.
Gives account of development of Irish prison system since the reforming ‘Irish system’ of Sir William Crofton; retention of Victorian establishments and practises in modern Irish prisons; high rate of incarceration for minor crimes and rapid turn-over; scandal of drug addiction in prison and the abuse of early release in order to free space for new admittances.

‘A nation’s psyche finds its voice primarily through literature. In the Irish case, literature is doubly important both because the literary mode has tended to be the dominant form of artistic expression and because Ireland’s writers have had, on the international stage, a powerfu], widespread impact greatly disproportionate to the size of the country. Partly for these reasons but also because the Irish are especially qualified by virtue of their historical experience of oppression, intermittent colonization, and an excessive perhaps unwarranted, share of the burden of imprisonment, Irish literature has contributed some of the most celebrated accounts of imprisonment in the English language. The best known works are Mitchel’s Jail Journal or Five Years in British Prisons (1919), Behan’s The Borstal Boy (1958)and Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol ( 1944) [dates sic]. There is also a strong tradition of Irish books on miscarriages of justice which sometimes offer vivid personal accounts and well-informed critiques of penal methods. Contemporary cases include the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, but the tradition goes back to and beyond the notorious Maamtrasna case of the 1880s (Waldron, 1992). It is also perhaps not a pure coincidence that it is an Irishman, Brian Keenan (1992), who has provided one of the most enlightening accounts of the related experience of captivity as a hostage. [462]

Wilde’ s Ballad of Reading Gaol was particularly influential and provides both the title and epigram - “every prison that men build, is built with bricks of shame, and bound with bars lest Christ should see, how men their brothers maim” - for the modern British penal reformer, Vivien Stern’s recent book, Bricks of Shame (1989) The ballad continues: “The vilest deeds like poison weeds, bloom well in prison air, it is only what is good in man, that wastes and withers there”- This typifies the Irish literary stance on imprisonment, which tends to be anti-authority and challenging of its Legitimacy not only when, as in Wilde’s case, the viewpoint is explicitly that of the Irish rebel, but also when the issues are less ostensibly political. Undoubtedly, the iconoclastic tone flourishes more freely in Irish writing because the prison authorities that are the target of criticism are often either foreign, usually English, or, if Irish, perceived to be part of an imposed, unrepresentative administration. The Irish voice is essentially the voice of the prisoner./ While there is no equivalent Irish penological tradition of theoretical writing, Shaw (1922) has produced a thought-provoking and unjustly neglected essay on penal philosophy, which strikes a note entirely consistent with the characteristically negative critique of imprisonment voiced in Irish poetry and autobiography. Shaw brilliantly uncovers the contradictions in our approach to imprisonment and goes so far as to suggest that “imprisonment ... is a worse crime than any of those committed by its victims, for no single criminal can be as powerful for evil or as unrestrained in its exercise, as an organised nation.”’ (pp.462-63.)

Ken Heskin, ‘Terrorism in Ireland: The Past and the future’, pp.469-79.
Defines terrorism as ‘atrocious behaviour and a lack of normal regard for life and property in the pursuit of a political objective’; Discuss factiors such as Motivation; predisposition; proximate situational determinations including relative deprivation; discredits the idea that the IRA are criminals in an unusual setting, or that terrorist groups contain a gigh percentge of psychopaths as being simply untenable in the Irish context; appeals to change in weltanschauung as evinced in South Africa, Israel, and the fall of the Berlin wall in accounding for deminution of support for IRA violence; much of the discussion rest on the supposition that the anterior ‘settled order … based on nationalistic and ideological divisions’ has given way to ‘a new era of international political and economic cooperation’ (p.477).

Attributes the concept of authoritarianism to Adorno (1950); enlists concept of ‘superego trip’ to account for IRA behaviour against stream of rationale analysis, defining it as “acting on the assumption that whatever behaviour best satisfies the demnads of one’s superego will be most effectie in attaining one’s realistic goals. In other words, if you jude the effectiveness of your overt acts in terms of whether they make you feel good morally, rather than whether they have changed external reality in the ways you had planned, you’re superego tripping’ (citing Elms, 1976; p.475).

‘Official and unofficial groups whose modus operandi includes the use of force and which tend to be conservate in their ideology and organisational structure, whether it be police forces, military or nationalist-separatists paramilitary forces such as the Provisional IRA, will tend to attract individuals who are somewhat more authoritarian than normal. … This apparent authoritarianism does not translagte for many terrorist groups into ready obedience ot the wishes of the state or ven the church since terrorist groups often respect a transcendental authority whch, in the case of the Provisional IRA, lies in the nistory and myth of those engaged in the struggle for Irish emancipation [sic] in earlier times.’ (p.471)

Ego-idealism: ‘defending one’s ideological postion without compromise, even when external criteria strongly indicate that the cause will be lost.’ (Elms, 1986).

Certain recent events in respect of secret negotiations between the Provisional IRA and representatives of the British govt. would indicate that the Provisional IRA leadership is seeking a new direction. ... Given the strong authoritarian and superego aspects of the thinking of the Provisional IRA, the key to clinching a deal inevitably lies in the ability of the British and Irish governments to engage them at that level, as well as the more mundane, but, I suggest, psychologically more important level concerning such matters as the release of prisoners and so forth.

In the past, the Realpolitik of the Irish conflict could produce either some winners and some losers or all losers because of the “zero-sum” nature of the problem defined. The people of Ireland, North and South, have all been losers because they have defined their situation as one inw hich only some of their number could win if others lost. (p.477)

Ed Cairns, ‘Understanding conflict and promoting peace in Ireland: Psychology’s contribution’, pp.480-93.
Account of INCORE; notes that no pre-troubles psychological work exists which acknowledges the existence of community conflict in NI; suggests that local psychologists were following the dictum, ‘whatever you say, say nothing’ for fear of giving offence; makes reference to Rona Fields’s partisan and inaccurate study (1973); discusses affectivity damage to bomb victims; childhood victims and responses; racial attitudes; failure to establish bilateral relationship to ‘specific northern Irish ethnocentricism’ despite fact that Catholics and Protestants displayed equal levels of authoritarianism and of SNIE; ‘planned integrated schools’; ethnic identity less important in younger age groups; notes ‘air of unreality’ about appeal to integrated schools as panacea; little evidence available concerning impact of various reconciliation schemes on children of NI (p.490);

Noel Sheehy, ‘Talk about being Irish: Death ritual as a cultural form’, pp.494-507.
‘Within a culture, “common-sense” reality is socially constructed and maintained through a process of communication [in which] individuals share their objective experiences of being alive through expression and talk with other members of their community. This process of “reality maintenance” by which a perons’s position in the world is affirmed, requires regular interaction with those considered to be similar. A person’s sense of personal and social identity is dependent on the strength and continuity of ongoing “talk” with these similar others.’ (p.495.)

‘In Irish culture self-identification and personal dependency for a child is channelled among a select and limited group of persons within the family setting thus allowing for strong emotional attachments to develop between family members (see Greene, 1994, in this issue). As a result, members of the family typically become unique and irreplaceable for the individual who invests in the family a high degree of emotional involvement. This increases a person’s emotional vulnerability during phases of bereavement. Thus, we are not normally surprised that loss of a family member should prompt emigrants to spend considerable amounts of money returning for an Irish funeral. These occasions provide members of the family to re-orient themselves and renew the integrity of their social networks. (p.499)

‘The secularisation of Irish Society and the commensurate weakening of institutionalised religion has changed the content and performance of death ritual but appears not to have diminished a commitment to it. The symbolic rites which integrate the culture of the living with the immutable ancestral culture of the dead remain an integral part of an Irish answer to the threat to identity posed by death. They continue to reflect an underlying cultural philosophy [505] with its assumptions, values and beliefs. They provide part of a social contract among the living in which death is given meaning through a reassurance of continued existence after dying, within the cultural and spiritual lineage of the dead and the vitality of the surviving social order.’ (pp.505-06.)

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