Psychoanalytic Theory and Multiculturalism
In discussing the short-comings of psychoanalytic theory with regard to multiculturalism, one the most obvious areas is when the theory is applied to cultures who value more enmeshed family dynamics. As psychoanalysis is thoroughly Western and European in its roots, there is a pervasive emphasis on separation and individuation in the development of a healthy individual.
Yet, as we know, many cultures are not oriented in this way at all, and often the opposite is valued, where a continued closeness maintaining a lack of separation is supported. Analytic thinking tends to present the separation-individuation model as a universal ideal for health rooted in biological drives and childhood development. But this model grew out of a culture that had already been built around ideals of personal achievement and the uniqueness of the individual mind and life. As such, societies have tended to be structured in way that rewards achievements that are individually attained. There are few economic incentives, for example, for maintaining large extended families. The work that would be done by, say, a grandmother in a Latin or Asian family, is outsourced, so to speak, to a babysitter or hired nanny. This is often because the grandmother does not live nearby because the young family has moved away, and the most common reason people move is their career.
Career, in contemporary Western culture, is at the heart of individual achievement and the desire to be in proximity with one’s extended family will not get in the way. Analytically, it might be labeled as “infantile” or “poorly differentiated” if a man or a woman chooses a lifetime of closeness with his or her parents over the pursuit and fruition of personal career goals.