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Nathan, P. (2017). Recognition is a Matter of Life and Death in Aboriginal Australia. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 14(1):54-68.

(2017). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 14(1):54-68

Recognition is a Matter of Life and Death in Aboriginal Australia

Pamela Nathan

Recognition changes minds, saves lives and creates safe minds.

There is no one to want me to say me my name. (Beloved by Toni Morrison, 2005, pp. 212-213)

The Problem with No Recognition?

There is a terrible price to be paid for renouncing the recognition of another person. Recognition is as essential to life as oxygen. For an individual who receives no positive recognition it heralds psychic and emotional death. Psychic death involves the denial of oneself as a human being. The novel Beloved by Toni Morrison exposes that the worst atrocity of slavery, the real horror, is not physical death but psychical death. A community or society that receives no positive recognition heralds a communal psychic death and equates to a denial of freedom. Recognition is a seemingly simple word or everyday concept that is of not great significance. But recognition entails life and death struggles. Recognition entails being able to see and know and to be seen and known. If we cannot see we remain blind. And if we are not seen, we are a nobody. People living the emotional pain of unrecognized trauma fill the psychological consulting room with their silent screams, bleeding wounds and restricted psychic development. The denial of recognition - There is no one to want me to say me my name - one might say constitutes the essential unrecognized trauma of a nobody. If we cannot know another, or be known, we remain despairing and mindless in a meaningless world. Love is a form of knowing and being known. If we cannot be seen we remain invisible, alien and unloved. Everyone's birthright is to be recognized. A lack of recognition heralds a ‘nobody's landstate of Terra Nullius' and a nobody state of mind becomes sovereign. Recognition is about validation and being. Recognition is only possible in a peopled land of equal and different relationships - a land belonging to and populated by people. A world without recognition spells death to humanity and to life itself.

ο    We become dead men walking

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* Correction added on 24 March 2017, after first online publication: The order of the author name has been corrected.

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[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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