How a Cultural Age Ends and the Repressed Returns

A lecture by Dr Jonathan Sklar followed by a conversation with Freud Museum Director Giuseppe Albano. In-house only.

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18 September, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

£20 – £25

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Join us for an illuminating evening at the Freud Museum, where esteemed psychoanalyst and author Dr Jonathan Sklar will deliver a thought-provoking lecture. Using the prism of art, music, and storytelling, Dr Sklar takes psychoanalytic thought to a wide audience to enable a greater understanding of humanity.


Following the lecture, Dr Sklar will engage in an insightful conversation with Freud Museum Director Giuseppe Albano, further exploring the themes discussed.


The Soft Power of Culture

Art, Transitional Space, Death and Play


Totalitarian governments emerge from the same unconscious sadomasochistic structures that are found in the analysis of traumatised patients. Since the earliest times, art has been used as propaganda both to uphold the status quo and to subvert it. The arts as a whole connect with the individual and can open eyes and change minds.

Culture is a valuable tool and one where the lack was felt keenly during lockdown when galleries, sports and music venues, and theatres were closed. Culture begins in the child’s mind. For Winnicott, it is located in the potential space between the individual and the environment as the child’s mind develops its unconsciousness and capacities for play. And the ability to play, or not, is connected to the freedom to think own’s own thoughts or,by preference, to follow the leader. Another thread running through the book is of holding one’s nerve, being alive in the moment, and realising that enactment in clinical work can be another royal road to the unconscious.

Yet another is how culture can speak to hard-core power and how metaphor can be used as a process to sustain recovery and new beginnings. This book opens your eyes and changes your mind on all that culture brings.  




Dr Jonathan Sklar, MBBS, FRCPsych is an Independent training and supervising psychoanalyst of the British Psychoanalytical Society. He was consultant psychotherapist at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, and he now works in analytic practice in London and lectures widely across the world. He is an honorary member of the South African Psychoanalytic Society and the Serbian Psychoanalytic Society, and established and chaired the Independent Psychoanalytic Trust. He is the author of Dark Times: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Politics, History and Mourning.



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The Soft Power of Culture: Art, Transitional Space, Death and Play – Jonathan Sklar is available to purchase from the Freud Museum Shop.

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Jonathan Sklar’s The Soft Power of Culture joins the perception of culture as soft with the truth of its personal and societal power. The book is a collection of gorgeous reflections on the coexistence – as reflected in art forms, play, and the radicality of free association – of life and death, cruelty and grace, conscious and unconscious experience, negation and affirmation, apocalypse and humanity. Sklar’s reflections on specific artists and their work as well as his own psychoanalytic clinical work are deeply interesting and embody the power of culture to document and transform human experience.

Harriet Wolfe, MD, president, International Psychoanalytical Association


The book is supremely relevant to our times. It imparts the inevitable presence of culture in the singular doings of psychoanalysis. It relates the inevitable presence of the Winnicottian heritage of transitional space and space for the reflection of W. R. Bion: what would the continent of the continent be? How to elude a time in which psychoanalysis melds with other scenarios of a culture in acute crisis? Jonathan Sklar does not intend to convince but rather to inspire movement in the reader’s spirit. The theory of relativity taught us that the space between two bodies has existence, curves with gravity, conducts light and its black holes make spacetime disappear. Today, physics, the most hallowed science, addresses the mystery of what constitutes space. If we include human art, economy, and politics in our reflection, the challenge is even more startling. I would say that Sklar’s proposition is of inevitable urgency. It should be read, and this challenge addressed.

Leopold Nosek, former president of FEPAL (Latin American Psychoanalytical Federation)


Jonathan Sklar’s deep knowledge of psychoanalysis gained from a lifetime in the consulting room illuminates three separate but related areas: the considerable demands made on both protagonists in the analysis of very troubled patients, the belief that the joys offered by great artists can be furthered by psychoanalysis, and the conviction psychoanalysis offers an indispensable tool for understanding seemingly intractable sociopolitical realities. A book to savour.

Lesley Caldwell, visiting professor, University College London


This book is like going to an exhibition at a museum, where time must be spent in front of every painting to truly appreciate the beauty and richness of each work and to experience the emotions it elicits. Similarly, every chapter of this book will need time for reflection after reading to genuinely grasp the concepts presented and to appreciate the complexity and knowledge communicated in every page. Once again, as he did in his earlier collection of essays Dark Times, Jonathan Sklar challenges us to engage and to think deeply about the world around us. Psychoanalysts will find nuggets of deep psychoanalytic insights while also being challenged to examine a broader landscape outside the confines of the consulting room. But this is not just a book for psychoanalysts – it is an important work that invites the thoughtful reader into a richly imagined world where there is much to admire, to enjoy, and to comprehend.

Edward Nersessian, clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College




Tickets include a welcome drink, book signing, plus special after-hours viewing of the Museum.

Freud Museum Members and Patrons receive 20% off the standard ticket price on all events, courses, conferences and On Demand programming.


The purpose of this event is to raise funds for the Freud Museum London, which receives no regular public income.


18 September
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
£20 – £25
Event Categories:


Freud Museum London
20 Maresfield Gardens
London, NW3 5SX United Kingdom
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020 7435 2002

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