The Freud Museum

Events Archive

30 June 2012
9.30am - 5pm


A Contribution to the Psycho-Cultural Olympiad

A podcast is available for this event on our iTunes page.


At The Anna Freud Centre, London NW3

A day before the European Championship final, in the first week of Wimbledon and a month before the Olympics, the Freud Museum looks at the psychological significance of Sport and what lies beyond winning or losing. Issues about performance, the body, play, aggression, sublimation, group processes, endurance and motivation, will be used to investigate the unconscious dynamics of sport and its emotional impact. Whether you can’t get enough of it or can’t get away from it, this conference will give you a new perspective on the summer's events.


Leadership and Teamwork
Michael Brearley and Alastair Campbell
in conversation. (abstract)

Distance, Happiness and Pleasure
Claire Colebrook (abstract)

Ringcraft: Under the Spell of Boxing
Lynda Nead (abstract)

The Crowd as Therapist
Andrew Samuels (abstract)

Football Passions: From Glory to Despair
Leon Kleimberg (abstract)

The Meaning of Sport
Arturo Varchevker and
Mihir Bose (writer and sports journalist)


Mike Brearley is a psychoanalyst and sports journalist. He studied philosophy at Cambridge University at undergraduate and post-graduate level while pursuing a career as a County cricketer with Middlesex. As England captain he won 17 of 31 games, losing only 4, an outstanding record that has only recently been bettered, and captained England to the Cricket World Cup in 1979. Brearley's extraordinary impact on the demoralised England team during the 1981 Ashes series is regarded as one of the greatest feats of sporting psychology of all time. He was awarded the OBE in 1978 and published The Art of Captaincy in 1985. From 2008 – 2010 he was President of the British Psychoanalytical Society. He works in private practice in London, and teaches and writes on psychoanalysis.

Alastair Campbell is a writer, communicator and strategist best known for his former role as Tony Blair’s press secretary and director of communications, through which he played a key role in the electoral success of New Labour. He was born in Yorkshire in 1957, the son of a vet. His family moved to Leicester in 1968, and he went to school there until going to Cambridge University in 1975, where he obtained a degree in modern languages. After training as a journalist he became chief political columnist of the Daily Mirror I the late 1980s. His main hobbies are running, cycling, bagpipes and following Burnley FC, a team he has supported since the age of four. He took up running eight years ago at the instigation of his sons and he has since run the London Marathon, the Great North Run, and the Great Ethiopian Run, and completed several full triathlons, all for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research Fund, his best friend having been killed by leukaemia. Passionate about sport, he has written about different sports for The Times, the Irish Times and Esquire magazine. He was communications adviser to the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of New Zealand in 2005. His charity projects have involved him playing football with both Diego Maradona and Pele.

In July 2007, he published The Blair Years, extracts from his diaries from 1994 to 2003, which was an instant Sunday Times Number 1 bestseller. He is now in the process of publishing four volumes of the full diaries, the fourth volume of which is published in the week of the conference. His first novel All In The Mind appeared in November 2008, to enthusiastic reviews for its frank examination of mental illness. His second novel Maya, a gripping analysis of fame and the obsession it attracts, was published in February 2010.

He is candid about his own history of mental illness. In October 2008 Alastair broadcast an award-winning one hour documentary on BBC2 about his breakdown in 1986. Both the film Cracking Up, and All In The Mind, won considerable praise from mental health charities and campaign groups for helping to break down the taboo surrounding mental health. He received the Mind Champion of the Year award in May 2009 in recognition of his work to challenge the stigma of mental illness, and continues to campaign on the issue.

Mihir Bose is an award winning journalist and author. He writes a weekly feature for the London Evening Standard, and also writes and broadcasts on sport and social and historical issues for several outlets including the BBC, the Financial Times and Sunday Times. His latest book The Spirit of the Game: How Sport Made the Modern World (2011) tells the story of how Sport lost its original spirit and emerged in the 20th century as the most powerful political tool in the world. He was the BBC's sports editor until 4 August 2009, has written for most of the major UK newspapers and presented programmes for radio and television. He has written 26 books including the first history of Bollywood.

Claire Colebrook is Professor of English at Penn State University and is the author of over ten books on philosophy, ethics and literary criticism. Publications include Gilles Deleuze in the Routledge Critical Thinkers series, and Irony in the New Critical Idiom series also published by Routledge. She is also a marathon runner and group fitness instructor, teaching eight fitness programs for the North Club in Central Pennsylvania.

Lynda Nead is Pevsner Professor of History of Art at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has published widely on aspects of feminist art history and nineteenth-century visual culture and her publications include The Female Nude: Art, Obscenity and Sexuality (1992); Victorian Babylon: Paintings, People and Streets in Nineteenth-Century London (2000); and The Haunted Gallery: Painting, Photography, Film c.1900 (2008). She has an ongoing interest in the visual culture of boxing and is a qualified Amateur Boxing Association of England coach and coaches in the Peacock Gym in London.

Andrew Samuels is a lifelong Evertonian and a former chair of the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Hence he is a specialist in the frustrations that attend sleeping giants. In his youth, he swam for Lancashire and sprinted for Gloucestershire. Now he is Professor of Analytical Psychology at Essex University, a Jungian training analyst, and an internationally recognised political and organisational consultant. He is a Co-founder of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility and a Board Member on the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. His many books have been translated into 19 languages.

Leon Kleimberg is a training analyst at The Institute of Psychoanalysis and works in full-time private practice in Londonn, and is a visiting lecturer at the Tavistock Clinic Adult Department. He has published papers in the UK and abroad in areas of psychoanalysis and creativity, psychoanalysis and psychopathology and psychoanalysis and immigration. A promising player in his youth, whose career was cut short by injury, he is the author of a paper on psychoanalysis and football which he presented alongside former footballer Trevor Brooking at the Freud Museum conference ‘Football Passions’ in 1998. In 2011 he appeared with Mike Brearley in a forum on Sport and Psychoanalysis hosted by the British Psychoanalytic Society at the Science Museum in London.

Arturo Varchevker is a Fellow of The Institute of Psychoanalysis and a former rower and rugby player. He developed the Psychoanalytic Forum, which he has chaired since 2000. He is in private practice and also works in the NHS as a psychiatrist in the field of family and marital therapy with a special interest in trauma and domestic violence. He is co-editor of In Pursuit of Psychic Change, and Enduring Loss: Mourning, Depression and Narcissism throughout the Life Cycle. He is also an avid football fan.


Leadership and Teamwork
What makes teams work and what undermines them? How do individuals cooperate in a competitive environment? How do you get the best out of your best players? What is the role of the leader in sport and politics? Mike Brearley and Alastair Campbell will look at these and similar questions, and what sport and sporting achievement means to them both.

Distance, Happiness and Pleasure
One of the ways of accounting for the manner in which individuals relate to sports is through a conception of human excellence. Sports of all forms - ranging from marathon running to group exercise - develop individual potentials. Humans are physical beings; developing physical powers, skills and capacities would be part of a broader and entirely rational commitment to human flourishing. Even though some activities might, in the short term, seem to be lacking in pleasure, they would nevertheless contribute to the happiness of life considered as a meaningful whole. This is why sports and exercise, far from being mere activities we do for the sake of immediate benefits, are part of a self's definition, identity and worth. Such an account of exercise as part of a notion of human happiness would also allow us to claim that drugs and other surgical or genetic adjustments would alter or damage the self's potentiality. In this paper I explore this distinction through sporting activities such as ultra-marathon running that extend the body to such an extent that they destroy the projects of excellence and flourishing from which they emerge.

Ringcraft: Under the Spell of Boxing
The academy and the boxing gym belong to two different worlds: one associated with the intellect and theory, the other concerned with the body, physical aggression and defence. Socially and culturally they also seem to occupy entirely different spheres. And yet, there are also intriguing areas of overlap relating to how the body occupies and controls space; how two bodies in a confined space relate to each other; how violence is regulated or exceeds regulation.

As an academic who has a love of boxing, my interest in the visual culture of boxing is an attempt to bring the academy and the gym into a productive dialogue and to understand how pedagogy works fluidly across these apparently discrete spaces. It has not always been successful but the experiences will be explored in this discussion.

The Crowd as Therapist
Athletes and sportspersons live with the threat and reality of getting injured. Success depends to a great extent on avoiding injury or overcoming it. The media tell us more than we need to know about the bodies of athletes. I don’t think this is just because sport is physically stressful. I have been interested for many years in the role of the crowd as a healer or therapist to the injured sportsperson, or in helping to ward off injury. This flies in the face of ideas about crowds, spectators and fans as being mindless and cruel. The recent incident in which footballer Fabrice Muamba (Bolton Wanderers) suffered a cardiac arrest in an away game against Tottenham Hotspur - and the behaviour of the crowd - illustrates this friendly and benign reading of the potential for ritual healing that lies in crowds and their passions. Participants who have experienced sports injuries will be encouraged to share their experiences in the discussion.

Football Passions: From Glory to Despair
Many moments in life are about the transcendent and the desperate. Football is no different. Using famous televised examples this paper presents a psychoanalytic understanding of such a paradox.

The Meaning of Sport
The final session of the day wil be a plenary discussion introduced by Arturo Varchevker and Mihir Bose. How do we understand the acivity of sport fom a psychoanalytic and socio-cultural point of view? What do we mean by 'the spirit of the game'? Can psychoanalysis help in the study of sports performance? What does sport mean to us as individuals?


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