‘Calling Sweden. You Will Soon Be Connected to a Random Swede, Somewhere in Sweden

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Tourists and a copy of a Viking ship in Stockholm. CreditSven Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images 

Margareta Marza, a 28-year-old marketer in Stockholm, was reading a book on Thursday evening when she received my call.

Until she told me, I had no idea who she was. And she didn’t know who I was — or which number, country or time zone I was calling from. But that was the fun part.

To gin up interest in the country, a Swedish tourism agency created the Swedish Number, 46-771-793-336, a single phone line that connects international callers to randomly selected Swedish volunteers to chat about whatever is on their minds.

When I called the number and was connected to Ms. Marza, she said she had been driven to participate out of curiosity and for the chance to have pleasant, serendipitous chats.

“It’s amazing how you are in New York and I am here,” she said. “It makes the world seem smaller.”

The Swedish Number’s website invites callers to “talk about anything you want.” After I dialed the number (callers from the United States should dial 011 first; international rates apply), an automated voice responded: “Calling Sweden. You will soon be connected to a random Swede, somewhere in Sweden.”

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In one case, that was Arvid HedenGynna, 28, a biology student in Uppsala. He chatted with a man in Texas who explained that no, not everyone in the state wore a cowboy hat.

Michael Kazarnowicz, 38, who works at a communications agency in Stockholm, said he had fielded calls from a Greek who claimed to be bankrupt and in need of money, a birthday girl in Kazakhstan and a chef in Siberia.

By letting everyday Swedes communicate directly with foreigners, tourism officials hope to present a more authentic picture of the country than one conjured up by a marketing agency, said Magnus Ling, the secretary general and chief executive of the Swedish Tourist Association. As of Thursday evening, about 3,000 Swedes, many of whom had heard about the number through the local news media, had downloaded a mobile app that would put them on a list to talk with strangers for the next two months.

Yes, Mr. Ling acknowledged, the chats could go off the rails. But he had little fear of lewd, meanspirited or even dangerous correspondence — he believes that people have good intentions, he said. And he believes the Swedish people will make good ambassadors for the country.

“It’s no worse than when we travel abroad and two people meet and talk about Sweden,” he said.

Sweden is no stranger to relying on its people to tell its story. The country has a Twitter account, @Sweden, and it is staffed by a different resident each week, who is given full freedom to write Twitter posts about virtually whatever he or she likes on behalf of the nation of about 9.5 million people.

About 7,500 calls had been placed to the Swedish Number as of Thursday afternoon, with the most coming from Turkey and the United States. Mr. Ling said several of the people he had spoken to from the United States were especially curious to get his take on the presidential race (typical Americans, making it all about us). Other Swedes I spoke to were eager to battle stereotypes (no, they aren’t all blond).

Hugo Gefors, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering student in Kalmar, said his call from the Swedish Number had interrupted his studying for a test on Friday, but he had been looking forward to the distraction. After 10 minutes of friendly chatter, including discussion of meatballs — “They are generally not made like the ones you eat at Ikea,” he said — it was time to return to his studies.

“Thank you for calling Sweden,” he said before hanging up.


Integrating a dissociative world

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Control and false memory

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MemThere has been much debate around therapy and false memory. How can therapists be sure that they not suggest anything that hasn`t happened? Like the recent revelation about the false memories of Thomas Quick, who remembered he murdered 8 people he did not actually kill. A recent documentary about the pscyhiatric ward that installed these memories in him, shows how destructive it can be if therapists lead their clients towards their own understanding of the world (lack of real empathy and mentalization). To not say things that provoke mental events that didn`t occur, can be harder than one thinks. So, what is important to think about to prevent this from happening?

To not “create” a child part that isn`t real: If you ask if a part has a certain age, you can ask: Are you the same age as the ANP? Are you older? Are you younger?

When one asks about the perpetrator: Was it someone you knew? Was it a stranger? Was he/her young, old, related, a neigbor?

When you ask about memories, you must be careful not to hint there HAS been something there. When doing EMDR, you just say: Whatever comes up, is okay. If nothing comes up, that is okay too.

When exploring, have an open mind, don`t think that you know what has happened, as we don`t. The most important thing we can do, is to just be there. It is actually very difficult to just Accept what is, without interpreting everything, but it`s something all therapist must try if they want to do a good job.



The psychology of money

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The Psychology of Money

prismAn important contribution that Jung made to understanding the personality was its tendency to dissociate, or split into parts.  He called these parts complexes, or splinter personalities.  On occasion, a person ‘falls into’ a complex and it takes over the personality for a time.  The inferiority complex is, by now, familiar in our cultural landscape and when in the grip of this, a person feels inadequate, incompetent, weak and lowly.  Even people who have objectively achieved excellence can still be prey to feeling inferior at times.


At the centre of a complex are some strong feelings, which are described as archetypal due to their intensity.  They are usually out of proportion to the event that has triggered them and can carry us away, into acting in ways that we might, in a different state of mind, not countenance.  Some familiar expressions capture this well: ‘I was beside myself with rage’; ‘I don’t know what came over me’; ‘it is not like me at all to…’  The ‘cure’ for complexes is for the heart of them to find expression and understanding in a safe place, which can be psychotherapy for some people.  They take quite a bit of unravelling which is why they are called complex.  If we think of small children and how intense their feelings are, it is easier for us to think of how normal it is to behave in unacceptable ways and to understand how we socialise children into our culture.  When these strong feelings are lived and accepted, they become humanised – no longer the province of the archetypal – and then they can become more integrated into the personality and put to good use.  If, however, the feelings are repressed (rather than understood and accepted)  because they are socially unacceptable, then they move into unconscious territory where they will erupt via a complex at a later stage.  Rage is not often helpful but in its attenuated state of assertiveness or healthy anger, then it is an important part of the psychic economy that can protect and stand up for us, giving us energy to do what needs to be done.


Anna was born into a poor family where money was tight, but just as importantly, where there was also psychic moneyimpoverishment.  Her father spent too much of the family budget on nights down the pub and was not only emotionally unavailable to his family but when he was present, he would be rough, both verbally and physically.  Anna learnt to keep out of his way and to ‘swallow’ much of her resentment, trying her best to keep the peace and to help her mother.  When she found the capacity to come to therapy in her thirties, she would fall into her ‘money complex’.  She would become profoundly anxious that she was spending the entire family budget on herself (as her father had) and terrified that she would become dependent on the therapist (as father was dependent on alcohol) and at risk of falling apart if money ran out (which was mother’s fear for herself and the family).  The parallels between the family poverty and the current deprivation were played out with money as the currency for emotional expression.  A lot of attention was given to money transactions, including the payment of fees in the therapy, as they carried a great deal of feeling.  As links were made between the past and the present and Anna’s needs were attended to, slowly there was a shift and Anna became less anxious generally and less anxious about money in particular.  Whereas some people may need to learn to rein in their spending and become more prudent, for Anna it was the opposite and she learnt to let go a little, waste a little and to enjoy herself more.  She had plenty of resources as she was intelligent, capable, and in a good and emotionally nurturing relationship.  We began to use the symbolism of money to understand that she was rich in many ways and that her financial and emotional poverty were literally a ‘small’ part of her, that is belonging to her child self.

Red world

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Tulips. Red heads, hanging as if dragged down by tiny chunks of lead. Sometimes slim petals drift away, landing in front of feet. Looking down, you see them.
Looking up, you see the drooping heads. They’ve witnessed so many, shuffling back and forth.

A girl comes next. Blue eyes, blond, braided hair. One step before the next, breathing in and out. She is holding her hand closed, clasping a object tightly.

How shall we judge others crossing our path?

The girl was never one to judge, but one day she did. Spikes of laughter drizzling over him, as he didn’t get it right. He ripped out his heart, but the petals kept raining, burying it forever.

The tulips are red. They watch the world from above, easy when their heads dip low.
They can easily judge, but that is not the way of flowers.

The girl can’t walk anymore. Every step is echoed on the marble
floor. Darkness around her, with a porch-light as her spot-light. She is tired, and so is the world that she carries in her hand. She puts it one a red petal and leaves it there for someone else


The sound of popping balloons

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“How long till my birthday?” She jumps up and down, pony-tails bouncing eagerly together with Dreams and Hopes. The mother exhales in exacerbation: “Five days. But can you please stop asking me every other second”. The girl claps her hands, enthusiastically, because five days is not a lot. She can survive five days, but oh, it will be hard. A girl some blocks away is just one day away from her birthday. Pony-tail girl would have been green with envy, but this girl, shrouded in clothes that her mother seldom wash, with greasy hair that covers her serious face. She tries to not think about the upcoming event. Birthday`s are the worst.

Pop #balloon #photography #mostamazingphotography

I write a lot about dissociation, and this leads to the side-effect of noticing it everywhere. This actually led me to say, when our leader asked us psychologists who wanted to check if a girl had AD/HD: “I don`t think I should do it, I`ll probably only see dissociation anyway”. The others laughed, and the task went to someone else.

I remember reading the book “En dåre fri” by Beate Grimsrud (excellent book) that described a girl with schizophrenia.

She described how she hears voices, and some of them were even given names. The same happens in a famous Norwegian book called “A Road Back from Schizophrenia: A Memoir” by Arnhild Lauveng. The protaganist is living a healthy life today, working as a psychologist. What fascinates me in the book, was that she described voices that belong to specific  One was called the “captain”, and was very harsh on her. She never worked hard enough, and had to be punished often to “learn her lesson”. She also had a child part, and I think there was at least one more. Her diagnosis was schizophrenia, and she thought so herself, but it reminds me awfully much about dissociation.

“The zebra girl” by S. Åkerman

Many patients have been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, when they really suffered from dissociation. Is it strange that I just found another book that reminded me about dissociation as well? The last week I`ve been reading a book from Sofia Åkerman (could unfortunately not find an english version of it). She was a patient for many years because she harmed herself seriously by cutting. She is now living a good life, helping others with the same issues as she, and is known in Norway, Sweden and Denmark for her books. In one of the last chapters from “To survive: A book about self-harm”  she mentions a little story by Kristina Lugn (in picture) called “the birthday party”. A girl is celebrating her birthday, but she is not having fun. She tries to explain why not: “The enemy comes when I celebrate my birthday. He wants to destroy the cake, my gifts and harm the people around me”. Sofia fell in love with the story that no-one else understood. She put it under her pillow at night, and read it over and over. She got it. Maybe she had met Mr. “Enemy” personally. He never said hello in happy circumstances, but laughed and smiled when blood dripped and colored her future red.

Kristina Lugn
Kristina Lugn

In my clinic, I`ve actually seen this: When everything is going like it should some part of my patients protests: It shouts: “You aren`t supposed to feel good!!” and maybe even feels threatened. The captain, The enemy or the dark side, have a lot of power. Loosing it is scary and uncomfortable for them. In some ways, it’s perfectly understandable that it push the emergency button by doing the only thing it can in a crisis: Hurting the one causing the threat.

We need to understand the captain or the dark sides, since it also has a story to tell (maybe even the most important ones). When A. Lauvheng started to get better, the captain was stiill sometimes there. He kept organizing and made sure she got the results she wanted. But he wasn`t allowed to criticize her anymore. Actually, his job was important, but the tough words were superfluous.

He had to learn some lessons himself.

Maybe her birthday will be better, this time?


Blogs used in this posts: ritual abuse & my obvious little secret

Earlier posts by me (ask for password on forfreepsychology@gmail.com)

what is dissociation?

Dissociation: Army of me


Coping With Trauma-Related Dissociation