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How a farm led to real honesty

- By Wits University

Professor Mark Solms, best known for his discovery of the forebrain mechanisms of dreaming and for his integration of psychoanalytic theories and methods with those of modern neuroscience, addressed graduates from the Faculty of Humanities during the December Graduation Ceremony from the Faculty of Humanities.

He talked about the social relevance of universities and degrees, and speaking honestly, he relayed how the family wine farm he inherited became the subject of an open and true discussion about how far we are actually willing to go to bring about change in our society. But most importantly, how acknowledging to himself and others that he is not able to do the “ethical” thing he was supposed to do has helped to foster a lasting solution to land reform on this farm.

“There are psychological impediments for us in actually dealing with the problems we are facing in this county because we don’t want to really face our own guilt, our own shame, our own badness. If you do face that; if you do face your own self-interest, and your own no-so-goodness – those facts and your guilt and your fear, and all sorts of emotions one does not want to face. Then you had all the facts to your disposal. Then it becomes possible to actually find a solution because no solution will be found if those facts are not factored into that solution. It becomes, when you do that, possible to think again,” he said.

Solms is currently the Chair of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town and the Groote Schuur Hospital, and President of the South African Psychoanalytical Association. He has published widely in both neuroscientific and psychoanalytic journals and is also frequently published in general-interest journals, like Scientific American. He has published more than 250 articles and book chapters, and five books, amongst his other achievements.