My books and articles

Both the inspiration of the writer and the free-association of the patient represent a way out of the prison we call personality. It is in the shock value of what may emerge that the possibility of an “ah-ha” moment resides. This is when the software of the self is shown to be not hardwired but revealed in forgotten phrases.

These phrases are rooted in what we have heard and conjured up as small children. They are the hymn-sheets from which we unconsciously sing. And to get free of them, we need to change how we read the notation. That is, in a way, the dividing line for mental health. As Shakespeare makes clear in Hamlet, sanity and madness are both ways to be pregnant with words. There is no blood, brain or lab test for nearly all of what is called mental illness. It is words – that is, what we say – which determines whether we are mentally disturbed or not.

You can find a collection of my writing in my articles blog

My two published books

peter-ellingsen-psychoanalysis-bookA History of Psychoanalysis in Australia: From Freud to Lacan
ISBN 978064657045

“In this rich and compelling volume, Peter Ellingsen traces the intellectual and institutional development of Freud’s ideas in Australia with the meticulous attention of the historian, and the questioning eye and sharp pen of the writer”. Professor Dany Nobus, Chair of Psychology and Psychoanalysis and Head of the School of Social Sciences, Brunel University, London

Psychoanalysis is ‘the grandest and purest of those apparatuses for the generation of knowledge-power.’ But while it has entered Australia’s culture and history, its own history has not been written. In this book, psychoanalysis in Australia comes under analysis. For the first time, it is subject to informed scrutiny. From the early awakenings, when Freud dreamt of coming to Australia, to the arrival of Lacanian analysts and the transformation of psycho-analysis, the trajectory of a unique theory of the self is charted. This sheds light not only on the kind of psychoanalysis that took root, but also investigates what kind of place Australia might be. In a land where theories of the self have tended to be bypassed, the question has been as much “where is here?” as the one associated with the internal world, “who am I?”

In this book the major theories of psychoanalysis are examined and explained, along with the narrative of those who sought to introduce Freud to Australia. It is a rich tapestry in which Freud’s dream of coming to Australia is matched by Australia’s dream of his arrival. Along the way the wilderness that Australia was for Freud is considered beside the outback white settlers sought to subdue, and the unruly unconscious that was the point of psychoanalysis.


Cries Unheard: A New Look at Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

George Halasz, Gil Anaf, Peter Ellingsen, Anne Manne, Frances Thomson Salo.

Common Ground, 2002,

The book seeks to redress some basic misconceptions regarding the current interpretation of children’s problem behaviours. It argues that, while a range of children’s behavioural characteristics may be viewed as ‘symptoms’ earning the child the diagnostic label of ADHD, such symptoms are not sufficient by themselves to diagnose children as ill, much less to justify medicating them. The book explores and explodes the myth that infants do not remember painful and traumatic experiences. It charts the impact that a mother’s depression can have on her child, and the way in which economic and cultural considerations, framed in particular terminology, have dictated the new way that old unhappinesses have been repackaged as disease.