We are now approaching the end of this day dedicated to the eternal question “Warum Krieg? / Why war?”. We share what Alberto Luchetti said in his opening report:
“The answer to that question, is the question itself…. “
We strongly wanted this meeting to take place in order to share thoughts with those who underwent the experience of war in the past or are forced to experience it now. How does war affect us and our work as psychoanalysts?
Soon we will discuss the papers we listened to this morning and consider our exchanges within small groups during the afternoon.
A short comment beforehand.
When Bush declared war on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Simona Argentieri (2003,27) wondered how useful the psychoanalytic tool could be in a similar context. “In the face of a collective traumatic event, death and war threats, even psychoanalysts cannot but feel – like everyone else – fear, uncertainty about the future, a sense of helplessness…; perhaps remaining – hopefully – a little more aware, without forgetting their main role in containing the anxieties of others”. In Argentieri’s words, we find the sense of limits, especially when she invites us to refrain from using wild psychoanalytic interpretations as improper weapons.
Applied psychoanalysis has then investigated unconscious implications of war. In his reconstruction Luchetti considers the correspondence between Einstein and Freud, and many other psychoanalytic contributions on the topic: Fornari, Glover and Money-Kyrle etc. There is always the risk of trespassing into areas of relevance to politics and sociology, moving away from our specific competences. This is a pitfall that all the speakers today have managed to avoid, inviting us mainly to consider clinical experience.
We found important similarities between Luchetti’s and Romanov’s papers on the importance of psychoanalytic contributions on war.
Romanov, in particular, made us reflect on warfare in a globalized world and on the technological tools that can spread news in real time and facilitate communications among people over a variety of networks.
The awareness of limits can be found in a doubt formulated by Igor Romanov. Shortly after the Russian armed forces’ invasion of Ukraine, he asked himself:
“How much denial is present in our efforts to engage in psychoanalysis in the current situation?” (Romanov 2022,2).
The clinical material that Romanov generously shares with us helps us to grasp how difficult it is to work on psychic reality in the context of an ongoing war.
Romanov shares and quotes the impression: “In times of peace, and in democratic countries, we do not realize, because we are so blessed, that a lot of implicit and self-evident conditions must be gathered for the analytic method to be implemented. (Romanov 2022,2).
Both Romanov and Mirza wonder about minimum requirements to work in a country at war and those conditions must necessarily guarantee a minimum level of safety. External reality enters the scene with its destructive potential and Winnicott’s voice is heard inviting colleagues to look for shelter while London was being bombed.
Fonda establishes significant parallels between the war in Ukraine and the war in former Yugoslavia. In both wars he traces the difficulty of the central state power to accept movements towards autonomy being considered a threat to old balances and structures taken for granted. In this regard, he speaks of “individual narcissism grafted onto the group (Fonda 2022, 335) ” and outlines a thoughtful approach to group dynamics from a psychoanalytic point of view.
We particularly appreciated his reference to a temporal dimension regarding the possibility of working through of war traumas.
He considers trauma as plural; that is, belonging to both winners and losers. Fonda then includes traumas of perpetrators of crimes committed in war on both sides.
The final part of Luchetti’s paper with the poetic reference to Pantagruel by Rabelais seemed in tune with Fonda’s realism on the time needed to elaborate trauma.
According to Dobranić and Fonda it will take decades and the span of one generation might not be enough to reach a form of elaboration in which the assumption of one’s responsibilities leads to dialogue with the “other” who belongs to the opposite group, be it victim or perpetrator.
The topic of long-term implications of war and how to deal with them has been developed by Matačić. Some of you surely remember the clinical case of Ivan, he presented in Padua after the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia.
During that war, Ivan was taken by his parents to the clinic for a psychosomatic symptom: an outbreak of alopecia. Matačić succeeds in a focal intervention, sufficient for the (temporary) remission of the symptom. Therapy will start after the war, free from urgency, when it will be possible to think about a re-elaboration of Ivan’s traumatic experiences.
Maja Dobranić (2022, 332) stated: “I would have preferred never to write about Sarajevo, the siege of Sarajevo, the attack on Bosnia”.
But now there is another war that brings remote memories in the foreground: “Twenty-seven years after the end of the war, I repressed my war-time experience. I am dissociated because the memories are numerous and with the loosening of the “dam” I was overwhelmed by the intense feelings that follow the memories.” In the clinical material Dobranić shares with us, we understand how these experiences come back in treatment after decades and how it is possible to deal with them now.
Dobranić shows us that we have to consider blind spots and their protective function from overwhelming memories. The story about six blind men and the elephant reminds us of Saramago’s novel: Blindness. In his narrative there is a sudden outbreak of contagious blindness in town. While social order rapidly collapses the government attempts to encircle the contagion through repressive and brutal lockdown measures. Blind violence threatens to overwhelm human coping, solidarity and ratio…
And lack of ratio is one of the main issues risen by Maja Dobranić.
Last but not least we like to remember Alexander Langer who on February 22
2021, for the 75th anniversary of his birth, received Honorary Citizenship from the Sarajevo City Council for his commitment to promoting peace and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war between 1992-1995.
During the last years of his life he was particularly committed to supporting peace in the territories of the former Yugoslavia marked by war, and, in 1994, he introduced for the first time to the European Parliament the idea of establishing a European Civil Peace Corps, to manage, transform and prevent conflicts without the use of violence and weapons.
Referring to the motto of Baron de Cubertein founder of the modern Olympic
Games – citius altius fortius, faster, higher, stronger – that affirms the values of the culture of competition in our civilization, he invites us to practice the opposite: ‘I propose on the contrary to overturn each of these terms: lentius, profundius and soavius, slower instead of faster, deeper instead of higher, and more softly instead of more energetic, with more muscle. With this motto you don’t win any frontal battle, but you may have the longest breath. ‘
We will stop here and open the discussion now.
You are very welcome to share your impressions with all of us.
Argentieri S. (2003). Freud contro Bush. In MicroMega 2/2003. Roma, Gruppo editoriale l’Espresso spa, Città Nuova.
Dobranić M. (2022). Sarajevo: ora e allora. In Centro Veneto di Psicoanalisi, 5 Aprile 2022, https://www.centrovenetodipsicoanalisi.it/sarajevo-ora-e-allora/ e In Psyche, 1/2022 vol. IX. Bologna, Il Mulino.
Fonda P. (2022). Guerra. Immagini dal grande fiume della vita. In Psiche, 1/2022. Rivista di cultura psicoanalitica. Bologna, Il Mulino.
Langer A. (1994). Quattro consigli per un futuro amico. Convegno giovanile di Assisi.
Romanov I. (2022). Equation, moralization and denial: Observation from the war in UKraine Romanov, I. (2022). Comment on the Zoom meeting on Ukraine war organized by the Ukrainian Psychoanalytic Society, 15.5.2022.
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