We are publishing the version of this paper prepared for the conference and therefore lacks the bibliographical references.
Dear Colleagues, Dear Members of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society,
Thank you for the invitation to the conference and organizing such an important event, drawing the attention of the professional community to such an essential topic as “Psychoanalytical Thinking and the Experience of War “.
For more than half a year, the topic of War has not left the headlines of newspapers and has not gone out of the heads of all representatives of the civilized world. It would seem that in our days the existence of a primitive psychology of conquest, violence, rude submission to one’s will and outright robbery is impossible. However, it exists. The war continues in its wild manifestations. And it happens on all fronts: territorial, economic, informational.
That is why our meetings and discussions have great importancy. We have to withstand regular, massive information attacks in the form of Russian propaganda, to oppose it with real thinking, understanding of what is happening and a critical attitude towards it. Propaganda is contagious like a sticky virus. It engages the basic instincts by juggling emotionally charged images and words. Day after day, year after year, decade after decade, Russian propaganda influenced the minds of people, lulling vigilance with sweet promises of “justice” – the return of the loss (territories, former greatness, power, etc.). This has led to the fact that the vast majority of the Russian population supports the totalitarian regime, Putin’s policies, and this brutal war. In addition to the low standard of living of Russians in the provinces, and the lack of perspectives, distorted perception of reality, limited way of thinking, pushes them in search of the meaning of life or just making money into the army.
Examples of the work of Russian propaganda are clearly visible in the territories of the so-called DNR and LNR (Russian-occupied territories of the Ukrainian Donbass and Luhansk region). For 8 years of rule and the total absence of Ukrainian news on TV, they have managed to create a completely opposite picture, a parallel reality, where Ukraine, not Russia, is bombing the Donbass, and is the culprit of their troubles.
Of course, the seeds of Russian propaganda fell on fertile ground. For many years in the history of modern independent Ukraine, these territories were underfunded and “neglected” in terms of the development of culture and science. There is a sad joke in the Ukrainian Psychoanalytic Society (UPS) that the only large regions in Ukraine where there was no development of IPA psychoanalysis were Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. And in 2014 we saw a result of that.
To paraphrase a well-known proverb which originally sounds like: “There is a part of truth in every joke”. One can say: “There is a part of joke in every joke”.
And the truth is that psychoanalysis, with its eager to know and accept the reality, to establish of responsible emotional relationships, is a reliable and proven method that can form independent critical thinking.
As you know, W. Bion, who made an enormous contribution to the psychoanalytic understanding of thinking, considered this process as an emotional experience of knowing oneself and another, as a link.
War destroys links. It used to be intense relations between Ukraine and Russia – family, economic, scientific, cultural and many others. With the beginning of war and occupation in 2014, these links began to crumble; the history of the countries, one own life story began to revise and reflect. It was a very painful process that has been continued nowadays. In many families bonds are tearing, a similar vision of what is happening has become fundamental for friendship, colleagues are expected to be precise and clear in wording and understanding where black is, where white is. The world has been divided into friends and enemies, which, of course, does not facilitate thinking process. But in parallel another process is taking place – in this confrontation, national identity is becoming more and more differentiated, clearlyer aware. The Ukrainian language, which was prohibited and persecuted by Soviet and tsarist Russia, wins the hearts of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and becomes a border that defines the Ukrainian mentality. This is one example of the struggle on the invisible mental front. Another, destructive example, is the fact of the deportation of 1,300,000 people from Ukraine to Russia, of which 300,000 are children. This numbers are declared by the Russian Federation. The information front is fighting for minds and for the future. Teachers from Russian Federation were brought to the occupied Ukrainian territories with the mission of instilling a Russian vision of history in Ukrainian children’s mind, to change their way of thinking. Now that Russian troops have retreated as a result of a lightning-fast counter-offensive by the Ukrainian military, these teachers have been arrested and will be convicted. They face up to 12 years in prison according the accusation in “Violation of the laws and customs of war.”
We can also see an increase in propaganda in kindergartens and schools in Russia when they want to place the past in the future – all these videos, when children marsh dressed in WWII military uniforms.
This is a very disturbing trend not only for the world but first of all for Russian population and Russian psychoanalysts as many people who were grown up in the USSR remember well the repressions of the scientific and creative intelligentsia in the 30s of the last century, when entire scientific branches were severely criticized and/or destroyed. This is what happened with genetics and psychoanalysis. In the families the memory of an acute sense of insecurity is still fresh when after a conversation with a neighbor/colleague/friend, a car came at night and took the father of the family with his subsequent sending to the north or execution without any investigation and trial. It got known that in Bucha, before the retreat and atrocities, there were initially targeted killings. They killed teachers, volunteers, activists. Lists of such people were being prepared in Kyiv as well. In addition to being inhuman, cruel and immoral, it is also an attack on the thinking and active part of the population. These are attacks on thinking, as Bion wrote.
This raises the question: is analytical thinking possible under totalitarianism or during war? Is it possible to practice psychoanalysis and free-floating attention, without memory or desire, while in a situation of physical or mental insecurity and uncertainness?
The world has already experienced a great war more than once. And there is an experience when the war in a strange way served to advance thought, stimulated insights and new theories. The new time dictates another style of war and offers new opportunities. With the development of the Internet, many chances to be in contact have appeared. In the last century, it would have been unthinkable to continue the analysis, being in different countries, letters of support went for weeks. In February 2022, having faced with the war directly, we got the immediate support of friends, colleagues, and all kinds of assistance from the EPF and the IPA – emotional, legal, financial. We experienced the full power of emotional connections which were able to contain even catastrophic anxiety. It took time for all UPS members and candidates to be safe and able to regain our ability to work with patients. Many of those who was in a safer place from the beginning were able to organize and provid volunteer assistance to other, more needy and affected fellow citizens. A few months later, the UPS was able to restore the educational process. Meetings of Friends are held regularly, providing the space for professionals from different countries to exchange their clinical experience, ideas and emotional experiences. It can be said that the rupture of links the UPS (inside and outside the Society) caused by the aggressive intrusion of the Russian Federation into the territory of sovereign Ukraine has been eliminated, and now it is time to reflect it. Without communication between professional communities, without the active care of friends and colleagues, this is not possible. Therefore, I am very glad to share with you the pleasure of participating together at the conference and look forward to hearing the further presentations!
Thank you for your attention!
Oleksandra Mirza, Kiev
Società Ucraina di Psicoanalisi
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