Summary: Ch. 10 Psychoanalytic Enlightenment & the Greening of Diplomacy

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From The Psychodynamics of International Relationships: Concepts & Theories,

by Vamik D. Volkan, Joseph Montville and Demetrios A. Julius

In this chapter, Joseph Montville explores the application of psychoanalytic psychology to political analysis and the field of conflict resolution. He begins with a discussion of the analytical ideal, as defined by Freud and expanded on by Fine, as the goal of the global society. The analytical ideal suggests everyone seeks a certain level of balance and integration in the realms of love and work, and when content with one’s standing in these realms, the person’s tendencies towards war and violence are reduced, or cease.

Freud used psychoanalytic psychology as a tool of understanding human activity in social life. Building on this instrument, Mitscherlich suggested a basis for a psychoanalytic approach to political analysis in international relations and foreign policy problems. Eric Erikson used it in what he calls “pseudospeciation,” which illustrates how persons or groups in conflict are willing to dehumanize their enemies.

The “Greening of Diplomacy” concerns the discovery of psychoanalytic literature’s theoretical applications for political phenomena. In Gaylin’s book, Caring, he tells why people need to be valued, respected and loved to be secure. Additionally, he explains why those who have been insulted, attacked, etc. can be violent and destructive in “defiant defense of their identities.” In adolescence, individuals acquire a conscious membership in an identity group, and then grow to share of that group’s historical memories, especially animosities and hurts. It is such historical experience that is important to the formation of national identity.

“Individuals have a protective superstructure of belief in safety through membership in a social system, a sense of personal power and of self worth.” This structure is destroyed by victimization. Victims are exposed to anxieties about threats to their existence. A component of victimization includes that assaults represent just one part of a continuous threat posed by the adversary group, which creates a fear of annihilation. As examples of such a continuous fear taking over victimized groups, Montville discusses the Basques in Spain, Armenians in Turkey, and Hindu Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Montville makes a case that an experience of profound psychological processes is necessary for the sense of victimhood to be relieved. There are powerful connections between oppressors acknowledging their wrongs, and then both sides completing a mourning of losses, in order for balance and true sense of respect and security can define the relationship.

So how do you connect security anxiety, uncompleted mourning and peacemaking? Vamik Volkan says uncompleted group mourning has harmful, because rather than letting go, victims attempt to recoup past losses. The inability to mourn is to be unable to adapt to new realities, which allows for psychological effects to carry on from one generation to the next.

In some ways, uncompleted mourning reflects unresolved issues of whether or not survivors of loss can depend on a secure future. Based on objective analysis of a protracted political conflict, it is possible to convince all sides in a conflict that peaceful resolution is feasible, if based on mutually enforced guarantees of security for those victimized. With assured security, the mourning of past losses can be completed. Montville follows this by saying “tribes and nations can ease or resolve long enduring political conflicts, characterized by narcissistic rage and victimhood, by working to reaffirm the innate value of their adversaries though acts of respect, vigorous self-analysis, self-criticism, and contrition.”  He offers several examples of this in history, including Franco-German reconciliation processes after World War II, the Japanese apology at the US Senate four years after the atomic bomb, and lastly the English’s role in the Northern Ireland conflict. .

Over many years of searching for answers to the intractable Arab Israeli conflict, one historic grievance that has stood out for Montville is that of Jews against Gentiles, especially against Christians.  In the process of trying to understand Arab and Jewish psychology, he has learned the reality of what it means to be Jewish in a Christian world. Montville then takes up the history of Christian oppression of Jews. Examples include the fourth Gospel’s condemnation of all Jewish people for the death of Christ; the middle age belief in Spain that all Jews had tails; and Martin Luther’s preaching that Jews are the sworn enemies of Christianity, and compared them with Satan. Contemporary Jews, such as Henry Ebel and Ofira Seliktar, have had the courage to express their pain and rage, over the almost two thousand years of destructive behavior exhibited by Christians.

Montville ends his chapter with a request: “I ask as a private, individual Christian, the forgiveness of the Jewish people for the hurts inflicted on them by Christendom. I ask to be permitted to mourn Jewish losses with Jews and then work in brotherly alliance with Jews and Arabs to mourn unjust hurts suffered by some Arabs as Jews fleeing Christian brutality in’Europe established a homeland in Palestine and ultimately the State of Israel. And I ask to work with Jews and Arabs to establish a relationship which assures a secure and just future for them and their children.”

In conclusion, if there is a greening of diplomacy, it means that strategies of conflict intervention and resolution are being developed by responsible diplomatic officials and unofficial but enlightened citizens in many countries of the world. At key points, it can be used by authorities to take responsibility for the formal protection of the basic right to life and developmental potential of all human beings on the face of the earth.