Summary: Complicated Mourning & Mobilization for Nationalism

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from Social Pathology in Comparative Perspective: The Nature and Psychology of Civil Society,

edited by Jerome Braun

The subject of this chapter contributes to a scientific theory about the psychology of peace making. Montville begins with the phenomenon of mourning in individuals in the face of significant loss, and the need to work through loss by acceptance of it and reintegration, through investment in another object of love. Special note is taken of the apparent connection between grieving and the sense of loss of an object vital to the individual’s security and survival. A move is then made from the individual self to the concept of the group self, its origins and its manifestation as ethnos or nation, and then the idea of collective loss and the resultant large group mourning processes.

The author then analyzes various forms of psychological and physical assault by external forces on the group self, and of the concept of consequent narcissistic injury and related rage.  Following this, Montville examines the psychology of victimhood and its consequences for political relationships, whicih leads to a discussion of how nationalism becomes extreme and potentially violent.

Finally, there is brief reference to a theory of peace making as the reactivation of an interrupted mourning process; dealing with methods  of healing group narcissistic wounds through a specific political-psychological strategy. One can enhance the environment for resolution of an ethnic or national political conflict through historic review of the relationship, acknowledgement of past injustices by the aggressors, offers of contrition, and ideally, expressions of forgiveness by the victim group. The practical consequence of this healing strategy is the reaffirmation of the value of the self-concept and self-esteem of the victimized group. Equally important is a commitment by each group or nation to a new relationship based on equity, justice, and mutual respect.