Dienstag, 9. Dezember 2014

Chosen trauma and the inabilty to mourn

Not only do adults in a specific group sponsor shared suitable inanimate and non-human targets of projections for their children; when the children are capable of understanding, the adults also direct the children's investments towards the group's "chosen traumas" as well as "chosen glories." I use the term "chosen trauma" to refer to an event that causes a large group to feel helpless and victimised by another group and thus to share a narcissistic injury. A group does not really "choose" to lose self-esteem, but it does unconsciously "choose" to psychologise and mythologise an event (Volkan and Itzkowitz, 1994). The group draws the mental representation of a traumatic event into its very identity, passing the mental representation on from generation to generation as a psychological marker (Apprey, 1993; Rogers, 1979). For each new generation, the description of the actual event is modified; what remains is its role in the psychology of group identity. Once a trauma becomes a chosen trauma, the historical truth about it does not really matter. What does matter is the mental representation of the event, which is fused with emotions and is included in one's group identity and, in turn, in one's individual identity. Rogers (1990, p.250), describes how a shared feeling of hurt among the Ukrainians has lingered on since 1654, when Russia was united with the Ukraine. "Ukrainians perceive the evildoers to be Peter the Great, Catherine, Czar Alexander, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev."

Chosen traumas are connected with the group's inability to mourn, which was first described by the Mitscherlichs (1975), in relation to post-World War II Germany. Mourning is an obligatory human response that is initiated by change or loss. Groups mourn just like individuals (Volkan, 1977, 1988). If we are successful in mourning, in the end we accept the changes and the losses and identify with the lost object in an adaptive way. We assume some of the functions for ourselves that formerly were associated with the lost object, and we go on about our lives.

In war and war-like conditions, losses are drastic, and for the losing group the shared humiliation is immense. In order for an event to be a group's chosen trauma, it should be an event that cannot be mourned adaptively. The group may be too humiliated, too angry, or too helpless to mourn. This means that the group experiences a complicated grief reaction to the trauma and that this reaction, including shared narcissistic injuries as well as the various defences against them, are passed on from generation to generation. When referring to a chosen trauma, a group holds on to the principle of the "egoism of victimization" (Mack, 1979, p.xvi), where a group feels little or no empathy for an enemy's losses, "even if the victimization on the other side is palpably evident and comparable to or greater than one's own." This inability to mourn a chosen trauma is also passed on from one generation to the next. New generations may share a conscious or unconscious wish to repair what has been done to their ancestors and to unburden themselves of the humiliation that is now a part of their identity.

When a new conflict, war, or war-like condition develops, the current enemy's mental image becomes contaminated with the image of the enemy involved in the chosen trauma. The new enemy may be descendants of the original enemy, or they may not be in any way related to the original enemy. However, through the mental mechanism of displacement, a group with a chosen trauma contaminates its emotional attitude towards the new enemy with the enemy of their psychologised and mythologised history. It is in this way that the inability to mourn a chosen trauma influences the social and political ideologies of a given large group. And because the mental representations of chosen traumas come to be included in a group's identity, ethnicity and other large-group markers do not remain the same throughout their history.

There are also chosen glories: the mental representations of shared success stories that have passed from generation to generation. They are also often reactivated when the group is under stress and experiencing anxiety. A myth pertaining to the beginning of the group usually functions as a chosen glory—it functions like a booster vaccination to keep the group identity safe in bad times.

- Ethnicity and Nationalism: A Psychoanalytic Perspektive (Vamik D. Volkan, 1993)
siehe auch:

Abstract: This paper focuses on observations that mourning never ends even when this process becomes absorbed in other mental activities that can be judged as adaptive or maladaptive by individuals themselves or, if they seek help, by their therapists. We never “kill” the mental representation of a significant dead person or lost thing until we die. The paper also discusses a related area and refers to transgenerational transmission of the mental representation of a dead person or lost thing as well as the image of a perennial mourner, with associated ego tasks, into a newborn child’s developing self-representation. It also examines briefly, the relationship between transgenerational transmissions of images and tasks connected by losses which are shared by members of a society and societal mourning with its political consequences.

Keywords: Perennial mourning, anniversary reactions, linking objects and phenomena, transgenerational transmissions, chosen traumas and entitlement ideologies


A corpse will not come out of its grave, but in order to deal with the fantasy that it might, people from different cultures put tombstones on graves or walls around graveyards. A buried mental representation however, unlike the physical one, is mobile. It can escape from its mental enclosure and continue to have an internal relationship with a mourner. Mourning refers to the process of psychological burial of the mental representation—a collection of images—of a dead person or lost thing. The physical burial of a corpse or the disappearance of a family home by fire does not remove the mental representations of these lost entities from the mourner’s mind. The mourner has to banish such representations to mental enclosures in the mind’s far corners (through repression, denial, dissociation, displacement and/or identification) so as not to be preoccupied with them.

Freud’s (1917) “Mourning and Melancholia” informs us about internal object relations. While sophisticated theories about such relations, such as those described by Kernberg (1976), would develop much later, Freud and many psychoanalysts who followed him, implied that an intense internal relation with images of the lost person or thing that constitutes the “normal” mourning process has a time limit: the mourning process ends when the mourner withdraws his or her psychic investment in the representation of the lost object. Even though we have known that the re-activation of various images or the mental representation of the lost object in the mourner’s mind can occur years after experiencing the loss, such as during the anniversary of a significant event that concerned the lost object before it was lost (anniversary reactions) (Pollock, 1989), the idea that “normal” mourning reaches an end has rarely been questioned.

Psychoanalysts following Freud spoke of “normal” mourning or complicated mourning that turns into melancholia (depression). In 1981, I described another outcome following a significant loss, when I presented cases of people who become perennial mourners, continuing their mourning for years after a significant loss, some even throughout the rest of their lives. I primarily focused on pathological clinical findings in such unending mourning processes (Volkan 1981). Later Elizabeth Zintl and I (Volkan and Zintl 1993) illustrated how some individuals express their perennial mourning through creativity, as Pollock (1989) had also suggested. In this paper I will illustrate that in many cases the border between “normal” mourning and creative perennial mourning is blurred.

Zusammenfassung : Dieser Artikel wird mit der Beobachtung, dass Trauer nie endet, noch dann nicht, wenn sie durch andere geistige Aktivitäten absorbiert wird. Diese Aktivitäten können von den Individuen selbst oder von ihren Therapeuten durchgeführt werden, falls sie Hilfe suchen, als gut oder schlecht beurteilt werden. Wir töten die psychische Repräsentanz einer für uns bedeutungsvollen Person oder Sache nie, bis wir sterben. The article discussion also an a verwandtes area and point to the generations overgreifende transmission of the psychischen Repräsentanz of a storben person or a lost thing in the development of self repräsentance of a new geborenen. Auch das Bild des chronisch Trauernden wird übertragen mit den dazu gehörigen Anforderungen an das Ich. Es wird auch kurz die Beziehung zwischen den Generationen übergreifenden Übertragung von Bildern und Aufgaben - verbunden durch Verluste - untersucht. Behandelt wird ebenfalls das Thema der gesellschaftlichen Trauer und ihrer politischen Konsequenzen.

Schlüsselwörter : Chronisches Trauern, Jahrestagsreaktionen, verbindende Objekte und Phänomene, gewählte Traumata und Anspruchsideologien.

Eine Leiche wird nicht aus ihrem Grab kommen, aber um der Fantasie, die sie haben könnte, zu begegnen, legen Menschen aus verschiedenen Kulturen Grabsteine ​​auf Gräber oder Mauern um Friedhöfe. Eine vergrabene mentale Repräsentation ist jedoch im Gegensatz zur physischen mobil. Es kann seiner mentalen Einschließung entkommen und weiterhin eine innere Beziehung zu einem Trauernden haben. Trauer bezieht sich auf den Vorgang des psychologischen Begräbnisses der mentalen Repräsentation - einer Sammlung von Bildern - einer toten Person oder eines verlorenen Gegenstandes. Das physische Begräbnis einer Leiche oder das Verschwinden eines Familienhauses durch Feuer entfernt die mentalen Vorstellungen dieser verlorenen Wesenheiten nicht aus dem Geist des Trauernden. Der Trauernde muss solche Darstellungen in geistige Umschließungen in den äußersten Winkeln des Geistes (durch Unterdrückung, Verleugnung, Dissoziation, Vertreibung und / oder Identifizierung) verbannen, um nicht mit ihnen beschäftigt zu sein.

Freuds (1917) „Trauer und Melancholie“ informiert über interne Objektbeziehungen. Während sich ausgefeilte Theorien über solche Beziehungen, wie sie von Kernberg (1976) beschrieben wurden, viel später entwickeln würden, implizierten Freud und viele Psychoanalytiker, dass eine intensive interne Beziehung zu Bildern der verlorenen Person oder Sache, die das „Normale“ ausmacht, Der Trauerprozess ist zeitlich begrenzt: Der Trauerprozess endet, wenn der Trauernde seine psychische Investition in die Darstellung des verlorenen Objekts zurückzieht. Obwohl wir gewusst haben, dass die Reaktivierung verschiedener Bilder oder die mentale Repräsentation des verlorenen Objekts im Geist des Trauernden Jahre nach dem Verlust auftreten kann, beispielsweise während des Jahrestages eines bedeutenden Ereignisses, das das verlorene Objekt vor dem Verlust betraf lost (jubiläumsreaktionen) (Pollock, 1989), die Vorstellung, dass „normale“ Trauer ein Ende findet, wurde selten hinterfragt.

Die Psychoanalytiker, die Freud folgten, sprachen von „normaler“ Trauer oder von komplizierter Trauer, die sich in Melancholie (Depression) verwandelt. 1981 beschrieb ich ein weiteres Ergebnis nach einem erheblichen Verlust, als ich Fälle von Menschen vorstellte, die mehrjährig trauerten und nach einem erheblichen Verlust jahrelang, teilweise sogar für den Rest ihres Lebens, weiter trauerten. Ich habe mich in erster Linie auf pathologische klinische Befunde bei solchen endlosen Trauerprozessen konzentriert (Volkan 1981). Später veranschaulichten Elizabeth Zintl und ich (Volkan und Zintl 1993), wie einige Individuen ihre mehrjährige Trauer durch Kreativität ausdrücken, wie Pollock (1989) ebenfalls vorgeschlagen hatte. In diesem Beitrag werde ich veranschaulichen, dass in vielen Fällen die Grenze zwischen „normaler“ Trauer und kreativer mehrjähriger Trauer verwischt ist.

[aus: Vamik D. Volkan, Unending Mourning and its Consequences]
- Trauer und Melancholie (1917) (Sigmund Freud, Projekt Gutenberg)
- Freuds Annäherung an Trauer und Melancholie - und danach (Sergio Benvenuto, psychotherapie-wissenschaft.info, ©2011)

„Das Vergnügen, sich selbst schlecht zu machen, übertrifft bei Weitem dasjenige, schlecht gemacht zu werden.“
[E.M. Cioran, 1973] 

Part 1: Healing the Wounds of History Conference Lebanon 2011 {14:51}

Veröffentlicht am 20.06.2013
Documentary (Part One) of the proceedings of the HWH Conference in Lebanon Nov 2011.

Under the High Patronage of His Excellency, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Najib Mikati, the Centre for Lebanese Studies (CLS) and the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP), in partnership with the Institute of Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation, organised the International Conference on 'Healing the Wounds of History: Addressing the Roots of Violence'. The Conference was hosted by the Lebanese American University (LAU) on 11-13 November at its campus situated in the beautiful ancient city of Byblos, Lebanon.

The Conference explored the innovative psycho-social approaches to addressing the deeper roots of violence. The goal was to establish constructive relations between the people and communities in present-day Lebanon.

Part One of the documentary includes the keynote speeches given by Professor Vamik Volkan who highlighted the need to heal the wounds of history through forgiveness in order to avoid the transgenerational transmission of trauma. It also features other speakers who discusses the necessity of sharing narratives, of listening, of forgiveness and compassion in the process of healing and building solidarity after wars and violence in a society.

Featuring: Alexandra Asseily, George Asseily, Professor Vamik Volkan, Professor Antoine Messarra, Professor Leila Fawaz, Dr Eileen Boris, Reina Sarkis.

Nation States and The Westphalian Order {35:43}

Veröffentlicht am 30.11.2016
Nation States and The Westphalian Order
Alex Thomson presentation at Winchester Conference 2016
The British Constitution Group.
Restoring the Rule of Law to the British people.

The Psychology of the Modern Nation-State {2:04:52}

Hochgeladen am 07.12.2007
Roundtable discussion with Shukri Abed, Giorgio Freddi, Peter Loewenberg, Vamik Volkan, and Isser Woloch.

siehe auch:
Ethnopolitische Konflikte (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 10.02.2012)
- Entwicklung innerstaatlicher Kriege und gewaltsamer Konflikte seit dem Ende des Ost-West Konfliktes (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 24.06.2014)
- Volkan-Bücher ins Deutsche übersetzt bei Amazon (ungewollte Werbung, weil’s da Rezensionen gibt!)
aktualisiert am 14.09.2019