Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice

Because we know the destructiveness
that resides in each of us, we know
the importance of not letting it
destroy what we hold dear...

A member organization of United for Peace and Justice

We are psychoanalysts and psychoanalytically-informed citizens united for peace and justice. We have gathered, in opposition to the pending Iraq war, with the goals of participating as psychoanalysts and citizens in the broader peace and justice movements and of bringing our psychoanalytic insights to bear on the critical social issues that confront our country and our world today.

Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice Documents and Resources

The first Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice public forum, The Psychodynamics of Empire was conducted on February 6th at the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge, MA. Speakers: Stephen Soldz: Security, Terror, and the Psychodynamics of Empire [This talk has been posted on several major web sites: ZNet; Information Clearinghouse; Global Policy Forum; & Smutraker]; Stephen Price: The Role of Sacrifice; Jane Snyder: Power and Paranoia. Portions from these talks were broadcast on radio station WMBR in Cambridge, MA on February 26 & 27, 2004. [The forum was co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Violence of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis.]

You can listen to the talks here [thanks to Freeman Z]:
  1. Introduction to Forum (Stephen Soldz)
  2. Introduction to Stephen Price
  3. The Role of Sacrifice (Stephen Price)
  4. Introduction to Jane Snyder
  5. Power and Paranoia (Jane Snyder)
  6. Security, Terror, and Empire (Stephen Soldz)

My [Stephen Soldz] July 6, 2005 interview on Talk Nation Radio [WHUS] with Dori Smith on the Psychodynamics of Torture is now available for downloading. [Warning, very large file]. A Transcript is also available as: Psychoanalyst Stephen Soldz on Torture at Abu Ghraib.

My Interview on Oregon radio station KBOO about Security, Terror, and the Support for War can now be listened to on your computer. [It's best to download and save on your computer. Warning: the 7+ megabyte file may take a while to download.]

Other writings by Stephen Soldz of PPJ: My newest piece is now available: The Psychodynamics of Occupation and the Abuse at Abu Ghraib: An Interpretation After One Year of Revelations . My article discussing the October, 2004 Lancet paper on Iraqi casualties: 100,000 Iraqis Dead: Should We Believe It?. My history of the occupation: Iraq: What Went Wrong? [ZNet] or Information ClearingHouse. My comments written in response to the Nic Berg murder are available on Retribution or Reflection (ZNet) and Information ClearingHouse [The ZNet version contains a few additional edits.]. My commentary on the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison puts it in the context of the dynamics of occupation. I believe it make important points that aren't being made elsewhere. It has been posted on ZNet: Abuse at Abu Ghraib, the Psychodynamics of Occupation, and the Responsibility of Us All

IRAQ Occupation and Resistance Report a site developed by Stephen Soldz of PPJ. It is dedicated to documenting the US occupation of Iraq, and the Iraqi resistance to it.

Iraq Antiwar Resources, an extensive list developed by Stephen Soldz of PPJ. It contains many links for those seeking to educate themselves on the background of the current situation, understand what led up to it, and the inter-war situation in Iraq, as the war against the US occupation begins. Also contains links to antiwar music and video and contacts for major peace organizations. All you need to get started in one place! And its constantly growing!

Where is the US Headed? , a PPJ site devoted to broader reflections on where the US is headed, economically, in terms of foreign policy, psychologically, and spiritually.

Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis (BGSP) Speakout on the War Flyer. Now of historic interest. Where PPJ started.

Perspectives on Current Events: War, Peace, and Theft

Have just become aware of two older (2003 &smp; 2004) articles by psychologist/psychoanalyst Alvin Wyman Walker: The 2004 Presidential Election: Another Pyrrhic Victory for White Supremacy and "Shrub" Bush's Pathological Focus on Saddam Hussein. Walker brings a broad knowledge of psychology and psychoanalysis to bear upon his topics.

Novelist Steve Hammons wrote an interesting article: Iraq War psychology: Exploring hearts and minds of American officials, journalists, average people.

Surgeon Robert Dotson reviews Walter Davis: Death's Dream Kingdom: The American Psyche Since 9/1: Couch Time for America.

Political scientist Gary Olson doesn't believe in: Scapegoating Human Nature. He's at least partly right. Social structures enormously influence our social behavior. But our nature includes the ability to be incredibly xenophobic, nasty, and brutal. Conditions of threat bring out the worst in many people.

Violence scars Iraqi children. See also: Ethnic rifts that colour the games little children play: The daily violence that Iraqi children live with is making them more violent.

Elliot Jurist reviews Eli Zaretsky's Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in Tikun.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Stephen J. Ducat, author of The Wimp Factor: Taking the "Fem" Out of FEMA.

But if there were a single feature of conservative political psychology that has contributed the most to the recent horror show of death and unfathomable yet preventable suffering that has so riveted the attention of Americans, it would be the fear and hatred of the care-taking functions of government, what Republicans since Ronald Reagan have reviled as the “mommy state.”

Not surprisingly: Psychological trauma widespread in Iraq.

Robert Fisk discusses the psychology of the suicide bombers: Something Happened Between "I Love You" and the Click of the Phone: Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq Turn It Incendiary.

New York Times Magazine has an article on George Lakoff: The Framing Wars.

< Chris Hedges reminds us of the horrible cost of war to all involved. It is destroying American society, he argues: War: Realities and Myths .

Peter Michaelson, an analytically-oriented therapist in Santa Fe, has a website "publishing weekly commentary of applied psychoanalysis, focusing on the deeper undercurrents of dissension and disharmony in U.S. politics and culture." Political Harmony & Social Progress.

George Lakoff takes on the abortion battle: The Foreign Language of Choice.

In short, the right-wing is imposing a culture of death on this country and we shouldn't stand for it. Progressive values and politics are committed to preserving and nurturing life....
So rather than trying to respond to some discussion about "abortion," we should actively, positively, put forward these four ideas -- personal freedom, zero tolerance for unwanted pregnancies, taking back life as a value, and protecting rape victims in this country from being forced to bear the children of their rapists.

Frances Moore Lappé provides an alternative perspective on George Lakoff's work: Time for Progressives to Grow Up: Beyond Lakoff’s Strict Father vs. Nurturant Parent, A Strong Community Manifesto.

BuzzFlash interview: James Carroll Puts Bush's Religious Crusade Against Terrorism Into Historical Context.

James Carroll on the desire for revenge and its deadly consequences: America's Mortal Secret.

Stephen J. Ducat, author of The Wimp Factor Losing Our Heads Over the Brain-Dead: A Psycho-Cultural Post-Mortem on the Terri Schiavo Case.

Eyad El Sarraj and Samir Qouta of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme have a chapter on: Disaster and Mental Health: The Palestinian experience coming out in Disaster and Mental Health from the World Psychiatric Association.

Mark Crispin Miller Examines Mainstream Media's Blind Eye Towards the Gannongate Sex Scandal. He emphasizes the central role that projection plays in the Bushevik psyche.

This interview with Naomi Klein raises issues about Republican branding that should be of interest to progressive psychoanalysts: What Are We Fighting For?

Simon Clarke & Paul Hoggett's marvelous paper: The Empire of Fear: The American Political Psyche and the Culture of Paranoia is now available on the web.

Sean Donahue argues that we need "to return to the erotic passion for life that inspires our resistance, to claim our own power fully and use it to awaken other people to the knowledge of their own power to be free": Beyond the Myth of Ritual Sacrifice: The Erotics of Nonviolence.

George Monbiot claims that the US is systematically attacking itself: America's war on itself: Bush's wrecking tactics over climate change follow an established pattern of self-destruction. Reminds me of projective identification.

A new paper by Susan Fiske and other social psychologists Science: Why Ordinary People Torture Enemy Prisoners.

Anthony Stahelski presents a social-psychological analysis of the development of terrorists: Terrorists Are Made, Not Born: Creating Terrorists Using Social Psychological Conditioning. From the Journal of Homeland Security

Former psychoanalyst Joel Kovel diagnoses the spiritual malaise at the heart of the recent US election: The Hour of the Beast.

100,000 Iraqis killed, overwhelmingly by "coalition forces"! Will the world wake up? New survey puts number of Iraqi deaths from war at 100,000. The full article documenting the 100,000 excess deaths from US "humanitarian" invasion: Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey or direct link to pdf. by Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham. Most US press are giving little coverage to this horrifying story. 100,000 Iraqis dead is hardly a story!

A sociologist has demonstrated what we all assumed: Presidential approval goes up after a terror warning: Study: Terror Warnings Up Approval Ratings. Full research paper: The effects of government-issued terror warnings on presidential approval ratings.

A new survey confirms that Bush supporters are actively distorting reality: Full Report: The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters Press Release. Article by Jim Lobe: The World According to a Bush Voter.

The story of psychoanalyst Muriel Gardiner, the real Julia in the movie of the name: 1977: Who was the real heroine?.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd continues her Oedipal analysis of Bush Jr., considering his first debate performance: Getting Junior's Goat.

Killing takes a terrible toll on the soldiers who do it, as Americans pretend war is neat and clean: Is anyone ever truly prepared to kill? asks a Christian Science Monitor article.

The fear induced in Americans by politicians is bad for our health, literally, argues David Ropeik, Director of Risk Communication at Harvard University's Center for Risk Analysis We're Being Scared to Death

The Introduction by Don Hazen to linguist and metaphor expert Geoge Lakoff's new book, Don't Think of an Elephant!, and an excerpt from the first chapter: A Man of His Words.

Karen Armstrong says our tendency to engage in scapegoating rituals is a danger to our survival: Kill the scapegoat: We need to abandon blame and embrace collective responsibility.

The scapegoat ritual is rooted in a profoundly dualistic worldview. It makes it clear that while the pharmakos is doomed, all those who stand with the community are safe and pure. As Bush put it: "He who is not with us is against us...."
In the west we take pride in our secular rationalism, and yet at present we seem caught up in patterns of thought and feeling that are as primitive as those of the terrorists who attack us. If we are to survive the present crisis, we must abandon the scapegoat ethos, which is becoming a habit at home and abroad, does not encourage self-criticism and allows us to project many of our own failings on to others.

New studies [based on so-called Terror Management Theory] strongly suggest that spreading fear radically increases the likelihood people will vote for Bush: Fear of Death Wins Minds and Votes, Study Finds.

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in the New England Journal of Medicine is concerned that medicine is being abused as doctors collaborate with American torturers around the world: Doctors and Torture or pdf version.

The doctors thus brought a medical component to what I call an "atrocity-producing situation" — one so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people can readily engage in atrocities. Even without directly participating in the abuse, doctors may have become socialized to an environment of torture and by virtue of their medical authority helped sustain it. In studying various forms of medical abuse, I have found that the participation of doctors can confer an aura of legitimacy and can even create an illusion of therapy and healing.

More on President Bush's mental state: Sullen, Depressed President Retreats Into Private, Paranoid World.

Dr. Eyad El Sarraj, a Psychiatrist with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme uses his experience in Gaza to answer questions about the psychological effects of the abuse at Abu Ghraib and other US prisons in Iraq: Live Dialogue: POWs Abuse: The Psychological Impact.

Dan Baum, in the New Yorker, writes of the price of becoming a killer: The Price of Valour: We train our soldiers to kill for us. Afterward, they’re on their own. Here is an LA Times article also on the trauma of killing and the military's blind eye to it: 'Enemy Contact. Kill 'em, Kill 'em.': U.S. troops are trained to respond instinctively during combat. But the lessons do not prepare them for the emotional distress that may arise.

The hidden victims: Study: 1 In 8 Combat Troops Has Post-Traumatic Stress. Full Text of Study: Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems, and Barriers to Care. See also the commentary: Acknowledging the Psychiatric Cost of War.

Justin Frank, a Georgetown psychoanalyst, is about to publish a new book -- Bush on the Couch - in which he claims the "White House is occupied by an "untreated ex-alcoholic" with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies.": President's analyst? Doctor puts 'Bush on the Couch'. Here is an: Excerpt from Chapter 1.

In a pair of articles, Michael A. Weinstein provides a perspective on the meaning of the Iraq prison torture scandal: Abu Ghraib Means Impunity and Abu Ghraib Means Triumphalism.

My [Stephen Soldz] comments written in response to the Nic Berg murder is available on Retribution or Reflection (ZNet) and Information Clearinghouse [The ZNet version contains a few additional edits.]

Reflection requires us to look within ourselves, to ground our thoughts in an awareness of the potential for rage and violence that lurks within each of us. If the human race learned anything in the 20th century, it was that violence and “evil” are not characteristics only of those among us who perform loathsome acts, but that most, if not all, of us are capable, given the right circumstances, of committing acts of which we would be ashamed.

Walter A. Davis analyses the US reaction to 9/11: Death's Dream Kingdom: The American Psyche after 9/11. He views the reaction as a "return of the repressed," reviving american's cultural memory of the apocalyptic slaughter at Hiroshima.

Newsweek interviews political psychologist, author of The Politics of Denial, about American's reactions to the Iraq horrors: See No Evil: A political psychologist explains the roles denial, emotion and childhood punishment play in politics.

Author Mark Crispin Miller, who wrote Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, argues that President Bush's malapropisms, when closely examined, are signs of a sociopathic personality, without empathy for others: Bush Anything But Moronic, According to Author: Dark Overtones in His Malapropisms.

"He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge. "When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine," Miller sai
"It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes."

As the Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment [see below] is getting a lot of attention as an explanation for the Abu Ghraib abuse, we should be reminded that this experiment is not without its critics. We post here a classic one of these by Ali Bauazizi and Siamak Movahedi: Interpersonal Dynamics in a Simulated Prison: A Methodological Analysis, published in the American Psychologist in 1975. They argue that much of the behavior observed in the experiment is best viewed as attempts to enact the role of a cooperative experimental participant.

As the world contemplates the abuse at Abu Ghraib and other "detention facilities" [aka "concentration camps"] around the world, people have increasingly drawn parallels between what occurred there and the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, conducted by Philip G. Zimbardo in 1971, see, e.g., Simulated Prison in '71 Showed a Fine Line Between `Normal' and `Monster'. [See also, Stanford Prison Experiment related links.] On May 4 NPR interviewed Dr. Zimbardo regarding the connections: Prison Psychology and the Stanford Prison Experiment [connection to listen]. Dr. Zimbardo has also sent an e-mail to colleagues with Notes on the Social Psychology of Iraqi Prison Abuse. Here is a different version \ of the Zimbardo piece, from the Boston Globe: Power turns good soldiers into 'bad apples'. Zimbardo also has a book chapter available: A Situationist Perspective on the Psychology of Evil: Understanding how good people are transformed into perpetrators.

How do we understand the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib? This ABC News article reminds us that war sucks, not because there are a few bad apples, but because we are all capable of behaving abominably: The Face of War: Psychological Experts Say Under Stress of Battle, Potential for Abuse Could Surface in Anyone. And Joanna Bourke discusses the sexual aspect of the torture, something virtually ignored in most discussions: Torture as pornography: The pictures of American soldiers humiliating Iraqi detainees are reminiscent of sadomasochistic porn, says military historian Joanna Bourke. And we should not be surprised.

Also relevant is the work of Stanley Milgram on Obedience to Authority. See: See also the biography by Thomas Blass: The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram.

My (Stephen Soldz) commentary on the implications of the Abu Ghraib prison pictures of abuse and torture of Iraqi detainees has been posted on ZNet: Abuse at Abu Ghraib, the Psychodynamics of Occupation, and the Responsibility of Us All.

Paul Campos, in this extract from his new book: he Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession With Weight Is Hazardous To Your Health, raises questions about cultural norms and expectations regarding will and desire that have psychoanalytic implications. [Note: I am not an expert in this area of research and cannot judge his argument's validity, though I suspect its at least partially correct.] The big fat con story: Size really doesn't matter. You can be just as healthy if you're fat as you can if you're slender. And don't let the obesity 'experts' persuade you otherwise, argues Paul Campos.

John Zerzan critiques the uses of psychology and psychoanalysis as justification for domination: The Mass Psychology of Misery.

/here is an excerpt from Robert J C Young's essay History, Racism, nation — and psychoanalysis: Nationness.

The army may be sending mentally ill soldiers to Iraq: Army sent mentally ill troops to Iraq.

The Army appears to have "inappropriately" deployed soldiers to Iraq who already were diagnosed with mental problems, according to documents obtained by United Press International.

Linguist George Lakoff analyzes the meaning of marriage as it unfolds during the struggle over gay marriage: What's in a Word?

New York Times reporter Chris Hedges is a reformed war correspondent who is intimately familiar with the intoxication of war. He portrays this in beautiful yet haunting prose in his award-winning book War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, which discusses war in terms of the struggle between life and death forces. It ends with a chapter that should be of special interest to psychoanalysts: Eros and Thanatos. You can hear an interview with him on The Connection: War as Addiction. You can read an article about his work by Tom Roberts in the National Catholic Reporter: Seeing through the lie that is war. He was booed off the stage and had his microphone cut at a commencement speech at Rockford College in Illinois, May 21st, 2003. Here is the text of this speech and the text of an interview with him by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! regarding the incident The Silencing of Dissent on Graduation Day. Finally, here is an interview with Hedges from An Interview With Author Chris Hedges.

[Seeing through the lie:] Using Freud’s division, Hedges sees two impulses at tension: Eros, that “propels us to become close to others, to preserve and conserve, and the Thanatos, or death instinct, the impulse that works towards the annihilation of all living things, including ourselves.” If Eros was the overriding impulse of the culture following the Vietnam War, he believes Thanatos has taken over. We have lost our revulsion to war and now celebrate it.
[Democracy Now!:] You know, as I looked out on the crowd, that is exactly what my book is about. It is about the suspension of individual conscience, and probably consciousness, for the contagion of the crowd for that euphoria that comes with patriotism. The tragedy is that – and I've seen it in conflict after conflict or society after society that plunges into war – with that kind of rabid nationalism comes racism and intolerance and a dehumanization of the other. And it's an emotional response. People find a kind of ecstasy, a kind of belonging, a kind of obliteration of their alienation in that patriotic fervor that always does come in war time. As I gave my talk and I looked out on the crowd, I was essentially witnessing things that I had witnessed in the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina or in squares in Belgrade or anywhere else. Crowds, especially crowds that become hunting packs are very frightening. People chanted the kind of cliches and aphorisms and jingoes that are handed to you by the state... I've seen it in effect and take over countries. But of course, it breaks my heart when I see it in my country.

Marco Chiesa of the British Psychoanalytic Society has written a Kleinian analysis of why those of us in the West were so profoundly affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and so unmoved by the hundreds of thousands who died in Iraq under sanctions: Terrorism: Psycho-political observations on shock and indifference. See also the contribution of M. Fakhry Davids: 11 September 2001: Some thoughts on racism and religious prejudice as an obstacle.

[Chiesa:] When indifference is the main reaction to a catastrophe occurring to people who do not share our culture and race, and who do not belong to our political sphere of influence, I suggest that the differences felt between them and us are magnified to a point where these people become so alien that they tend to disappear altogether as human entities from our consciousness.
[Davids:] Psychoanalysis clearly has many vital contributions to make to the debate surrounding the current crisis.... However, the effectiveness of these contributions is constrained by the current racialised context in which they are formulated and presented, and in my opinion this has to be taken into account, much in the way that we take into account the atmosphere in a session, for at least two reasons.

Katherine van Wormer, Professor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa and co-author of 'Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective', argues that Bush can be understood as a "dry drunk": More Evidence that Bush Is a "Dry Drunk"?.

US troops suffer serious psychiatric problems associated with chronic stress: Stress epidemic strikes American forces in Iraq: The war's over, but the suicide rate is high and the army is riddled with acute psychiatric problems..

Up to one in five of the American military personnel in Iraq will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, say senior forces' medical staff dealing with the psychiatric fallout of the war. This revelation follows the disclosure last month that more than 600 US servicemen and women have been evacuated from the country for psychiatric reasons since the conflict started last March.
"n comparison with the combat phase, what we are now seeing are conditions of chronic stress which the troops are experiencing every day. It is a combination of danger, boredom and sleep deprivation, and the knowledge that they are a long way from home," said Berg. "In addition people are no longer sure when or what the end will be. No one knows when they will be going home. They are also working in an environment where the people they came to help are very hostile...."
The psychiatrists have seen symptoms ranging from disturbed sleep, heart palpitations, nausea and diarrhoea to more obvious behavioural problems, such as forgetful-ness, aggression, irrational anger and feelings of alienation. From the present period of chronic stress to the personnel, the doctors are expecting symptoms of depression and generalised anxiety to develop....
At least 22 US soldiers have killed themselves - a rate considered abnormally high - mostly since President George Bush declared an end to major combat on 1 May last year....
The military psychiatrists are puzzled by the suicide rate in Iraq, saying that it makes little sense in comparison with those in past conflicts. The accepted wisdom in military psychiatry is that the level of suicides - far from increasing during wars - drops as the survival instinct kicks in among the personnel in the conflict zone.

Sociologist Thomas J. Scheff has spent a career exploring, from a microsociological perspective, many of the phenomenon of interest to psychoanalysts, including a detailed examination of the role of shame and rage as causes of war. His web site has many goodies worth examining. See, for example Male Emotions/Relationships and Violence: A Theory of Humiliated Fury or Emotion, alienation, and narratives: resolving intractable conflict (Suzanne Retzinger and Thomas Scheff). For psychoanalysts, his Review of Freudian Repression: Conversation Creating the Unconscious, by Michael Billig is very interesting in its discussion of repression from a sociological perspective.

A couple more interviews with linguist George Lakoff about the political relevance of his concept of "frames": Inside the Frame and Framing the issues: UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics. And Lakoff analyzes the State of the Union address: The Hidden State of the Union.

M Shahid Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University, analyzes: The Semantics of Empire.

It would appear that the indictment of Saddam gathers power, conviction, irrefutability, by adding the possessive, proprietary, emphatic "own" to the people tortured, gassed or killed. What does the grammar of accusations say about the metrics of American values?
In the colonial era, racism inoculated people against feeling empathy toward those other people in the periphery. Those other people were children, barbarians, savages, if not worse.

Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice views Dean's success as do to his image of being a real man, countering the perceived threats to their masculinity experienced by white men: Sex and the Democrats.

The cost of being human. Soldier was charged with cowardice for suffering trauma at witnessing a dead Iraqi soldier: US sergeant branded a coward mounts furious fightback.

The Chief of Iraq's only mental hospital expresses concerns about the mental health of many Iraqis: For Iraq's emotionally fragile, future is bleak.

Liberal Talk show host Thom Hartmann describes the Republicans "psychological warfare" on white working men, to convince them that their problems are due to castrating women, not the insecurity created by ant-worker policies. This piece complements those of sociologist Arlie Hochschild, [see below]: Conservatives Target Testicles.

Rush Limbaugh just declared psychological war on the working white males of America, although most of them probably didn't realize it. This week Limbaugh rolled out a "funny" faux advertisement for the "Hillary Clinton Testicle Lock Box" that now any woman can use to clamp down on men's testicles just like Hillary does.... It's part of a sophisticated psychological operations program by conservatives that explicitly targets working men in America, and dates back to research first done for Richard Nixon.

Renana Brooks continues her dissection of the psychological basis of Bush's popularity: The Character Myth: To Counter Bush, the Democrats Must Present a Different Version of a Safe World. She argues that only an alternative world view, of safety and security based on collaboration can defeat Bush:

Bush's leadership style and use of language essentially have created cognitive dissonance in the electorate. The more that Americans observe the Bush presidency pushing policies they do not support, and would normally question, the more they confront the choice of whether to oppose him actively or rationalize away their discomfort. Many Americans have chosen the latter because the President has convinced them that the situation is desperate and that only he can handle the continuing crisis. The more they depend upon Bush, the more they rationalize away any objections they may have to his specific ideas and policies.
The current President, however, uses the word "I" far more often than the word "we," and usually refers only to the United States, or himself and his party, not the entire world community, when he says "we." This President also tends to undercut his words of inspiration with references to dangers that loom and threaten, hovering vaguely outside our immediate sphere of control. Even as Bush promises action, he fosters a sense of chaos and danger

Jonathan Rowe also analyzes political speech, but he argues for a strength in progressive speech: Don't Talk Like a Twit.

In a new book, psychoanalyst Robert Jay Lifton discusses America's Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World. In his web column, Tom Engelhard presents a short piece from the Nation by Lifton, American Apocalypse summarizing some of his themes: Tomgram: Robert Jay Lifton on superpower syndrome. You can also hear an Interview with Lifton from Democracy Now!.

Stepping off the superpower treadmill would also enable us to cease being a nation ruled by fear. Renouncing omnipotence would make our leaders themselves less fearful of weakness, and diminish their inclination to instill fear in their people as a means of enlisting them for illusory military efforts at world hegemony. Without the need for invulnerability, everyone would have much less to be afraid of.

A new report by the group Medact (the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) ) - winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985) suggests that the health effects of the Iraq war are greater than previously reported and that "while the health and environmental consequences of the conflict will be felt for many years to come." Continuing Collateral Damage: The health and environmental costs of war on Iraq. Of special interest to PPJ are three Working Papers, especially #3: Working Paper 1 "Highlights and explains the contrast beween the widespread use of precision weapons and the high number of incidents involving civilian deaths and ‘friendly fire’." And Working Paper 2 "Looks at the questionable legality of inhumane weapons used during the conflict and explains their impact on health. " Working Paper 3 Mental well-being in Iraq – six months after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. [See also the BBC report: Iraq 'faces severe health crisis'.]

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild applies the thinking of George Lakoff and Norman Mailer to examine the question, why would blue-collar workers support George Bush? Let Them Eat War. See also the interview with Arlie Hochschild on this issue by BuzzFlash.

Another thought-provoking piece by linguist George Lakoff analyzing the language of political discourse: Framing a Democratic Agenda and Lakoff's comments on the Arnold Schwartzenegger victory in California: The Frame Around Arnold. See also the Rockridge Institute which builds on Lakoff's work to: "Reframe the terms of political debate to make a progressive moral vision more persuasive and influential."

For what its worth, here is a psychological analysis from the Guardian (UK) of President George W. Bush: So George, how do you feel about your mom and dad? Psychologist Oliver James analyses the behaviour of the American president . Of course, one should take all such products with a grain of salt.

Conservatives are in an uproar about a research paper just published in the Psychological Bulletin entitled Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition by John T. Jost, Jack Glaser, Arie W. Kruglanski, & Frank J. Sulloway (See also a Critique by Jeff Greenberg & Eva Jonas and a Response by the authors). For the controversy, see the article Conservative psychosis by George Will and an article on the controversy by Julian Borger in the Guardian (UK) Study of Bush's Psyche Touches a Nerve.

[From the original paper:] The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.

James Carrol, the Boston Globe's resident columnist/moralist discusses the American thirst for revenge, as well as our denial of it, as motivators for the Iraq war, and other horrors: America's habit of revenge

The The Institute for Psychohistory has several interesting papers by Lloyd deMause available online The Gulf War as a Mental Disorder (on the first Gulf War) and War as Righteous Rape and Purification.

George Monbiot, columnist for the Guardian, dissects the warrior America, and its blindness to reality, based on a religious conception of America. America is a religion: US leaders now see themselves as priests of a divine mission to rid the world of its demons

In the aftermath of 9/11, Canadian Timothy J.F. Lash wrote a still relevant piece on the Medical Aspects of Canada's Response to Terrorism (pdf). Much of the piece focuses on the need to apply psychological knowledge to understand issues of grief, fundamentalism, terrorism, etc.

In addition to grieving for lost lives, and individual injury, many in North America have a wounded national self-image. So many have said "the world will never be the same". Actually the world is little different from before. It is North Americans' sense of our place in the world that has been shocked. It is our inescapable vulnerability to what others think of us that needs consideration.

James Carroll, as usual, has a very perceptive comment on the moral dimensions, or lack thereof, of President Bush as he responds to the current situation: Bush's war against evil

To address concerns about the savage violence engulfing "postwar" Iraq with a cocksure "Bring `em on!" as he did last week, is to display an absence of imagination shocking in a man of such authority. It showed a lack of capacity to identify either with enraged Iraqis who must rise to such a taunt or with young GIs who must now answer for it. Even in relationship to his own soldiers, there is nothing at the core of this man but visceral meanness.
No human being with a minimal self-knowledge could speak of evil as he [President Bush] does, but there is no self-knowledge without a self. Even this short "distance of history" shows George W. Bush to be, in that sense, the selfless president, which is not a compliment. It's a warning.

Ben Tripp analyzes American's indifference to the missing WMD in terms of the cognitive dissonance caused by the distance between the American fantasy (ideal) and the current reality. They Just Don't Want to Know: Of Dissidents and Dissonance

America invaded another nation, unscrewed its head and took a giant dump down its neck--unprovoked. Confronted with the singularly un-American nature of this exploit, our leaders responded by claiming we had to do it-- because this enemy nation was aiming a vast artillery of deadly weapons designed especially to kill blonde people at us. I don't think all that many people really believed it, not really really. But they went along with it, because to confront the real reasons for such aimless aggression would be too horrible for their fragile worldviews and patriotic self-images to bear. When the 'WMD' bit turned out not to be true, the rationale switched to exporting American Democracy by force. Which is an oxymoron, a common symptom of cognitive dissonance.
The beauty part of cognitive dissonance is the worse it gets, the more people throw up [their hands] and say "who cares?" In this way such public works projects as genocide and empire-building can be accomplished, because people refuse to care. It's too damn demanding, too scary, and too damaging to that ever-threatened bird called Self Esteem.

George Lakoff's linguistic analysis of the metaphors used to justify the first Gulf War:
Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf

Guardian (UK) article on a personality analysis of Saddam Hussein by Jerrold Post, former CIA psychiatrist.

New Yorker article on Jerrold Post's analysis.

Robert M. Young's paper Psychoanalysis, Terrorism, and Fundamentalism

Civilization's Obscene Ghost , from the Los Angeles Times (April 6, 2003) by Peter Brooks discusses the current Iraq war in the light of Freud's observtions on the first World War in "Thoughts for the Times on War and Death" .

Wallace Shawn in The Nation states the obvious -- that the hawks are possessed by the opportunity to express their internal violence: Fragments From a Diary

Why are we being so ridiculously polite? It's as if there were some sort of gentlemen's agreement that prevents people from stating the obvious truth that Bush and his colleagues are exhilarated and thrilled by the thought of war, by the thought of the incredible power they will have over so many other people, by the thought of the immensity of what they will do, by the scale, the massiveness of the bombing they're planning, the violence, the killing, the blood, the deaths, the horror.
The love of killing is inside each one of us, and we can never be sure that it won't come out. We have to be grateful if it doesn't come out. In fact, it is utterly wrong for me to imagine that Bush is violent and I am not, that Bush is cruel and I am not. I am potentially just as much of a killer as he is, and I need the help of all the sages and poets and musicians and saints to guide me onto a better path, and I can only hope that the circumstances of my life will continue to be ones that help me to stay on that path. But we can't deny that Bush and his men, for whatever reason, are under the sway of the less peaceful side of their natures.

While one may not agree with his entire argument, Anis Shivani poses interesting questions crying out for psychoanalytic explanation; Is America Becoming Fascist?

Norman Mailer: We went to war just to boost the white male ego

A comment on the paternalistic ideology behind the occupation of Iraq, by Ira Chernus Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ideology is Key to Corporate Imperialism in Iraq

Renana Brooks, a clinical psychologist and Director of Sommet Institute for the Study of Power and Persuasion has a linguistic analysis of A Nation of Victims: The Hidden Costs of President Bush’s “Successful State of the Union Address” [An updated version was published in the June 30, 2003 issue of the Nation]

Bush’s language, based on a good versus evil world-view, has strong appeal because it meets people’s emotional needs. It creates an impression that complicated problems are easily addressed by quite elemental steps that only Bush has the power to put in place....
Like a magician distracting his audience from the slight of hand, the abusive personality first uses “empty language” to distract the listener – broad statements that are so abstract they mean little and are virtually impossible to oppose.... in the State of the Union speech, I found 39 instances of such impossible-to-disagree-with statements....
[Empty language] makes the listener ready for the second technique involved in abusive technique, using language to create a core negative framework. Bush is a master at developing negative frameworks.... Bush uses this negative framework with its underlying pessimism as a political and linguistic technique. Bush consistently opts to describe the existing situation as a crisis and as a future and ongoing problem rather than a past or present one.... Bush then utilizes abstract passive construction to build up the “bogeyman” - a terrible force outside our control that is threatening our survival -- threats that are beyond any specific solution problems that are totally overwhelming.... Bush’s language is designed to create fear, to disable people from feeling they have the ability to solve their problems, to depend on Bush.

Boston Globe collumnist James Caroll regularly searches for the psychological roots of our current situation in his columns. Here is is speculation on the role of millennial fear: Millennial war

Other Perspectives

I have just received news that Loren Mosher has died. Dr. Mosher was first Chief of NIMH's Center for Studies of Schizophrenia and founding editor of Schizophrenia Bulletin, which was a wonderful journal during his tenure. Most importantly, Dr. Mosher pioneered low-drug, minimally intrusive approaches to the treatment of schizophrenia, and resisted the medical-pharmaceutical complex during his whole career. He is perhaps most famous for the creation of Soteria House: Soteria House, a residential community where these ideas were successfully implemented. See his Biography. Further information on his work is available at:, including his Letter of Resignation from the American Psychiatric Association.

Neuroscience has also discovered nonconscious processing. Here is a neuroscience perspective on political thinking by Matthew D. Lieberman of UCLA, where he has a Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory: Is political cognition like riding a bicycle? How cognitive neuroscience can inform research on political thinking

Reader Contributions

Other Relevant Resources

My set of Psychoanalytic Resources Online and my Resources for the Study of Violence.

A Harvard Conference from May, 2003 on Why Psychoanalysis? A Symposium on the Value of Psychoanalysis for Contemporary Life can be viewed online (requires free RealPlayer). Speakers included: Lynn Hunt, Anne Anlin Cheng, Nancy J. Chodorow, Kimberlyn Leary, Adrienne Harris, and Jonathan Lear.

Here is the classic Einstein-Freud Correspondence (1931-1932) Why War?

Human Relations, Authority and Justice , an e-journal and web site attempting "to bring psychoanalytic and related psychodynamic approaches to bear on group, institutional, cultural and political processes." Edited by Dr Toma Tomov, Professor of Psychiatry, Medical University of Sofia, Bulgaria, Dr Robert M. Young, Professor of Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Sheffield, England.

Peter H. Wolff comments on Why psychoanalysis is still interesting? touching upon its potential subversive political content.

A brief survey of contemporary papers, keynote addresses and panels presented at official psychoanalytic congresses, suggests that the politically subversive implications of psychoanalysis are now judged to be out of date and irrelevant, socially inappropriate, or divisive and therefore best forgotten. Yet, I believe that, given the far reaching theoretical and clinical consequences of today's sanitized psychoanalysis, many of the questions once raised by the Freudian Left are even more pertinent today....
Does the claim of neutrality cover up the reactionary intent of clinical practice to explain away the social basis of human miseries by reducing them to "intrapsychic conflicts" and discouraging dissent?

Related Journals

A new online journal places psychology in the broader social context: Social Practice / Psychological Theorizing.

Social Practice / Psychological Theorizing is launched as a modest attempt to bring together, mediate and transform many diverse discourses across disciplines, most of which are rather isolated and dichotomized at present: the psychological and the social, theory and practice, micro and macro, mind and body, reason and emotion, the individual and the society, culture and nature, private and public, male and female, the I and the other, center and periphery, qualitative and quantitative, subjective and objective; plus many further dualities.

Social Action / Acción Social, a peer-reviewed e-journal published by Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Counselors for Social Justice.

The Journal of Psycho-Social Studies is an e-journal on applied psychoanalysis. It "particularly welcome(s) contributions from postgraduate students and those just starting their publishing career."

Robert M. Young (UK) & Toma Tomov (Bulgaria) edit an online journal devoted to "bring(ing) psychoanalytic and related psychodynamic approaches to bear on group, institutional, cultural and political processes." Human Relations, Authority, and Justice: Experiences and Critiques

JPCS: Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society

JPCS is the official publication of the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society, an international and interdisciplinary organization. The journal publishes articles, reviews, field notes, international notes, and letters to the editor that employ psychoanalysis to address the psychological roots or consequences of social and cultural phenomena in such a way as to enhance the possibilities for social change.

Radical Psychology, the online journal of the RadPsychNet

Related Organizations

PsyACT: Psychologists Acting with Conscience Together is a new group whose initial efforts are focusing on using psychological knowledge to address poverty.

The main rationale for this coalition is to create synergy amongst various groups and individuals to take effective action together. Our assumption is that together we can be more effective than separately. Although there are various groups of psychologists concerned with social justice in a variety of formal and informal organizations, there is no effective voice that unites these psychologists and others at a global scale.

Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society

If we are to begin to solve our most serious social problems, we must understand their psychological roots. Many of these problems, including violence, drug abuse, irresponsible sexuality, and intolerance in its various forms, will be extremely difficult if not impossible to solve unless we address the psychological roots that are the immediate causes of these destructive behaviors.

A UK based group: Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility

Psychologists for Social Responsibility is a group of psychologists who use "psychological knowledge and skills to promote peace with social justice at the community, national, and international levels."

Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Division 48 (Peace Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.

Physicians for Social Responsibility, winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, "is a leading public policy organization with 24,000 members representing the medical and public health professions and concerned citizens, working together for nuclear disarmament, a healthful environment, and an end to the epidemic of gun violence."

Physicians for Human Rights, co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, "was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all." PHR is a leader in the campaign against torture and against health professional complicity in it.

Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) "is an international group of over 3500 psychologists, allied scientists, students, and others who share a common interest in research on the psychological aspects of important social issues. In various ways, the Society seeks to bring theory and practice into focus on human problems of the group, the community, and nations, as well as the increasingly important problems that have no national boundaries."

RadPsychNet is an organization of over 300 members word-wide dedicated to using psychological knowledge to "help create a society better able to meet human needs and bring about social justice." "Psychology" appears to be very broadly defined and a number of their members appear to be psychoanalytically-oriented. They have a free web journal: Radical Psychology. Membership is free.

Ignacio Martín-Baró Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights Supporting community-based activism for mental health and human rights...

Phillis Sheppard, has a Psychotherapy & Culture site, with several brief pieces on the intersection of psychotherapy and culture.

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