Psychology and Torture – The Reluctant Psychoanalyst Continues to Explore the Dark Side of Professional Life
On September 11, 2001, things changed radically here in the United States. We became viscerally aware of how vulnerable we are to terrorist attacks. I think this awareness can be thought about, psychoanalytically, as a particular kind of communication – one that we call projective identification. In this form of communication one of us (a terrorist) gets another (the rest of us) to feel the way that he or she does by doing to us what he or she feels has been done to him or her. The challenge, when this happens in the therapeutic setting, is to resist acting on the communicated feeling – it is challenging because these feelings are always intense - and the immediate wish is to get rid of the feeling by retaliating – which simply starts a never ending battle of tit for tat. So the challenge is to find a new way of responding which can lead to new ways of relating.
Since this blog was published, in July, the APA published the Hoffman report, which is the result of an investigation that they commissioned into the material above. The focus of that report was more on the relationship between the Department of Defense and APA in the years after the those reported here - less on the CIA involvement - and my first report on that document (and links to it) can be found here with a subsequent analysis of that report from a Freudian position here.
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