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Amati, S. (1987). Some thoughts on torture. Free Associations, 1(8):94-114.

(1987). Free Associations, 1(8):94-114

Some thoughts on torture

Silvia Amati, M.D.

This paper was written in February 1975. Some months before, I had met Irma, a young Uruguayan who had passed through torture and prison. She came to Europe for a few weeks to give testimony to the Russell Tribunal.

She wanted me to hear her experience with a psychoanalytical ear because she and other prisoners were convinced that torturers had specific psychological knowledge and that they were trained scientifically for their task. She asked me to try to announce this fact before the psychiatric community. It was not possible for me to prove what she asked me (Amnesty International and others obtained evidence of the facts), but I was left with a terrible subject to think about, which I tried to communicate to my psychoanalytic colleagues.

The aim of torture cannot be understood out of its sociopolitical context; that is why I will try to place the story of Irma in a larger framework.

I have found the theoretical model of José Bleger useful for understanding the links between our inner world and our outer social containers. It has also been useful for me in therapeutic work with patients who have passed through extreme situations.

To begin with, I should like to say that Freud was a humanist and that psychoanalysis is a humanist activity.

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