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Prager, J. (2015). Enemies on the Couch: A Psychopolitical Journey through War and Peace by Vamik D. Volkan Pitchstone Publishing, Durham, North Carolina, 2013; 496 pp; $29.95. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(2):503-506.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(2):503-506

Enemies on the Couch: A Psychopolitical Journey through War and Peace by Vamik D. Volkan Pitchstone Publishing, Durham, North Carolina, 2013; 496 pp; $29.95

Review by:
Jeffrey Prager

Vamik Volkan's career as a psychoanalyst has been an extraordinary one. Promoting peace, mediation and reconciliation around the world, he has been an important figure in helping various interested parties identify unconscious obstacles to conflict resolution, even among those whose hatred has sometimes spanned centuries. He has worked with heads of sovereign states and important national commissions to design strategies to reduce conflict and to disrupt the transmission of trauma across generations. He has also been engaged in political efforts to bring psychoanalytic insights to better achieve forgiveness by those victimized, apologies from those who have inflicted harm, and reconciliation between enemies. To these ends, he has not only worked extensively in the United States where he practices but also in Palestine and Israel, Turkey, Croatia, Senegal, Bosnia, Kuwait, Malaysia, to name only some, to make possible and facilitate dialogue between various warring groups. Enemies on the Couch: A Psychopolitical Journey through War and Peace is Dr. Volkan's personal chronicle of many of these encounters. He also recounts the many lessons learned as a result of these interventions. He offers insights on how psychological factors influence intra- and international relations and how knowledge about them can make important contributions to more peaceful coexistence.

Dr. Volkan's book, along with his many previously published books and articles, documents ways in which the gap that currently exists between psychoanalysis in the consulting room and the knowledge it offers for positive social change might be effectively bridged. His publications, too, reveal how sustained his effort has been over the years to translate psychoanalysis, a science of subjectivity and the therapeutic dyad, into one useful for social and political interventions in conflict situations. It is what Dr. Volkan refers to as “political psychology in practice.” Enemies on the Couch is very rich in detail and full of many personal anecdotes, all told and referenced to make these larger points. And the book provides ample evidence for gains achieved when familiar sites of political conflict are perceived through these psychological lenses.

In

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