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Altman, N. (2011). Response to Chana Ullman's Paper “Between Denial and Witnessing”. Psychoanal. Perspect., 8(2):201-206.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 8(2):201-206

Response to Chana Ullman's Paper “Between Denial and Witnessing” Related Papers

Neil Altman, Ph.D.

Chana ullman's paper “between denial and witnessing” is a rare and forthright depiction of the traumatic context in which analysts and their patients work in Israel/Palestine today. It is also a thoughtful, unflinching consideration of the way the political world forms a crucial backdrop in all psychoanalyses and psychotherapies. In pointing out how common it is among psychoanalysts to ignore the political context in their work, Ullman acts as an analyst for the field, showing us our blind spot and challenging us to wonder, to interrogate ourselves about what is being excluded and why. A psychoanalytic perspective, in my view, is one that addresses suffering, but most characteristically addresses efforts we all make to avoid the awareness of suffering in ourselves and others. Ullman, while appreciating that psychoanalysis is valuable as a “haven” and “refuge,” nonetheless wants to keep in mind along with the rest of us the defensive function of defining the psychoanalytic situation in this way. In Israel/Palestine and elsewhere, psychoanalysts and their patients tend to come from the politically and economically privileged sectors of society, which means that they are more likely to be perpetrators than recipients of injustice.

The failure to address the political world in psychoanalysis, in my view, is very much about both guilt avoidance and the avoidance of the psychic price, in the currency of dehumanization, paid by those who oppress others.

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