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Aleksandrowicz, D.R. (1971). Psychoanalysis During Wartime. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(2):245-250.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(2):245-250

Psychoanalysis During Wartime

Dov R. Aleksandrowicz, M.D.

It seems reasonable to assume that social upheavals have an unfavorable influence on the progress of psychoanalytic therapy. True enough, a dramatic social event (e.g. assassination of a leader) may mobilize emotions that will lead to hidden conflicts and repressed memories, but intense and prolonged social crises may justly be expected to become a hindrance.

There are two reasons for this. One is that patients tend to use events in reality as resistance. Sometimes we may not even be justified in using the term “resistance.” Reality may absorb the patient's attention or his libido to such an extent that he is incapable of the introspection required by psychoanalysis, transference feelings pale and the past becomes meaningless. Anna Freud, in her paper “Adolescence,”2 describes problems caused by the need to free oneself from libidinal ties. Similar problems arise when the patient becomes so involved in external events that he simply “is not here.”

The other reason for the analyst to be wary of social crises is the intrinsic opposition between group feelings and group identification on one hand and psychoanalysis as a deeply personal and intimate process on the other. The more the patient identifies with the group and shares its experiences, the less we see of his own self.

Considering all this, it may be of interest to observe what actually happens in psychoanalysis during a national emergency. I refer here to the Six Day War of 1967 in the Middle East. It will be remembered that in May of that year, with very little previous warning, the two opposing sides found themselves on the verge of a life-or-death struggle.

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