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Volkan, V.D. (2015). In these Pages … The Intertwining of External and Internal Events in the Changing World. Am. J. Psychoanal., 75(4):353-360.

(2015). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 75(4):353-360

In these Pages … The Intertwining of External and Internal Events in the Changing World

Vamik D. Volkan, M.D.

I would like to thank Giselle Galdi for inviting me to edit this Special Issue, which concludes the 75th Volume of the AJP, on the effects of cultural, ethnic, national, religious, political events and massive traumas, especially those at the hand of the “Other,” on individuals’ internal worlds and societies. We also wish to illustrate how such external events influence our clinical work.

Beginning with Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysts have ventured beyond the couch and have written about myths, religions, wars and related topics. Nevertheless, until a few decades ago, psychoanalysts did not place much focus on how external events impact the psychopathology of individuals they were treating. They followed the tradition that originated with Freud's giving up the seduction theory in his early efforts to develop psychoanalytic theories. The idea of the sexual seduction of children coming from the external world was relinquished in favor of the belief that stimuli that came from the child's own wishes and fantasies resulted in the formation of psychopathology. Thus, classical psychoanalysis placed less emphasis on actual seduction coming from the external world on the developing child's psyche, and this was generalized to include de-emphasizing the psychic impact of external events. Freud also left another legacy that discouraged his followers from pursuing political and diplomatic processes in their daily clinical practices. In his letter to Albert Einstein, he expressed pessimism about human nature and the role of psychoanalysis in preventing wars or war-like situations (Freud, 1932).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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