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Akhtar, S. (2011). Editor's Introduction: Besides Perpetrators. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 8(2):185-186.

(2011). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 8(2):185-186

Book Reviews and Commentary

Editor's Introduction: Besides Perpetrators

Salman Akhtar, M.D.

It is well known that a traumatic situation becomes as such via a combination of three variables: (i) “good” supplies are withdrawn, (ii) “bad” things are done, and (iii) everyone pretends that nothing unusual is going on. The first factor weakens the victim's ego and diminishes the capacity for revolt. The second factor de-stabilizes the psyche by infusing excessive amounts of affect into it for which there is little possibility of release. The third factor robs the victim of the much-needed “holding(Winnicott, 1960/1965), “containing” (Bion, 1962), and “witnessing” (Poland, 2000). This etiological triad of trauma is found again and again to be operative in both individual and group situations of suffering. Take this example. A child is sexually abused by a parent, his or her needs for a decent parent are thwarted, and when he or she complains to the other parent, the protest is deemed silly and unjustified. Take another example. A nation or large group of people (e.g. African-Americans in the United States, Jews in Europe, or Palestinians in the Middle East) are abused, deprived of their rights, and the world lets the injustice go on without stepping up and intervening. The similarities are obvious. And so is the triad of abuse, deprivation, and “gaslighting” (Barton & Whitehead, 1969) at the root of the resulting anguish.

The literature (both psychoanalytic and psychopolitical) has largely focused upon the perpetrators and victims.

[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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