TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Gratitude at the Time of Thanks-Giving and the World in Turmoil
by Inna Rozentsvit
• 1a. Showing Gratitude by a Personal Example: Medallions Granted for Service to Psychohistory Forum Members
- Dramatic Lives as Interplay of Personal and Family Themes: The Psychobiographies of Van Gogh, Gellhorn, and Woodman. Post symposium essay.
by Athena Androutsopoulou
- Spaces Between Words. [Poem dedicated to the participants of the IPhA’s 45th Annual Conference.]
by Howard F. Stein
- Ukraine in geopolitical context: Diverse psychohistorical perspectives. Post-conference report on the panel presented during Part 3 of the Annual IPhA’s Conference, October 9th, 2022: Brian D’Agostino, Peter W. Petschauer, Inna Rozentsvit.
• 4a. Ukraine and the Media: Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me.
by Brian D’Agostino
• 4b. Putin’s Latest War. On the Road to Total War.
by Peter W. Petschauer
• 4c. On Neo-Nazis’ Control in Ukraine: Calling on the Better Angels of Humanity’s Nature
by Inna Rozentsvit
- On Listen to Rarely Heard Voices, a Psychohistorical Poetry Book by Peter Petschauer.
by MindMend Publishing
- Call for Proposals for IPhA’s 2023 Annual Conference
by IPhA’s Leadership
- Psychohistory Forum and Clio’s Psyche: Past and Forthcoming Activities
by Paul Elovitz
• 7a Anxiety and Fear in Society and My Life.
by Paul Elovitz
• 7b The Fear Contagion: A Psycho-Bio-Medico-Historical Perspective.
by Inna Rozentsvit
- WHITEBOARDINGS: Poetic Psychohistory or Psychohistorical Poetry?
from Howard F. Stein & Seth Allcorn
- The Journal of Psychohistory: Interview with David Lotto, the Editor
by Ken Fuchsman
- The International Journal of Controversial Discussions: “Jew Hating: The Black Milk of Civilization.”
from Arnold Richards
- Bulletin Board
- IPA Contacts
1. Gratitude at the Time of Thanks-Giving and the World in Turmoil
Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude.
Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road. — John Henry Jowett
What Thanks-Giving Is for Me
For my family, the first generation refugee immigrants to the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday represents everything that is good about this country, its people, its customs, and the possibilities of a bright future, no matter what. We were learning from our children, who at the time went to kindergarten and first grade, about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans celebrating the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest on American land, and about the pardon of a lucky turkey, and about all the foods that make the Thanksgiving holiday dinner a special one.
For us, new Americans, it was a day of new friendships and a day of belonging – to a Great American Nation. Nothing could spoil the mood on Thanksgiving, neither being on-call during this holiday, while the whole family gathered around (and no cell phones or face-times; just beepers), nor experiencing overall bad times. This day was sacred. It was thirty plus years ago. But later, I noticed that people started talking about the “Turkey day,” the “Gobble-gobble day,” or just “Have a good one” day. So I started reflecting on this change with some friends, bringing to our conversations the idea of thankfulness and gratitude, and asking them if they felt the same awkward feeling about this holiday being degraded to (over)eating and often talking about our divisions and disagreements (especially political ones), and very little about giving thanks. Some people agreed, some said that everything is “the same,” and the others said that I am digging too deep and it’s “unnecessary.” So, I made a mental note to myself, but did not explore this topic further.
Later, after my first psychoanalytic training (which was prompted by personal losses – my Mom’s passing and by my son’s leukemia diagnosis), I returned to the topic of the Thanksgiving holiday and of gratefulness – for everything we have: family, friends, home, peaceful life, education, loved professions and opportunities. And now, in the age of the internet and virtual reality, I went digging.I found out that the first Thanksgiving Proclamation was made on October 3, 1789, by our first U.S. President George Washington. This Proclamation established a national day of Thanks-Giving, stating the following: “… for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, … for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and … for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and … for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us” (Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789). The Pilgrims and the American Indians are not mentioned here. But what everyone can feel reading these words is the greatest appreciation of what Americans had at that time, especially after the brutal and almost impossible-to-win-but-won war.
And only many years later, on October 3rd, 1863, Abraham Lincoln, our 16th U.S. President, established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Speculations are that Lincoln wanted to unite American people during another brutal (Civil) war and to celebrate their lives in a democratic country (despite a huge human loss of about a million lives). My plunge into history brought another realization – that we know very little about another person who contributed to establishing the annual national Thanksgiving holiday – Sarah Josepha Hale, a woman-writer more known for her “Mary Had a Little Lamb” story.
In the 1820s, Sarah Hale became the first American woman-editor, writing editorials and poems in her magazine “Godey’s Lady’s Book.” She used the magazine to promote ideas of patriotism, abolition of slavery, women’s education, and making Thanksgiving day a national holiday. In Thanksgiving being a national holiday, Hale saw an opportunity to bring people together at the time of polarization.
It seems to me that the situation now is similar to the one experienced by Sarah Hale. Americans are polarized now by politics, racial tensions, gender wars, COVID vax/antivax, and stress, anxiety and fear experienced by all of us, at different degrees, but still polarized. Now the Thanksgiving holiday is not the nation’s glue anymore, to the point that some of us do not celebrate it and even do not consider it being a valid holiday (because some feel “betrayed” by the Pilgrims/Indians dinner story!). Could anything change what is happening now? I think, yes, we could do it – by bringing GRATITUDE back to our lives.
The Science of Gratitude
In different contexts, the word “Gratitude” is assigned various meanings. It is a state of being for one group of people and researchers; it is a feeling of appreciation of something (or someone) valuable and meaningful for another group; while it is seen as a virtue by the third (Sansone & Sansone, 2010). Gratitude is, conceptually, more than being thankful for something one receives, as it transcends the “material,” connecting to the sense of self and to one’s experiences (of being a part of a family, being in contact with nature, or being alive) (Sansone & Sansone, 2010).
And, we know now from transdisciplinary research, Gratitude is linked to enhanced sense of overall wellbeing (Sansone & Sansone, 2010), and it is proven in various experiments. One such experiment involved three groups of people who were all asked to journal. One group journaled all their negative events and hassles, while the other journaled what they are grateful for, and the third one journaled about neutral things/events in their daily life. Results showed that people in the “gratitude subsample” had a higher sense of well-being in comparison with the other two groups, all else being equal (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Another study with over 200 participating adolescents concluded that gratitude exercises (like counting one’s blessings) are associated with greater life satisfaction and enhanced well-being, in comparison with the control and the “hassles” groups (Froh et al., 2008).
Of course, there are other methods that improve one’s well-being, but the “gratitude method” never fails to show positive results. E.g., one of the experiments (Dickerhoof, 2007) involved students either in “happiness (cognitive) exercises” (aka “optimism exercises”) or in “gratitude exercises” (writing letters of gratitude). The participants of both groups were told that the method they are using will increase their well-being. The control group was writing about the events of the past week (so neither optimism nor gratitude exercises were used). Results showed that in comparison with the control group, both “optimism” and “gratitude” groups did way better, in terms of their well-being.
Gratitude “interventions” are perceived as easy, cheap and effective once when used with trauma survivors, especially those who experienced childhood trauma, and with patients suffering from autoimmune, cancer, COVID, or other serious chronic conditions (Büntzel et al., 2020; Büssing et al., 2021; Gysels et al., 2008; Kumar et al., 2022).
Some research even shows that despite the detrimental effects of COVID on mental health, banking on one’s personal strength promotes resilience during anxiety-provoking pandemic (Kumar et al., 2022). One main strength they looked into was gratitude, which was found to promote wellness and interpersonal connections amidst adversity (anxiety, depression, negative outlook pre-COVID). Another COVID related research determined a possibility of post-traumatic growth, despite all the anxiety of pandemic, and that perceived positive changes and feeling of awe/gratitude during the pandemic were related to Nature/Silence/Contemplation, Spirituality, and Relationships, while some of the best predictors of positive changes were the frequency of meditation, life satisfaction, faith as a stronghold, and life reflection (Büssing et al., 2021).
I can go on and on and on, bringing more examples of Gratitude saving people’s health and lives. But it will take more than knowledge that “gratitude is good for you.” It will take the will and courage to change, to try and to practice, and to enjoy the journey, unconditionally, just because you said so!
Wishing all of us success in practicing GRATITUDE, for more meaning, purpose, health and love in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. And, Happy Thanks-Giving!
- Büntzel, J., Klein, M., Keink,i C., Walter, S., & Hübner, J. (2020). Oncology services in corona times: A flash interview among German cancer patients and their physicians. Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology, 146, 2713–2715.
- Büssing, A., Rodrigues, R.D, Dienberg, T., Surzykiewicz, J., Baumann, K. (2021). Awe/Gratitude as an Experiential Aspect of Spirituality and Its Association to Perceived Positive Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Frontiers of Psychiatry, 12, 642716.
- Dickerhoof, R.M. (2007). Expressing optimism and gratitude: a longitudinal investigation of cognitive strategies to increase well-being. Dissertation Abstracts International, 68, 4174B.
- Emmons, R.A., McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counted blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377–389.
- Froh, J.J., Sefick, W.J., Emmons, R.A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 213–233.
- Gysels, M., Shipman, C., & Higginson, I.J. (2008). “I will do it if it will help others:” Motivations among patients taking part in qualitative studies in palliative care. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 35, 347–355.
- Kumar, S.A., Edwards, M.E., Grandgenett, H.M., Scherer, L.L., DiLillo, D., & Jaffe, A.E. (2022). Does gratitude promote resilience during a pandemic? An examination of mental health and positivity at the onset of COVID-19. Journal of Happiness Studies, 23(7), 3463-3483.
- Sansone, R.A., & Sansone, L.A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: The benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 7(11), 18-22.
- Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789. Founders Online, National Archives. Retrieved from https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-04-02-0091. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 4, 8 September 1789 – 15 January 1790, ed. Dorothy Twohig. University Press of Virginia, 1993, pp. 131–132.]
1a. Showing Gratitude by a Personal Example: Medallions Granted for Service to Psychohistory Forum Members
At the September 17, 2022 meeting of the Psychohistory Forum, Fordham Psychology Professor Harold Takooshian surprised the Forum’s Founder with a medallion showing the lamp of knowledge and inscribed “Paul H. Elovitz, PhD – 50 Years of Inspiring Others. Fordham Institute, 2022.”
This touching gesture inspired Professor Paul Elovitz as the editor of Clio’s Psyche to send similar medallions to Jacques Szaluta, PhD (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy), and Herbert Barry III, PhD (University of Pittsburgh), who have been loyal members of the Psychohistory Forum since its inception in the 1980s as well as contributors to and benefactors of Clio’s Psyche since it was founded in 1994.
Professor Jacques Szaluta was at our very first IPhA meeting and organized our second one a year later. His many psychohistorical works include the book, Psychohistory (1999), in French and English, and numerous articles on Freud’s ego ideals.
Professor Herbert Barry published at least 200 articles, with a special focus on birth order, and for decades co-chaired the Psychohistory Forum’s The Psychology of Presidents and Presidential Candidates Research and Publication Group.
Each was an honored Featured Scholar in Clio’s Psyche. Their interviews may be found by going to cliospsyche.org/archives.
2. Dramatic Lives as Interplay of Personal and Family Themes:
The Psychobiographies of Van Gogh, Gellhorn, and Woodman
by Athena Androutsopoulou
The European Association of Family Therapy (EFTA) Conference that took place on 7-10 September 2022 in Ljubljana, Slovenia hosted a psychobiography symposium organized by our ‘Logo Psychis’- Training and Research Institute for Systemic Psychotherapy situated in Athens, Greece. Psychobiography is taught to our trainee therapists as part of a qualitative research methods course, whereas a Psychobiography Club for trainees, graduates and interested colleagues has recently been launched. This was the second psychobiography symposium organized at an EFTA conference by our Institute. This time the scope was extended to the study of family life aspects. The psychobiographies of Martha Gellhorn, Vincent Van Gogh, and Francesca Woodman were presented.
The presentation began with a note that the American Psychological Association has recently emphasized the importance of psychobiography studies as clinical case studies with special guidelines published (2017). However, the systemic/family perspective has not been widely used to study famous lives, and systemic therapists have yet to take advantage of this renewed interest in psychobiography. In the three studies that were presented, various narrative/dialogical methodologies were adopted. Overall, findings pointed to useful implications for systemic therapists as they raised issues connected to life as an interplay of personal and family themes, as a conversation between inner and outer voices.
“My north star”- The early family memory of war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (by Eleni Kalaboka, Eleftheria Kanaki , Konstantina Drosatou , Sotiria Anagnostopoulou, & Niki Dioti)
Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998) was an author and famous war correspondent covering almost all major wars in the 20th century. She was also Hemingway’s third wife (1940-1946). She described herself as “Un voyageur sur la terre.” To study her life, the researchers borrowed ideas from the “prototypical scene method” of Schultz. An early childhood memory, personal letters and a life interview were analyzed. The analysis confirmed the theme of the “lonely, happy traveler” as she put it, but also revealed the importance of her mother Edna as her “north star”. Edna was an inspiration for Martha, an early feminist who dreamed of travelling but never did. Martha appeared to be perpetually leaving Edna (“not like her”) and returning to her (“like her”) both literally and metaphorically. Loneliness was both a friend and enemy in her old age. A clinical implication was suggested, working with early childhood/family memories as a way to detect the interplay between personal and family themes.
“Only human”: Personal and family voices of sympathy and contempt in the life of Vincent van Gogh (by Peggy Poimenidou & Athena Androutsopoulou)
Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) emerged as one of the most famous painters of the 19th century. Having sold only one painting in his lifetime, he died poor by shooting himself after a number of mental breakdowns. To study his life, we analysed letters written by and about family members referring to his last 13 years. Given that parental voices were steadily condemning (“a burden”), Vincent’s self-image and emotions ranged from a “burden” to “only human” and back to a “burden” with accompanying emotions (sadness/ guilt, anger/ self-sympathy). Secure attachment – his suggested remedy – is discussed in the clinical implications, along with the impact of strict condemning family voices that support the restricting theme of “problematic member.” The unfortunate fate of three of Vincent’s siblings (death by syphilis, suicide, death in mental institution) was never foreseen by the family.
“Visible/invisible”: The interplay of personal and family themes in the life and death of photographer Francesca Woodman (by Christos Korovilas, Ioanna-Elpida Papandreou, Athena Androutsopulou)
Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) was an American photographer who became famous after her early death by suicide age 22, and is now considered an “icon”, “a rock star of contemporary photography”. Analysis of her photos by critics reveal the theme of visible/invisible as an important aspect for understanding her work. To study her life, the researchers noticed repeated patterns in photographs/videos and self-narratives, but also triangulated findings with a family narrative as it appeared in a documentary film: “The Woodmans” were a family of artists all of whom aimed at success. Our analysis featured the theme visible/invisible as a general life theme, indicating its link to notions of acceptance/rejection, but also as a family theme with ups and downs that did not temporally coincide for all members. Clinical implications include working with family members toward secure attachment and with family themes that are less polarized and more inclusive.
Discussion with the audience
Monica White, at the time president of EFTA, served as discussant to the meeting, encouraging the audience to actively participate by sharing personal feelings and thoughts triggered by the stories. The audience appeared moved and noticed the great effort made by all three famous persons to be accepted and valued by their parents. Issues related to creativity and mental health were raised, with presenters emphasizing that their subjects only created at times of minimal internal turmoil.
Athena Androutsopoulou (PhD, EuroPsy, ECP) is a clinical psychologist and systemic and family therapist. She completed her first degree in psychology at the University of Athens, Greece, and received her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Bath, UK. She was trained in systemic and family therapy, and works in private practice. She is co-founder and co-director of ‘Logo Psychis’® Training and Research Institute for Systemic Psychotherapy which endorses an enriched systemic approach (SANE-System Attachment Narrative Encephalon®). She works there as trainer and supervisor. She was visiting lecturer at the University of Athens, teaching Qualitative Research Methods at postgraduate level (2009-2017). In English, she has published scientific articles in the area of systemic and narrative-based therapy and in psychobiography. She has also written book chapters, including chapters in two psychobiography handbooks. In Greek, she has written a book on dreams-as-narratives and has co-edited three systemic cases handbooks. She has published four children books, one of which was shortlisted for a Greek state award.
3. Spaces Between Words. [Poem dedicated to the participants of the IPhA’s 45th Annual Conference.]
by Howard Stein
Dedicated to the participants of the International Psychohistorical Association Conference (May 19-21, 2022)
I have attended to your words
One vowel, one consonant,
One syllable at a time, their
Flow into a stream of thought.
I have listened to the spaces
Between them: short and long,
Ones that rush to be filled,
Spaces to linger in, dwell.
Letters alone never offer
Fulfillment but a place to start.
Letters only give me hints
But it is in the spaces
where I can breathe
and find you.
Howard F. Stein, Ph.D., an applied, psychoanalytic, medical, and organizational anthropologist, psychohistorian, organizational consultant, and poet, is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK, USA, where he taught for nearly 35 years. He has published numerous articles, chapters, and books, many of which are co-authored with Seth Allcorn. He has published 11 books and chapbooks of poetry, of which the most recent are Presence – Poems from Ghost Ranch (2020), Centre and Circumference (2018), and Light and Shadow (2nd edition, 2018). Finishing Line Press has published five of his chapbooks. He is poet laureate of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology. He can be reached at
4. Ukraine in geopolitical context: Diverse psychohistorical perspectives. Post-conference report on the panel presented during Part 3 of the Annual IPhA’s Conference, October 9th, 2022: Brian D’Agostino, Peter W. Petschauer, Inna Rozentsvit.
4a. Ukraine and the Media: Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me.
by Brian D’Agostino, Ph.D. www.bdagostino.com
(presented at the 45th Annual Conference of the International Psychohistorical Association, 9 October 2022)
What do we really know about what is going on in Ukraine? Overwhelmingly, we depend on what the mass media choose to report and not report. Can we assume that these sources of information are truthful and unbiased? Here is what Russia expert Stephen Cohen said about this question: “The degradation of mainstream American press coverage of Russia, a country still vital to US national security, has been under way for many years. If the recent tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines … is an indication, this media malpractice is now pervasive and the new norm. …News reports, editorials, and commentaries no longer adhere rigorously to traditional journalistic standards, often failing to provide essential facts and context; make a clear distinction between reporting and analysis; require at least two different political or ‘expert’ views on major developments; or publish opposing opinions on their op-ed pages.” (Cohen, 2022, pp. 19-20)
These words aptly describe the environment of war propaganda in which we are now immersed. Nor can it be understood as a response to “Russian imperialism,” since these words were written in February 2014, more than a month before Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This drumbeat of distortion and demonization has been going on for more than eight years since Stephen Cohen’s assessment and has gotten worse.
In the current issue of The Journal of Psychohistory, I have an article that makes the case that the current war in Ukraine is the logical culmination of decades of US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. If you don’t subscribe to this journal, I have a reprint on my website (just Google Brian D’Agostino, Ph.D.). The United States deploys the biggest war machine ever assembled in human history, maintains over 700 military bases throughout the world, and trains forces, supplies arms, uses force, or threatens to use force in dozens of situations throughout the world every year, not only in Ukraine. As recently as 2019, there were more than seventy such interventions on six continents, with U.S. troops or Special Operations Forces fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and nine countries in Africa (Smithsonian Magazine, 2019; Turse and Speri, 2022). If you’ve never heard of most of these interventions, it is because the American media almost never discusses them.
As for Ukraine and other high-profile interventions, Americans frequently tell themselves that their country’s mission is to protect Western Civilization from a succession of Evil Empires. To note only a few of these, in the 1960’s it was North Vietnam, whose evil was allegedly demonstrated in the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Then it was Iran. Then it was Saddam Hussein, who was supposedly acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Then it was the Taliban. Now it’s Putin in Ukraine. And tomorrow it will be China, menacing “Western Civilization” in Taiwan, 100 miles from its shores. This reminds me of the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” So what do you say about people who are fooled again and again and again and keep consuming Western news media uncritically? I pose this as a genuine psychohistorical question.
Let me conclude with two quotes. The first is from A. J. Muste, who said, “The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?” And the second quote is from Lao Tzu, author of The Tao Te Ching: “When a country fights many wars and wins, it is destroyed. When a country fights many wars, its people get weary. When a country wins many wars, its leaders become arrogant. When arrogant leaders lead a weary people, the country is destroyed.”
- Cohen, Stephen F. (2022). War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate. New York, NY: Hot Books.
- Smithsonian Magazine (2022). America at War (February). https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/map-shows-places-world-where-us-military-operates-180970997/
- Turse, Nick and Alice Speri (2022). How the Pentagon uses a Secretive Program to Wage Proxy Wars. The Intercept, July 1. https://theintercept.com/2022/07/01/pentagon-127e-proxy-wars/
A Note from the Editor:
Stephen F. Cohen (mentioned as the main source in this article) passed away on September 18, 2020, at the age of 81. He was Professor Emeritus of Politics at Princeton University, where for many years he was also director of the Russian Studies Program, and Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and History at New York University. He grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky, and received his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Indiana University and his Ph.D. at Columbia University. Cohen visited and lived in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia regularly for more than forty years.
Cohen’s other books include Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography; Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics and History Since 1917; Sovieticus: American Perceptions and Soviet Realities (with Katrina vanden Heuvel); Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers; Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia; Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War; and The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag After Stalin. For his scholarly work, Cohen received several honors, including two Guggenheim fellowships and a National Book Award nomination.
Over the years, he had also been a frequent contributor to newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. His “Sovieticus” column for The Nation won a 1985 Newspaper Guild Page One Award and for another Nation article a 1989 Olive Branch Award. For many years, Cohen was a consultant and on-air commentator on Russian affairs for CBS News. With the producer Rosemary Reed, he was also project adviser and correspondent for three PBS documentary films about Russia: “Conversations With Gorbachev”; “Russia Betrayed?”; and “Widow of the Revolution.”
Brian D’Agostino is an interdisciplinary social scientist, educator, author, and speaker who holds Ph.D., Masters, and Bachelors degrees from Columbia University. His publications and other professional qualifications span psychology, mathematics, political-economy, and public policy. Dr. D’Agostino is President of the International Psychohistorical Association and author of The Middle Class Fights Back: How Progressive Movements Can Restore Democracy in America (Praeger 2012). He has addressed the NYC Panel for Educational Policy and NYS Senate Education Committee and lectured for the general public and academic audiences. His publications have appeared in the peer-reviewed Political Science Quarterly, Political Psychology, The Journal of Psychohistory, and Review of Political Economy, as well as popular publications including New York Daily News, Z Magazine, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Living City.
4b. Putin’s Latest War. On the Road to Total War.
by Peter W. Petschauer
On February 24th, 2022, thousands of troops of the Russian Federation attacked the independent country Ukraine. The did so at the command of Vladimir V. Putin, the president of the Federation. Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany, called it a Zeitwende, (a change of times).
Most Westerners did not anticipate this attack would occur. Even the French general staff did not think so; they assumed this massive assemblage of troops, personnel carriers, trucks, tanks and planes represented a negotiating posture. By contrast, the US defense department accurately predicted an attack, as I did to several of my friends.
The timing of the Russian assault is important. It matches the one on the Crimea in 2014. On snow and ice, tanks and other heavy equipment moves well; that is, the attacks are timed with the weather.
As in Syria, Chechnya, and the Crimea, Putin expected a quick victory. As we know, this did not happen! He figured that Volodymyr O. Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, would run—he did not. Important, the Ukrainians counter had begun to succeed even before the West provided massive numbers of weapons.
Russia’s generals hinted to Putin that he should not yet attack. They did not have sufficient troops, they were not sufficiently well trained or equipped; that is, he should not expect a quick victory. Part of their considerations had to do with rivalries within the Russian generality; but they also reflected reality. There was not sufficient preparation for a war, so it didn’t go well, just as they suggested.
Why attack in the first place? The attack fits with ideas Putin has articulated for years. He had a longstanding goal, has written about it, and spoken about it; it is to reintegrate Ukraine into the Russian domain. He was deeply dismayed about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its territories. He professes a similar agenda as Alexander G. Dugin (1997), as we heard from Ken Rasmussen (Rasmussen), even if Putin supposedly does not listen to him personally. But their nationalistic, Russo-centric, and anti-Western stances match each other. The best example is Putin’s statement that “Russia has always perceived of itself as a Eurasian country” (Putin, 2000). Alexei A. Navalny, whom one can call an opposition leader, has accused the Russian leadership of being overly aggressive and wanting war (Navalny, Reuters, 2022). Putin initially excused his attack by arguing that Ukraine was harboring Nazis and oppressing the Russian-speaking population. He has changed his approach more recently; it has become even more specifically anti-Western.
Putin’s fears about the West are real to him. He grew up in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), which was recovering from the German 900-day siege during his childhood, and he served as a KGB officer in Dresden; the relevant stories about past attacks on Russia were widespread in the elite, and they appealed to him. But in the past, the fears did not only focus on the West; they’ve also focused on China (Lebedev, conversations).
These past attacks placed the Poles in the Kremlin in 1610, Swedes in the Ukraine in 1709, French soldiers in Moscow in 1812, Germans in Western Russia in 1918, and Germans again in Russia in 1941-44. These were real fears that Russians can have and do have.
But one must also look at the other side of Russian history! Russian leaders have been at war since the Middle Ages with its surrounding countries. It conquered everything around it, all the way from a little hunting lodge on the Moskva River to the farthest reaches of Siberia and, at one point beyond the Bering Strait, and to the area we now call Alaska, Oregon, and California. It conquered all the way across the Caucasus, and into Cantal Asia, Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic and Finland.
In the past, as different fields of historical investigation emerged, writers looked for “their” reasons that certain events evolved. In regard to most recent wars, writers still sometimes speak of war having broken out. Or in the German version of it, “Krieg wurde vom Zaun gebrochen” (war was broken from the fence). The newer lines of argument ascribed the outbreak of a war not to specific individuals, they found instead reasons of state, alliance structures, diplomatic maneuverings, economic reasons, military history, ideological trends, -isms, etc. But since Adorno and Erikson some of us have looked more closely at psychological reasons. This reality shows that a war never just brakes out, leaders, be they kings, emperors or dictators, decide to attack for many supposed “good reasons,” always though for their own specific impulses and psychological needs (Beisel, 2003).
Before the emergence of these fields, and even today, some writers tended, or tend, to ascribe wars of earlier periods to specific leaders, like Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, or Louis xiv. Even if these men could have taken a different approach, they are seen as having decided instead, based on their backgrounds and the pressures they thought they faced, to put many thousands of human beings in harm’s way. As a matter of fact, some writers have praised them for their astuteness and success. A good example are the heroes of the Trojan War, Achilles and Ajax. Brutal killers feasting on gore dressed up in heroic verbiage.
As psychohistorians we know better. The same monstrous men stalk the planet today. They decide on making war because they deem it in their best interests. If in the past they were inspired by glory and reputation, today they seem inspired by having to win whatever argument they are in; always based on their own backgrounds, whisperers surrounding them, and perceived wrongs. Writers still accuse GB of having given in, not Hitler seeking war. Others deride capitalism of undermining Russia, not Putin aiming to destroy several other countries, namely Chechnya, Syria and Ukraine.
Of late, Putin’s turn to vicious warfare—we are talking about total warfare—stems from his “successes” in the Caucasus and Syria with this approach. It is important not ignore that Syrian and Caucasus wars happened before the United States became involved in these brutal interventions.
What did the Russian military do in Syria and what did they do in the Caucasus? They killed civilians and families, destroyed hospitals, apartment complexes, bridges, and infrastructure in general. This is what they are doing in Ukraine. Sadly, we know now, too, the Russian military doesn’t tell their own people how many soldiers they are losing or where they might find news about them (NYT, 2022). According to private conversations with top American officers, the military even brought along mobile crematoria, with which one assumes they hope to avoid critical news from the front spreading throughout society. That is, they have not forgotten their Afghanistan and its consequences for the then Soviet Union! Putin himself now is so desperate for success that he has taken over command and raised 320,000 men to send to the front…most of them untrained and poorly prepared for combat.
These policies are forcing a unique reckoning in Russia. So far, about 890,000 people have left Russia in two waves. The first after the attack in February and the second with Putin’s recent mobilization order. Some people have also migrated into Russia, especially from parts of eastern Ukraine. Most of the people who have left are highly trained individuals, mostly men, specialists in every field imaginable. As many as 50,000 IT specialists are said to have left Russia. My wife Joni and I heard them talking when we were still in Germany in April 2022, in cafes about their networking.
Of course, millions Ukrainians are leaving their homes and their country. These refugees are mostly women and children, and they are settling (temporarily?) all across different parts of Ukraine and Western Europe.
Now, the Ukrainian’s victories are reliant on Western weapons, repurposed equipment, and—very important—on internal lines of communication, force distribution, national enthusiasm, good generalship, and innovative approaches on the battlefield. In the meantime though, Putin’s rocketeers are attempting to destroy Ukraine, just like they did in Syria and Chechnya.
It is hardly ever a good idea to engage in warfare. Whether by Russia, the United States, or anyone else. Making peace is thus becoming increasingly important now as well, but American politicians are reluctant to appear weak in the face of aggression and support for Ukraine; so far neither Putin nor Zelensky also see no advantage in making peace.
Beisel, David R. (2003). The Suicidal Embrace: Hitler, the Allies, and the Origins of the Second World War. Circumstantial Press.
Dugin, Alexand’r G. (1997). Osnovy geopolitiki: Geopoliticheskoe budushchee Rossii [Foundation of Geopolitcs (The geopolitical Future of Russia)]. Moscow, Arktogeya.
Falconbridge, Guy (2022). Jailed Kremlin foe Navalny lambasts Putin’s ‘stupid war’ in Ukraine. Reuters, 24 May: https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/jailed-kremlin-foe-navalny-lambasts-putins-stupid-war-ukraine-2022-05-24/
Lebedev, Anatoly, a translator for Nikita S. Khrushchev, in conversations in NYC in the late-1960s.
MacFarquhar Neil, and Alina Lobzina (2022). Frustrating an Often Fruitless: The Search for Missing Russian Soldiers. New York Times, November 5. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/04/world/europe/missing-russian-soldiers.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=World%20News
Putin, Vladimir V. (2000). Rossiya vsegda oshchushchala sebya evroaziatskoi stranoi, Strana.ru, November 13.
Ken Rasmussen (2022). Philosophers and Totalitarian Ultranationalism – Psychohistorical Reflections on the Support of Martin Heidegger for Adolf Hitler and Aleksandr Dugin for Vladimir Putin. Presentation at the 45th annual conference, International Psychohistorical Association, October 8, 2022.
Peter W. Petschauer, Professor Emeritus, Appalachian State University. Author and poet. Forthcoming in NYC another poetry book, Listen to Rarely Heard Voices. In Brixen/Bressanone, IT, Was man so Alles lernt. Südtiroler Rückhalt für die moderne Welt.“Recently published: An Immigrant in the 1960s; Becoming an American in New York City” (2020) and a book of recent poems, Hopes and Fears. Past and Present (2019). The author may be reached at or peterpetschauer.com.
4c. On Neo-Nazis’ Control in Ukraine: Calling on the Better Angels of Humanity’s Nature
Expanded upon the presentation at the 45th IPhA’s Annual Conference as a part of the panel on Ukraine in Geopolitical Context: Diverse Psychohistorical Perspectives
by Inna Rozentsvit
“…We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone […], when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” (Abraham Lincoln, 1861, Inaugural Address)
Presenting on the topic of the “brother-killing” war on the territory of my Motherland was not easy: I never had to choose sides before – we (Soviet post-war generations of 1960s-1980s) were raised to respect all 160-plus nationalities of the former Soviet Union. I was born in Russia, grew up in Ukraine (from 2 years old and until I was almost 17), and went back to Russia for medical school studies, to become a physician (because if you were Jewish, it was impossible to pass the medical school entrance exams in Ukraine. This was a part of life, “nothing antisemitic.”). I maintained friendships on both sides of the current conflict: my childhood friends were in Ukraine (they have now run away from there, East, West, or South) and my friends from the medical academy still live in Russia.
When the special military operation (SMO) was announced by the Russian President V. Putin, it was a shock to me, mostly because of the reasoning he gave during the televised addresses before the operation started: to “demilitarize” and to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, and to let the Russian speaking people of Donbas to live lives they chose (without imposed prohibition of Russian language, culture, history, and even WWII history).
As a lay person who is not a politician and understands common mentality of the people who come from that part of the world, I understood Putin’s demand for demilitarization as a demand for his country’s security, which was supposedly protected by the agreements signed by Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia (the four independent republics that possess the nuclear arms inheritance from the dying union), as well as Minsk agreements of 2015 (supervised by the EU countries), which were not followed by Ukrainian governments. S. Plokhy (2021) provides a historical context for the immediate post-Soviet era geo-political situation, stating: “When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, one of the most encouraging features of its collapse was the absence of large-scale wars between the republics. The scenario that concerned many in the West, ‘Yugoslavia with nukes,’ never materialized.” (Read more about the Commonwealth of Independent States and about Russia’s policies aimed for friendlier geopolitical situations with their neighbors in a 2013 article by Moga & Alexeev, referenced below.)
One after another, every political party that won elections in “independent” Ukraine promised things that they never fulfilled. This led to Russian-speaking people being repressed and their rights squashed on the very territories where their families lived for many generations. [It is a longer story, but my own family’s departure from the Soviet Republic of Moldavia, where my husband and I served after “raspredeleniye” (literally translated as “distribution” – of work forces, one engineer and one physician – to the areas of the USSR that needed these specialties) happened after an incident with my coworker, a nurse aid in ER, who chose not to “hear” my requests for prepping a patient to the surgical procedure (and putting that patient in grave danger), just because I spoke to her in Russian (which was a common language for all citizens of the former USSR, as English language is in the US). My other coworker, a nurse, an ethnic Ukrainian who was married to a Moldavian, and who knew Moldavian, told me, “Inna Romanovna, it is a revolution out there. I do not know what else to tell you.” She translated for me some slogans pasted on the walls around our hospital. One of them stated: “Let’s drown Russians in the blood of dirty Jews.” I felt that some button was pressed in my solar plexus. Later, I called it the “transgenerational button.” When my husband came home from work, I said to him that “people do not want us here” and that “we need to go somewhere else.” I did not know where yet, but I knew that we needed to leave. At that moment, I probably felt what people of Donbass were experiencing from 2014 – that they are not wanted, and that their children do not have any future there. That was the beginning of the end of the multi-generational history of my family living on that land, with all its good and all its bad.]
In regards to following political promises, nothing changed with Zelensky: after swearing to finish the war in Donbass, and even preparing for peace talks right before the SMO, Zelensky refused to follow the agreements “signed by the other presidents,” and he also abruptly refused the talks. It seems that no one noticed this, and most likely – because Ukraine is considered the most corrupt state in Europe.
Recognition of Donbass’s Independence
Putin’s demand to recognize Donbass as an independent region was not new to me either. Since the pro-west government coup in 2014 (when elected government officials were jailed or ran away from Kiev and the new government installed), there was a war situation in Donbass-Lugansk regions (the most eastern part of Ukraine, neighboring the Russian Federation). More than 80% of their population is Russian speaking, and most of them are Russian ethnics. While considering themselves as Ukrainians, they wanted to separate from Ukraine because of anti- Russian language and culture policies of the official Ukrainian governments. These policies were (unofficially) exercised mostly by Bandera-type Ukrainian militarists nationalists from the “Azov” battalion or the “Right Sector”). People of Donbass conducted referendums resulting in an overwhelming vote to separate from Ukraine, and they established the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), but they were pronounced “separatists,” “antigovernment rebels,” they were treated as terrorists, and their children were killed one-by-one by snipers… [Torture chambers were uncovered near Mariupol, a large city in Donbas region, when the city was cleared from Azov battalion fighters, and this information was reported to the United Nations. I hope this will be looked at.] And this was happening for 8 years before the SMO…
As you see here, children were and are sacrificed on the altar of hate and death – but hate here is not towards Jews (yet), but towards people (Jews included) who want to speak Russian language, their mother’s tongue, and who want to live in peace and separate from those who do not respect them.
Going back to V. Putin’s pre-SMO demands – while the first two could be easily understood, his third demand, for de-Nazification, sounded to me as a fake one. Why? Because,despite Ukraine being one of the most antisemitic European regions since centuries ago (before Lithuania, Poland, Moldavia, and Romania), there were no overt antisemitic actions (like pogroms or Siberian work camps) that would be allowed by the (Soviet) government against any nationality during my life in that part of the world (1960s-1980s).
I am very sensitive to the topic of antisemitism and Nazism, and especially so after my fairly recent discoveries of my family’s tragedies: my late Mom’s three uncles were quartered by horses during Petlyura pogroms in Ukraine (while the family was made to watch their execution!); my Grandma was sent to Siberia (from 1940 until 1946) as a Zionist sympathizer during Stalin’s paranoia (because she kept her brother’s diary where he wrote about fighting for literacy for Jewish youth); my Grandpa with three kids and without a wife around, was not able to evacuate his family East with other Jewish families, so they were stuck underground, while on the surface – there was a Jewish ghetto (operated by Germans and Ukrainian auxiliary police, “politzays,” who were relentless in finding Jews that were hiding – without insistence of the fascists!); my Mom was 6.
My paternal Grandfather perished in the waters of Dniester River when they were running from Nazi-occupied Bucharest (Romania) to the Soviet side (at that time, the Soviets had a pact with Germany about non-invasion, Molotov-Ribbentrop pact); my paternal Grandmother died from malaria somewhere in Kazakhstan (and she was buried in the group grave that was never found); my Dad was 12. I am recounting this because I do appreciate what war is, what antisemitism is, and what Nazism is (and I denounce all of these). But the demand to de-Nazify did not sound real – I could not imagine a lot of people in Ukraine being overt Nazis.
So, trying to understand what is going on now, I called my friends in (South-Western) Ukraine – they acknowledged that there were “acts of violence” from “Natsiki” (as they called the west-Ukrainian Nazi groups) towards the Russian speaking people in Donbass, and they did not want to expand on this topic. I asked if I could send them anything useful, but they said that “everything will be stolen anyway” (theft and corruption were normalized in everyday post-Soviet Ukraine). They said that they will try to run to Europe somewhere (because Ukrainian government and their social media “promised them,” long before the SMO, that they will “get everything for free” in Europe in case of any conflict with Russia – so they were prepared).
My friends in Russia, who are the semi-retired physicians, were (and are) upset about the war situation (every family there was touched by the atrocities of the WWII, the losses, and the memories about them), but they said that Nazism in today’s Ukraine is, unfortunately real and unfortunately, it is normalized. The only difference is that it is just not against the Jews, but against the “Russians”: Russian ethnics as well as “Russian nationals” like Yakuts, Chechens, Chuvashs, Bashkirs, Armenians, indigenous peoples of Kamchatka, and others.
I’ve learned that Natsiki use slurs for Russians: Moskali, orcs, or – the worst – under-humans (remember who used this label last time around?), and that the post-Soviet youth in Ukraine (and especially those who grew up during and after the 2014 coup) is trained to hate Russians – just for being Russians!
This was a novice concept for me. So, I Googled “Nazis in modern Ukraine,” and here is what I found:
Surprised, appalled, confused – I asked everyone who cared to talk about it, “How come we do not know anything about it here, in the States? How come the Azov battalion, recognized in 2015 as a terrorist Nazi organization by the US Congress, is all over the Internet, being shown as the main military force keeping ‘anti-Russia rule of law’ in the ‘free’/ ‘nezalezhna’ Ukraine?” [Just a note: free – from anyone who is not a Ukrainian. Substitute the word “Russian” for “a Jew”or “a Black person” – and it might touch some nerves in more people, I think…]
Most of those I called said that they did not know anything about it, while others said that “there are Nazi groups all over the world,” and since the Ukrainian President is a Jew, Nazis probably operate on a ‘local,’ not governmental level. [In regards to the last statement – in one of the video interviews, available on YouTube, someone said that if B. Obama was elected a President, and for two terms, does this mean that we do not have racism in this country? I think this person has a point.]
There were also people who said that of course, Nazis are ruling in Ukraine, and they (most likely) threatened V. Zelensky, a good guy, like any gang would, and that since 2014, the Azov, the Right Sector, and similar military pro-Nazi groups are incorporated within the regular Ukrainian army. A few words about Azov: it was founded by Andriy Biletsky, who was quoted as saying (in 2010) that Ukraine’s mission was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].” As per report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN (2016),“The [Azov] group attacked and displaced residents in eastern Ukraine, looted civilian property, and tortured detainees in Donbass…” (See the link to the full document in the references. What they did not say is: “group attacked” meant they pulled men out of their homes under the night’s cover, tortured them, cut their fingers – so they would not be able to hold arms to protect their families, and many more things happened that should be tried in a court of law.)
If you can stomach it, watch “Burnt in Odessa. A documentary” (with English subtitles; this video is still online at https://youtu.be/wu2tXG2Yo-g). This documentary is about a horrific incident that happened in the Russian-speaking town on the Black Sea, Odessa, in 2014, when close to fifty unarmed people were burnt alive by Ukro-Nazis, while Kiev’s government watched on TV and “waited” for this conflict to be resolved. What was the conflict? People of Odessa protested Maidan-2 (the coup/ the “revolution”) by installing a tent city on Kulykove Pole (a garden, historical region of the city) – similar to what happened in NYC during Occupy Wall Street protests. Natsiki started the street fight with the protesters, using their usual, medieval, weaponry: metal chains and bulavas, and when they ran for refuge in the Trade Union building, Natsiki locked the doors of the building and started a fire there. Many were burnt alive, and those who were able to jump off the building, were beaten/bloodened to death by Nazis, after first being put on their knees, humiliated, spit on, and then killed. All this was televised. No one in the government said a word. No one in the Western Ukraine said a word. As you will hear from the narrator, the few who survived tried to appeal to President Zelensky with hopes to get justice and support for those who survived this ordeal and for those who continued being humiliated, but they could not get through to him.
Stepan Bandera and Ukrainian History
My Internet search also led me to find out that Ukrainian Nazi Stepan Bandera was given (in 2010) an official status of a Hero of Ukraine – same Bandera who orchestrated Babi Yar and massacred thousands of Jews, Russians, and Poles during the WWII, and who was so vicious that Germans jailed him at some point! Bandera’s monuments are erected in all major Ukrainian cities now. The boulevard in Kiev that leads to the Babi Yar is renamed as Bandera’s Boulevard! This is the same Bandera whose army tied Polish children to trees with barbed wire, to let them die there. Today, Ukrainian nationalists and neo-Nazis demand removal of the monuments dedicated to the victims of Bandera’s killings, so they can continue to whitewash this symbol of evil, and to portray Bandera and other haters (like Shukhevych, one of the leaders of the murderous Ukrainian Nightingale Battalion) as “liberators” of Ukraine. All this rewriting of history (including rewriting of the events of WWII) is happening all over post-Soviet Ukraine. This reminds me of Orwell’s 1984: “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.”
Was glorifying Bandera and the like a mistake of someone in the Ukrainian government? I think it was intentional. This is what Norman J. W. Goda, Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Florida writes in his 2010 article “Who Was Stepan Bandera?”: “Many Ukrainians, including Ukrainian émigré groups in Canada, pressed [Ukrainian President] Yushchenko to grant the honor [of the Hero of Ukraine, to Stepan Bandera], which, according to one statement, ‘would restore justice and truth about Bandera and the … struggle for liberation that he headed.’ To this day, many Ukrainians view Bandera as a martyred freedom fighter.” But despite all misinformation and trying to hide the evil actions of Bandera-led Ukrainian Nationalist Organization (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the Polish Museum of History recorded the massacre (by these “liberators”) of about 100,000 people between 1943 and 1945 just in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia.
And here are marches by modern Ukrainians, in Ukraine and Toronto, glorifying murderous Bandera:
Mechanisms to Promote Nazism in Ukraine: Poisoning Children with Hate
Brainwashing children at the time of their prime self-development and their indoctrination with Hitler’s hateful ideology was an important task for the fascists before and during WWII. They say that one picture is worth a thousand words, so here it is:
If we search the Internet and YouTube for “Ukrainian youth and nationalism,” we will find documentary videos, from 2015 onward, about children paramilitary camps (located even in the US and Canada) that trained Ukrainian children to hate Moskali (aka Russians), to denigrate them in many ways, and to kill (!) Russians – just for being Russians and for speaking the Russian language. And, these children are not even in high school. Here are the links to some of these videos:
- Ukraine’s Azov Regiment Opens Boot Camp For Kids (from 7 years ago);
- Ukraine’s Hyper-Nationalist Military Summer Camp for Kids (from 5 years ago);
- Nationalist camp in Ukraine trains kids to kill (4 years ago).
Putin’s Words About the Fall of the USSR as a Geopolitical Catastrophe
The very situation that happened in Ukraine before the SMO (repression of Russian-speaking population) explains Putin’s words about the collapse of the Soviet Union being “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century” (Moga & Alexeev, 2013). Many people who were citizens of the former USSR feel the same way: President M. Gorbachev did not secure any written protections for people of various ethnicities that populated that region, and he trusted President’s R. Reagan’s words about a peaceful coexistence in the post- Cold War era. Moga & Alexeev (2013) also write that “the process of regime change and the series of ‘Color Revolutions’… ‘orchestrated by the West’ not only nourished Russia’s mistrust toward any European or U.S. initiative in the former Soviet space, but also produced a serious concern that such policies could be used at some point against Russia itself” (in Note #10 of the online version). [Also, while the Soviets followed the 1990s’ agreements about the disarmament, NATO did not, as it is revealed in S. Ritter’s talks at various organizations, about his new book Disarmament in the time of Perestroika: Arms control and the end of the Soviet Union.]
Our Personal Responsibility
One can wonder about how all this happened that two nations that are genetically so close, are in a real war, with thousands of people murdered every week? And how did this happen that the evil angels of human nature are prevailing right now? Not only in that part of the world, but even here, when we support the fight “to the last Ukrainian,” just to weaken Russians!? How come the slogans for stopping the war through peaceful talks are met with guilting and viciousness from those of us who think that Ukraine can be pumped with ammunition without them paying an enormous price for it, their lives? In the meantime, the oligarchs that funded the Azov Battalion pocket American money; and the ammo itself is sold on the black market by the members of the Ukrainian army!
If we really want to support Ukraine and Ukrainian people, we need to understand first that Ukraine is under the Nazi ruling, and “supporting” them – means supporting Nazis and killing Ukrainians. In the war zones, Azov and other Ukrainian neo-Nazi organizations are using civilians as human shields, not allowing them to leave their buildings, while shooting them on the spot – children, mothers, elderly – if they try to sneak out of their basements to get some water or food for their families. They also record these atrocities and proudly upload these recordings on their social media, Telegram channels and on TikTok. [It would not be appropriate to provide any links here, but unfortunately, they exist and no one censors them!]
Ukrainian nationalists were preparing for war with the Russians for a while now – while Russians were hoping that the conflict would not come to this resolution. Their reasoning was that because many Ukrainians had businesses in Russia, studied, worked there, had access to energy markets (and even V. Zelensky had his acting studio and his show, The 95th Kvartal, in Moscow, earning good money there, even after the special operation had started). Most of the Ukrainians never wanted animosity with Russians. But no one asked them. And they never protested against what was happening to their own people in Donbass. Remember this? “When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out…”
Confirmation Bias, Framing of Information, and Calling on Our Better Angels
When discussing the topic of neo-Nazism in modern Ukraine (and if you still think it’s impossible for Nazism to rule there), we also need to be aware of a “confirmation bias” that might be at play. Confirmation bias can impact one’s political and healthcare choices, education, and even when we choose who to believe in science. Confirmation bias assumes that we overlook the (historical) facts and data that do not fit our established view. We simply choose to discount information that undermines our prior judgements and choices; and if sometime in the past, this concept was just a hypothesis – now, its neurobiological mechanisms are explained (see Kappes et al., 2020).
Some other studies looked into the factor of “framing” the information one receives, and although there are individual differences in the “degree of the susceptibility to framing information,” people judge the news by “credibility” of the magazine/ journal/ program, while they show the confirmation bias in their choices of the sources (Deppe et al., 2005).
Then, the framing of information overexposed on our confirmation biases causes polarization, which in our digital age, is easily produced by social media. As stated by Mogdil et al. (2021), “Social media induced polarization (SMIP) poses serious challenges to society as it could enable ‘digital wildfires’ that can wreak havoc worldwide.” They also acknowledge two players in the SMIP phenomenon: confirmation bias and echo chambers (hearing one’s own voice), as well as the full range of possibilities of creating fake and misleading (but very much emotionally triggering) content (Mogdil et al., 2021).
So, in order to overcome the confirmation bias and the framing of information that supports our biases, we need to call on the better angels of our nature: our curiosity (about a very complicated world’s history and our country’s history; about various psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of interpretations each of us make about any historical event; about cultural differences of the groups, families, and religions), our capacity for open-mindedness, and our love for people.
Hope I made my point.
- Burnt in Odessa. A documentary. (https://youtu.be/wu2tXG2Yo-g)
- Deppe, M., Schwindt, W., Krämer, J., Kugel, H., Plassmann, H., Kenning, P., & Ringelstein, E. B. (2005). Evidence for a neural correlate of a framing effect: bias-specific activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex during credibility judgments. Brain Research Bulletin, 67(5), 413-421.
- Goda, N.J.W. (2010). Who was Stepan Bandera? History News Network of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, The George Washington University.
Retrieved from https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/122778
- Kappes, A., Harvey, A.H., Lohrenz, T., Montague, P.R., & Sharot, T. (2020). Confirmation bias in the utilization of others’ opinion strength. Nature Neuroscience, 23(1), 130-137.
- Moga, T. L., & Alexeev, D. (2013). Post-Soviet states between Russia and the EU: Reviving geopolitical competition? A Dual perspective. Connections: The Quarterly Journal, 13(1), 31-41. Retrieved from https://connections-qj.org/article/post-soviet-states-between-russia-and-eu-reviving-geopolitical-competition-dual-perspective
[Connections: The Quarterly Journal is the official academic publication of the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes that brings together faculty members and researchers from 29 NATO and 21 partner countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. It facilitates dialogue, exchange of knowledge and experience, and dissemination of good academic practices.]
- Modgil, S., Singh, R.K., Gupta, S., & Dennehy, D. (2021). A confirmation bias view on social media induced polarisation during Covid-19. Information Systems Frontiers, Nov 20, 1-25. doi: 10.1007/s10796-021-10222-9.
- Nationalist camp in Ukraine trains kids to kill (https://youtu.be/EsHBdyqKpfo)
- Plokhy, S. (2021). The return of history: The post-Soviet space thirty years after the fall of the USSR. Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University. Retrieved from https://huri.harvard.edu/news/return-history-post-soviet-space-thirty-years-after-fall-ussr
- Ritter, S. (2022). Disarmament in the time of Perestroika: Arms control and the end of the Soviet Union. Clarity Press.
- Ukraine’s Azov Regiment Opens Boot Camp For Kids (https://youtu.be/J9foJFFSwOc)
- Ukraine’s Hyper-Nationalist Military Summer Camp for Kids (https://youtu.be/CpV16BQfbrQ)
- United Nations, HC for Human Rights (2016). Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 November 2015 to 15 February 2016. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Countries/UA/Ukraine_13th_HRMMU_Report_3March2016.pdf
5. On Listen to Rarely Heard Voices, a Psychohistorical Poetry Book by Peter Petschauer.
by MindMend Publishing
Psychohistory is not usually associated in one’s mind with poetry, but as Howard Stein, our esteemed colleague psychohistorian (and also a poet laureate of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology), stated in his 2018 IPhA workshop on “Psychohistorian’s Self, Culture and History” – that psychohistorians can enrich the field of psychohistory by their use of self and by deepening their insights into lived emotional experiences. To use medical and psychoanalytic analogies, poetry is the same as being with the patient, rather than simply taking that patient’s history. Taking history is also important, but it does not substitute for the experience of “being with” (for the professional) and “being seen” (for the patient). Recent book of psychohistorical poetry, Listen to Rarely Heard Voices, by Peter Petschauer offers us both, being with and being seen, experiences – at once. Below, we are sharing with you an excerpt of the Foreword to Peter Petschauer’s Listen to Rarely Heard Voices. [The book is available on Amazon, and more information – about the author and the endorsements – is available at https://oriacademicpress.org/listen-to-rarely-heard-voices/]
After publishing Hopes and Fears: Past and Present in 2019, we are once again drawn to the engaging poetry of Peter Petschauer, a “consummate weaver of words” (as Dr. Noyes Capehart called the author in his endorsement of the first volume of poetry). Dr. Petschauer, an esteemed international scholar, writes with the wisdom and experience of his life and never misses a beat. His background includes growing up in the mountains of Italy removed from the atrocities of the Nazis and the knowledge of his father’s association with the SS. His humble beginnings kept him in hiding and with four different women engaging in the role of his mother. Peter’s poems are the ultimate celebration of a life well lived in generosity of spirit and compassion, evidenced by a kindly and helpful disposition towards all around him.
Long a citizen of the U.S. and professor of history, his sharply focused eyes bring new awareness to all he sees as he enlightens our many paths. Interspersed with the poems are wonderful photographs, most taken by the author, illuminating his poems and their environment.
His new book is divided into three sections: Nature, Life, and Troubles. His oneness and joy of nature is constantly apparent. In one of the book’s earliest poems, “FALL WALK,” he writes:
“Birds complain about my presence,
acorns crash to the ground,
leaves jump to the side,
rustle as they reach the border of the path…”
Or in “THE CARPETED PATH”:
“Along the path nature does the talking,
we embrace its call.”
In the “LIFE” section, Peter Petschauer brilliantly combines the pain and positives of aging, as in his poem “EVOLUTION’S EVOLUTION”: “(t)he pain of aging brings serenity and wisdom,” and in his reminiscing poem “OTHER TIMES”:
“Tentacles of other times
reaching into the present.
The illusion of being young forever”
And from “LIFE SOUNDS,” the quietly joyful:
“The soft breathing of my beloved partner
in a shared bed.
Reassurances of life”
Every poem brings its subjects to life at their reading, easily painting pictures for our minds to participate in Peter’s world. In the section “TROUBLES,” the author brilliantly renders the politically troubled times we now inhabit and the miscalculations dominating our lives. In “ALL POWERFUL EMPIRES,” he writes:
“Are we learning from this accumulation of lessons?
History offers this resounding answer:
You have the singular capacity
to ignore the lessons of the past.”
In Peter’s poem “CREATING IMAGES,” one feels an update to the children’s folk tale “THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES” illustrated repeatedly. And in his “THE RETURN OF THE AUTHORITARIANS,” “Once more pretty slogans cover the evil underneath/ Reactivating glorious pasts that rarely were,” Petschauer’s poems, particularly in this section, urge applause.
We are thankful to Peter Petschauer for his dedication to humanity and nature, to history and psychohistory, for his empathic stance in many difficult situations, and for his courage and vulnerability, which are so rare in today’s world!
6. Call for Proposals for IPhA’s 2023 Annual Conference
by IPhA’s Leadership
INTERNATIONAL PSYCHOHISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
46th ANNUAL CONFERENCE, MAY 18-20, 2023
IN NEW YORK CITY (public health conditions permitting) and ON ZOOM
WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON?
PSYCHOHISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON A WORLD ON THE EDGE
PSYCHOHISTORICAL INSIGHTS ON:
• CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF DENIAL
• WARS, GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT, AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL CRISES
• RESURGENT TRIBALISM: BACKLASH TO NEOLIBERAL GLOBALIZATION
• GENDER, RACE, AND IDEOLOGIES OF DOMINATION
• PSYCHOANALYSIS AND HEALING
STEVEN PINKER (KEYNOTE)
Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters
SALLY WEINTROBE (FEATURED SPEAKER)
Chair, International Psychoanalytic Association’s Committee on Climate; author of Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare
JAMES W. ANDERSON (FEATURED SPEAKER)
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University; author of Psychobiography: In Search of the Inner Life (forthcoming)
WHAT IS “A WORLD ON THE EDGE”?
With record breaking temperatures, wildfires, and extreme weather events, it is now clear that humanity faces a climate emergency and Sixth Extinction that threaten both human civilization and our planet’s biodiversity. Yet an entire political party in the United States and similar parties in other countries exhibit a psychology of denial about the urgency of the threat and its human causes. Other global aspects of our “Anthropocene epoch” encompass what some call a New Cold War, pandemics, and an acceleration of technological change including artificial intelligence.
All this is occurring in the context of an international political-economic system that puts profits before the needs of ordinary people, fueling a populist backlash to globalization. In its right-wing variants, this includes toxic racial and gender dynamics; authoritarian politics and religion; and other forms of tribalism.
Where do we begin in responding effectively to these myriad challenges? In this conference we tap the full range of psychoanalytic and psychohistorical resources as a basis for understanding and healing. Topics include:
- group psychology and analysis of the ego in a time of globalization;
- intergenerational transmission of trauma and resilience;
- psychoanalysis and the turmoil of our times—can structure hold, and should it?
- childhood and its history, psychobiography, and the methodology of psychohistory;
- the healing potential of music, and others.
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
Presentation or panel proposals on the above theme and subthemes or any other psychohistorical topics are welcome.
Proposals consist of (a) presenter(s) name(s) and professional title(s); (b) type of presentation (individual or panel); (c) one paragraph abstract; (d) one paragraph professional bio; and, (e) three peer-reviewed citations (by yourself or others) supporting your research.
Submit your proposal(s) no later than January 15th, 2023 via the following form
7. Psychohistory Forum and Clio’s Psyche: Past and Forthcoming Activities
by Paul Elovitz
Clio’s Psyche (https://cliospsyche.org/) is in its 28th year of publication by the Psychohistory Forum (https://psychohistoryforum.com/), a 40-year-old organization of academics, therapists, and laypeople holding regular scholarly meetings in Manhattan, at international conventions, and virtually.
It is the style of our scholarly quarterly to publish thought-provoking, clearly written articles usually based upon psychoanalytic/psychological insight and developed with examples from history, current events, and the human experience. We are open to all psychological and psychohistorical approaches and prefer that articles be personalized, without psychoanalytic/psychological terminology or jargon. At the moment, we are converting to a modified version of the latest APA citation system, which will have very few references and those overwhelmingly for direct quotes. We emphasize good literary style without referring to authorities except when essential. Submissions the editors deem suitable are peer-reviewed in our double-blind system.
The next Psychohistory Forum Work-in-Progress virtual meeting will be on Saturday, January 7, 2023 (10:30am-1pm), with a focus on the Psychoanalysis and Psychology of Fear and Anxiety. The presenters are Inna Rozentsvit, Paul Elovitz, and a third to be named colleague.
Our following meeting will be the inauguration of the Psychohistory Forum Psychobiography Reading Group on February 25th, 2023, when we will discuss James Anderson’s chapter “D. W. Winnicott’s constant search for the life that feels real” in 2015 book The Winnicott Tradition: Lines of Development —Evolution of Theory and Practice over the Decades (edited by M. B. Spelman & F. Thomson-Salo). Inna Rozentsvit will provide PDF copies of the volume for those who are interested.
For hybrid fall meetings, we wish to thank Tom Ferraro for his September 17th presentation, “Psychoanalytic Work with Athletes: Probing the Unconscious in Sports.” and Jim Anderson for his November 12th talk, “Heinz Kohut’s Vulnerable Self: His Reaction to the Holocaust and Break with the Psychoanalytic Establishment.” We also want to thank Howard Stein, Ona Lindquist, and Peter Petschauer for their October 22nd virtual presentations on Music and Musicians. We welcome additional work-in-progress proposals, which include papers from 15 to 50 pages.
The Psychobiographical Research and Publication Group is a sponsor of the February 25th, 2023 meeting, as it was of the November 12th, 2022 presentation on Kohut. It encourages submissions on psychobiography for Clio and ultimately – for an edited book tentatively titled The Autobiographies and Psychobiographies of Psychobiographers.
The Lawrence J. Friedman Festschrift has so many valuable articles and tributes that it will be published in the Spring rather than the winter issue of Clio’s Psyche. Our thanks to Mark West for organizing this time-consuming recognition of an outstanding psychobiographer and valued colleague. The William McKinley (Mac) Runyan Festschrift, being organized by Jim Anderson, will be published in the Fall 2023 issue. We welcome nominees for Festschrifts with the nominator taking responsibility for the outreach to colleagues who best know the individual. We welcome Festschrift articles of up to 3,000 words elaborating, extending, or critiquing his work.
Our next substantial Call for Papers for Clio’s Psyche is on the Psychoanalysis and Psychology of Fear, with a January 15th, 2023 submissions deadline (https://psychohistoryforum.com/call-for-papers-the-psychoanalysis-and-psychology-of-fear/). Hopefully, there will be submissions on the incredible anxiety generated around the midterm U.S. elections. Colleagues are encouraged to write up to 1,200 words (including title, affiliation, 7-10 keywords, and a brief author biography) as a commentary on Inna Rozentsvit’s “The Fear Contagion: A Psycho-bio-medico-historical Perspective” and/or Paul Elovitz’ “Anxiety and Fear in Society and My Life” papers. We encourage you to write your own paper, which may be 1,500-2,500 words (including title, affiliation, 7-10 keywords, and a brief author biography, plus an up to 25-word abstract). Detailed psychobiographical studies are welcome for all issues of the journal and may be up to 5,000 words on a particular individual.
The lengthy Winter 2023 issue of Clio’s Psyche is being printed and should be mailed to Forum members and subscribers before the end of the November. It includes:
- The Psychoanalysis/Psychology and Poetry of Music and Musicians: Part I
- The Psychoanalysis and Psychology of the Intergeneration and Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma and Resilience: Part II
- How Abusive Child Rearing Endangers Our World by Encouraging Authoritarianism
- An Interview of a Harvard Author on the Armenian Genocide
- Book Reviews
As usual, we also accept articles unrelated to specific issues, features, Festschrifts, and symposia. Back issues of Clio’s Psyche can be accessed at CliosPsyche.org/archives.
Go to www.cliospsyche.org and contact Paul H. Elovitz at for details of these activities.
7a. Anxiety and Fear in Society and My Life.
by Paul Elovitz – Psychobiography Research Group
Abstract: In a personalized approach, I explore how fear impacts me, society, and the world as a whole. Using my background as a psychological historian and presidential psychobiographer, I analyze the role of anxiety and fear in the modern world with its instant communications.
Keywords: anxiety, gender, news, nostalgia, presidents, psychoanalysis, psychohistory
Fear can be an extraordinarily helpful emotion. For example, a toddler I loved learned to fear a hot stove whose protective plate had just fallen off, which resulted in a frightening bad burn and a trip to the emergency room. “Hot” represented danger that he should fear to avoid similar pain. However, fear can also result in incapacitating anxiety, which can become intolerable for some people, leading to them embracing what they fear most, and in extreme cases, suicide. Below, I will show how fear impacts our society and the world, then probe some aspects of fear in my own life.
Fear in Society
In the course of my extensive education in history, political science, psychoanalysis, and psychohistory, it has become my conviction that fear plays an enormous role in our male-dominated world, which is one reason why I encourage the increasing number of women in business, government, and society. In my experience, women are quicker than men to process their fears by talking about them. Men, more than women, deal with their fears through denial and aggrandizement. By feeling strong, or at least having leaders they see as strong, male fears are calmed. As a presidential psychobiographer, I’ve been struggling with the different approaches to anxiety and fear of the public’s reaction to presidents Trump and Biden. We are living in extraordinarily anxious times, not simply because of the COVID-19 PLAGUE and some decline in life span as a result of it, but because modern electronic media has endlessly brought the fears and problems of the world to our eyes and ears.
Fear abounds in modern society, which in so many ways is the safest in history despite our environmental crisis and limited ability to control our aggressive self-destructive inclinations in this nuclear world. In ordinary life, people objectively have fewer reasons to fear than perhaps at any other time in the history of homo sapiens. When our ancestors looked out of their cave or the precarious safety of their treehouse to determine if there was an animal or human danger in the North, East, West, or South (the NEWS), they worried far more about immediate survival than we do today. Their lives were incredibly shorter and generally less healthy than ours: White men born in 1900 lived to be about 47, and White men born in 2000 are expected to live to be about 75. White women lived to be 49 when born in 1900 and are expected to live until they’re 80 when born in 2000 (Stanley, 2022). The improvement for Black Americans is much more dramatic. Black women born in 1900 lived to be about 34 and in 2000 lived to be about 74 while Black men born in 1900 lived to be about 33 and in 2000 lived to be about 68 (Stanley, 2022). While we live in a much safer and healthier society, reasons to fear are before our eyes far more because the NEWS generally stresses the dangers of our world, both real and imagined, since we are geared by our history to look for danger and the self-interest of the NEWS is to get our eyeballs on their screens and papers. The 24-7 news coverage on TV and all screens has exponentially increased what people should be afraid of. Marshal McLuhan said the medium is the message, and the primary message of screens seems to be escapism and FEAR, FEAR, FEAR. Fear sells.
While our society may be in so many ways the safest and most prosperous in human existence, it also breeds extreme anxiety. The fears of our cavepeople ancestors were more concrete: Were they going to be killed by a powerful animal or another family tribe? Would they have enough to eat? Eating three meals a day and having food from around the world at your disposal is a pretty recent phenomenon. Our fears are multitudinous and defuse because they are connected to so much more than just the dangers of starvation, falling out of our tree, getting killed, or being made subservient to another human group. I discovered in dieting and in researching the Holocaust that our bodies have a mechanism based upon the often starving history of our ancestors, which enables us to survive very long periods without adequate food. Today, most of us are worried about the starving children in Somalia and the suffering of Ukrainians as they are bombed rather than whether we ourselves will have enough to eat and survive today. The implications of this situation are countless.
Wherever I turn for information, I see reasons to fear. So much of our entertainment is even based upon controlling the terror, fright, fearfulness, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress, anxiety, worry, and angst, we experience in the face of threats to our existence, that is, death. Death and died are words we are even reluctant to say since people now “pass on,” “meet their maker,” “pass away,” or “depart.” The other day I found 362 ways of describing death or dying without using either of these words. My wife loves to read and watch murder mysteries, provided there’s no gore. Horror on TV and in books inclines to bring the gore front and center. Many famous action heroes kill the “bad guys” as easily as people shoot ducks or other targets in an amusement park to win a prize. Then there is the entertainment “news” that we watch every morning with lots of weather reports. I’m old enough to remember when the morning news was much more about news and far less about entertaining. In recent years, the “hard” news component has declined as TV executives are keen to maintain the ratings of their programs so that they can keep their jobs and earn bonuses. This also means that the worry and fear component is decreased. For more serious and worrisome news, I turn to PBS NewsHour, CNN, and British Broadcasting, then I check out what’s on Fox News and other channels. Of course, many of us live in separate echo chambers corresponding to the politics we prefer. These echo chambers often become like separate enemy camps, which leads me to fear for our American democracy.
In his fine chapter, “Anxiety and History,” Peter Loewenberg (1995) writes that “anxiety is the most pervasive presenting complaint in the modern world” (p. 155). This distinguished psychological historian discusses Freud’s changing perspectives on anxiety and highlights the role of effective leadership, such as FDR’s calming the country during the Great Depression by declaring that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror” (p. 155). Professor Loewenberg emphasizes the importance of hopelessness in engendering fear in the face of threats, most especially when faith in authority is diminished, as it is presently. With the problems of a world filled with almost eight million people brought to our doorsteps, indeed, even our eyes, by the internationalized mass media, our helplessness in the face of such need increases our anxiety. Of course, other elements can also engender fear or create an escape from it, for example, nostalgia for a real or imagined past.
Nostalgia has a component of fear. It’s about the fear of losing fond memories, which are idealized in the process. On 60 Minutes, Ted Koppel, the veteran newscaster who rose to prominence during the Iran Hostage Crisis, went to Mt. Airy, North Carolina, which was the fictional town of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), in 2021. He interviewed numerous people who came from around the country on nostalgia trips to this imaginary, wonderfully friendly, almost pure White southern community in which good-natured Sheriff Andy (Andy Griffith) lived with his extremely cute son Opie (Ron Howard). On the tour bus, almost all of the very pleasant elderly visitors believed that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and downplayed the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Nostalgia is an extremely powerful force, especially today when politics are often dominated by Culture War issues rather than the economic and political realities of the day.
While I write primarily from a U.S. perspective, I took a doctoral degree in European history and work to go beyond my American perspective. For example, the Soviet Union, which had been held together by fear of murderous leaders in control and the belief that the outside world was a mortal threat, collapsed when Gorbachev failed to use force to keep the Eastern European satellites countries in line and said that the West was more a model of future development rather a mortal threat to the communist system. Reforming societies brings up great hopes as well as fears, sometimes leading to the destruction of the system being reformed. Reform greatly disrupts the status quo and may bring about radicalism among those whose high hopes are dashed, such as was the backdrop of the assassination of the “Czar Liberator” in 1881. Both group and individual change can be frightening to the point of terror!
Fear in My Life
Fortunately, anxiety and fear have diminished in my own life, which has benefitted from a long psychoanalysis, a satisfying career, and a successful marriage. While I have no recollection of the pain I experienced in my Mom’s birth canal, I wonder if this is where I learned to fear pain. I was labeled a premature baby and kept in the hospital for several weeks; my Mom visited with breastmilk. I have strong reasons to believe that my first few years were spent at my immigrant grandmother’s house under her care and that of my aunt Mollie—a woman vacillating between being extraordinarily giving and bitterly claiming that you owed her—who claimed to have raised my two older siblings and me. While I cannot identify many specific fears that I had from about the ages of three to six when I remember living over my father’s store in a dangerous neighborhood, I’m sure there were many. Our apartment was burgled, rats running on the metal ceiling terrorized me, my sister was sexually abused, and a mother and daughter who cared for us for an unknown period of months were presented to us children as “bad people” when they were fired abruptly.
As a young boy, it is loneliness, longing for companionship, and guilt that stand out rather than fear itself. While my older brother and sister were off at school, I was either underfoot in the workshop below or above the store being told not to “bang on the pipe,” which was my signal to my Mom that I was sick. Of course, how does a small boy know the difference between being sick and so sick of being lonely that he needs his mom? Hurting myself led to emergency room trips and stitches. In longing for a playmate who lived in a house behind our apartment, in our backyard loaded with dangerous refuse from the diner alongside “Dad’s store,” I still bear a scar by my Adam’s apple where I hung up on the picket fence; it had taken quite a lot of yelling before my father came out to save me.
Dad loved to brag about saving my life on a variety of occasions. The most serious of which was an undiagnosed ruptured appendix that he reported I had for three-and-a-half days (while basically a very honest man, my father certainly was inclined to exaggerate at times, as when he said I weighed three-and-a-half pounds at birth and the hospital record said five-and-a-quarter pounds). My near-death followed all three of us children having had our tonsils removed prophylactically and my simply not getting better until it become apparent that I was at death’s door. The only emotion I remember from the period was embarrassment at having my temperature taken rectally during the unusual visit of my tearful grandmother and aunt. At that point, Dad called a cab and took me to the hospital, saying maybe the doctors there can save my life, which they did. Now for the first time, I wonder if my Dad’s distrust of doctors was based partly on the failure of the too-well-trusted family doctor, who did house calls as a matter of course, to say “take him to the hospital.”
Denial of pain started early in my life. I remember no pain while recuperating in the hospital and then at a caring woman’s house during the early stages of my recuperation. Rather than pain, I remember the treat of Aunt Mollie bringing me ice cream in the hospital and feeling mortified and fearful at having wet my bed on the first evening of my recuperation when I was released from the hospital as I carried my soiled sheets down the stairs. Thankfully and surprisingly, I was greeted with concern, warmth, and made to feel that whatever I did was okay because I was loved, even by this new motherly woman in my life.
There are several instances of intense fear from the first decade of my life that I remember: At about four or five I was terrorized by what was either a nightmare or a waking dream. Not knowing if I were awake or asleep was an important ingredient of the terror. Mom was able to calm me by depicting a totally safe world using the image of a village within a Lionel train set. When I was five or six, my angry father chased my older brother, threatening to beat him with a strap in the woodshed, and I was determined that I would never face his anger. At about age eight, we three children were playing hide and seek in the dark, when a lovely glass pole lamp was broken, probably by me, and we dreaded the return of our parents. Two of the consequences of these early experiences with fear were an inclination to search for perfect contained solutions to my and society’s problems and a determination to be a “good boy” who was proud that his father never hit him. At about the age of ten, I was terrorized by numerous nightmares as a result of having gone to see The Phantom of the Opera movie with a friend. Throughout my pre-high school life in the schoolyard, I feared the bullies, especially around Easter, who abused me for being Jewish and slow to defend myself.
The fears I remember most have to do with achievement: Throughout my almost entire life, I saw myself as rather slow, which would become an incentive for constantly pushing myself to learn more and probe new ways of knowing. I feared that I might not measure up in the Army (which I denigrated) or as a college teacher (which I idealized, especially because it was my Mom’s deathbed wish that I pursue this career). Driven by a great quest for knowledge, an intense fear of failure, and a drive for success (since I soon had three children and a wife depending on me), I kept searching for new modes of knowing, which is what brought me to many forms of self-help, a lengthy psychoanalysis, and psychohistory.
Growing up, as was commonplace among males in my generation, I would take pride in the denial of both fear and pain and taught myself to only pay attention to injuries if they were extremely painful or if I was bleeding profusely. In fact, despite a long psychoanalysis, which helped me to connect more closely with my body, I still upset my wife if I have what I consider a minor bump on my head, arms, or legs and there’s some blood that I hadn’t noticed as I went about getting the jobs done I had set for myself. Clearly, I suppressed and repressed my fears. I’ve just retired from teaching after a long career because I need to be more present for my wife who struggles with Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and very bad knees and is recuperating from a broken hip. So now, aside from anxiety about her health, she recently observed that my greatest fear is that I will lose my greatly valued sense of identity as a professor. In response, I created a new email account: .
Fear Reduced by Love, Work, Psychoanalysis, and the Life of the Mind
While fear can be a useful warning of the real dangers in our world, in the U.S. Culture Wars, realistic fears are mostly belittled by our male-dominated politics. Meanwhile, humans are geared to look for dangers, which is fed by our 24/7 news coverage. There is definite anxiety in my life about my wife’s illness, specifically what retirement and then old age will bring for both of us. Yet the love of our family, the work I do in caring for her, and my editing, leadership, and scholarship remain the satisfying cornerstones of my life. Personal and psychohistorical activities (e.g., caregiving, convening psychohistory, editing, researching, writing articles and books, etc.), which are more within my control to turn toward, are creative and productive ways of lessening my anxiety about our deteriorating environment and the threat to our democracy. I find myself to be less anxious and fearful than I was as a child and young man when I struggled to find my identity.
- Loewenberg, Peter (1995). Anxiety in history. In Fantasy and Reality in History (pp. 155-171). Oxford University Press.
- Stanley, Maureen (2022). 1900-2000: Changes in life expectancy in the United States. Senior Living. https://www.seniorliving.org/history/1900-2000-changes-life-expectancy-united-states/
7b. The Fear Contagion: A Psycho-bio-medico-historical Perspective
by Inna Rozentsvit — Object Relations Institute
Abstract: This piece provides some of the psycho-bio-medico-historical and personal perspectives on fear, one of the most fascinating human emotions that saved us as a species that can also be an agent of extinction of our free-willed humankind.
Keywords: amygdalae, COVID, emotions, fear, limbic-system, psychoanalysis, psychohistory, reptilian-brain, trauma, Triune Brain
What is fear? Why should we talk about fear at the time of fearless space travel, driverless cars, robotics, tissue regeneration, conquering many cancers, and other advances in human intelligence and creativity? Why did we become (“all of a sudden”) so fearful of each other, our communications, and our variety of opinions—something that we cherished in our democratic society for a good while?
The last question bothers me a lot, on many levels. First, it bothers me as a person who came to the U.S. 30 years ago from a communist regime (not from a beautiful but utopian idea of communism, but a regime!). Second, it bothers me as a grandma of a beautiful boy who is almost three now and who belongs to a “COVID baby” generation, and who does not recognize the value of peer interaction (I hope not yet, but will).
At this time of radical disagreements about everything, we all would agree that fear is an ancient part of the human condition; it is the emotional response to the immediate threat that protected us as a species, evolutionarily, from being eaten by other, stronger carnivores. Fear is universal and adaptive, allowing for the mobilization of one’s internal resources when his/her welfare is threatened. So, each of us reading this article has experienced fear in our lives by now, and each of us knows what fear feels like, as soon as it happens, although our descriptions of these experiences differ from each other. They differ because our body/mind reactions that we describe as “fear” are different: some people go into a fight-or-flight reaction, literally, and others freeze, physically or/and emotionally; feel dread like a knot in one’s stomach; feel “cold” inside; and still others feel like they are choking or as something is crawling under their skin or on the walls of the room they are in. Some people feel that they are “dying” from fear. Others end up having chronic anxieties, and even severe and lasting vascular spasms that could be experienced as a heart attack or a stroke when in an extreme fear state, which is sometimes called terror.
Fear is so basic and so important that each of us has a fear circuit that operates in the “reptilian” part of our brains (as per the Triune Brain Theory of Paul MacLean), which engages only one small-paired pea-size limbic system’s organ, the amygdala, to process this emotion. The rest of the reptilian brain occupies the territory of the brainstem, a structure that connects our body with our brain, and which carries through all the pathways for movements and bodily sensations (like high-voltage power lines). Amygdalae, as the representatives of higher-level limbic system structures (of our reptilian brain), trigger our body’s physiology, increasing our body’s stress hormones, oxygen consumption, and heart rate.
In psychoanalysis, we acknowledge the unconscious mechanisms of defense that our Ego (a negotiator between our Id, our wants, and the real world) invents to protect us from conscious knowing; and we identify some sort of a hierarchy of those mechanisms in terms of human development level at which those defenses had originated. For example, repression and conversion/somatization defenses are used more by those with a neurotic level of psychic organization, while denial and splitting (more primitive defenses) are used by those with borderline organization, as well as signifying early trauma. This helps us to reconstruct one’s psychohistorical roots.
Similar to this, our feelings can be seen as having a hierarchy too, with fear and disgust, joy and sadness, anger and trust, and surprise and anticipation being “basic” emotions (see Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions). They are called basic because they are global and automatic, although their expression intensity is different in different people. The automatic function comes from the early (in development) and basic (by location) processes that have motivational, social, and adaptive functions. Out of all basic emotions, fear plays a special role in protecting the individual from danger. It is interesting for psychohistorians to know that the amygdalae, a main biological substrate that processes fear, develop differently in males and females—because of an abundance of androgen receptors, which bind testosterone (prevailing in males). This in turn regulates gene expression, as well as the ability to make (protective) decisions at the time of danger.
Although fear is a basic psycho-bio-physiological phenomenon, I perceive individual fears as differing from each other on a few levels. One difference is in the type of threat at play. The spectrum here is wide: from an existential immediate threat to one’s life to an existential threat to our loved ones that can cause their death to more “psychological” fears of failure, success, social isolation, in-group exclusion, and not being good enough (just to name a few).
Another difference between fears is the way our mind deals with their expression, as well as with their long-term health consequences, and how early and how often we were/are subjected to fears/threats. If one is subjected to existential threats in childhood, and if those threats are paired with aversive (negative) consequences, this creates adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that predispose these people to be traumatized, even by not really grave situations—because of the wired (or fired) together brain/mind phenomenon. Wired together phenomenon is utilized by the brain/mind dyad because of so called neural economics: when some image or situation is/are paired with a specific emotion once, next time that image or situation is brought to light, our mind connects it/them to the emotion elicited earlier. For example, if a child was scolded by a big man once and felt fear or panic because of that, next time the sight of a big man, even a friendly one, may be accompanied by fear or anxiety in this person, even when he/she grows up. In the meantime, if children did not have fears paired with punishment or observation of their peers or siblings being punished (and even paired with some encouraging/positive messages), they do not tend to develop long-term consequences of fear and trauma.
What about fears that spread through families, societies, countries, and continents like a contagion? Is it a possibility or just a clever line on the poster of the 2011 movie Contagion: “Nothing Spreads Like Fear”? Notice that this movie was produced a decade before the COVID pandemic, but it depicted the state of international fear that swallowed the nations. So, what do people fear about our current situation? Death. Transmission of the virus to a loved one—which means Death. Having no treatment options—that also means Death. Sounds very existential. But in her book, A State of Fear: How the UK government weaponized fear during the Covid-19 pandemic, Laura Dodsworth (2021) writes: “I was more frightened of authoritarianism than death, and more disturbed by manipulation than sickness. Has my fear helped or hindered me?” (p. 2). Also, I would add another question here: Can fear actually be contagious? If the response is positive, then: Can media, people, groups, as well as politicians, use fear as a bioweapon of mass destruction where our interpersonal connections (that help us to survive as the human race) serve as a vector of the Fear Virus, using the individual’s own immune and clotting systems as the executioners? Unfortunately, all these questions can be answered positively. I will elaborate a bit more on this here.
Recently, Tashjian et al. (2022), investigators from the California Institute of Technology published the results of a haunted house study of physiological responses to threat/fear that showed how people do feel more fear when experiencing it in a group of friends. They showed that the intensity of fear increased with the number of threat experiences that were stacked one after another (as people were going from one “haunted” room to another) and when the subjects of the study observed their friends experiencing fear too. This study was not designed to find out why this happens, but we can have an educated guess about the “mirror neuron system” (which allows us to co-experience something with the other, although we are not involved in that experience in reality) playing its role here, as well as the whole “empathic biological cascade” used by our brains when in the presence of others. As Freud stated in his paper “On Narcissism”: “We must recollect that all of our provisional ideas in psychology will presumably one day be based on an organic substructure.” This “one day” is here, for a while, although many people in various professional intellectual worlds want to deny the fact that bio-physiology comes before psychology, thinking, and logic. Why? Let’s go back to Paul MacLean’s Triune Brain Theory for a minute.
Some like to play around with the reptilian brain metaphor, especially if this can be used against their political or intellectual opponents. But MacLean called his theory “triune” because only in the unity of all three levels of functioning — reptilian (with basic body responses and fear processing); mammalian (represented by the Limbic System and all feelings and emotions); and human (represented by the neocortex/logical, synthetic, integrating, verbal parts of the brain)—can we act as the higher-level creatures. So, every human has all three functional levels working—from the time we are in our mothers’ wombs to the day we die. But it is up to us to use all three levels in synchrony and concert or to produce the song of fear that “transmutes your entire being from ears to toes into a frozen sentence from an unknown dialect that no one understands” (Petit, n.d., The music of fear, para 13). We just need to be curious about our brain/mind works and the possibilities this creative dyad offers; and, of course, we should use these possibilities to our advantage.
How do people deal with fear? Marie Curie was quoted as saying that “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” I agree with her wholeheartedly. That is why I resort to my knowledge as a physician-neurologist, psychoanalyst, neurodevelopmental educator, systems thinker, psychohistorian, and transdisciplinary researcher—to connect the dots and understand what is happening; how and why it is happening; and what can be done about the situation. How did I deal with my own fears and the fears of my family and friends, patients, and their families, in this COVID situation? Without denying these fears, I helped myself and many others to conquer them. I reached out, virtually and by phone, to the international community of physicians, nurses, and holistic practitioners, and joined as many international groups that deal with COVID as I could. I’ve learned about protocols that were used and worked (or not), paying attention to every detail of something that did work and made sense. Why? Because if we concentrate on fear, on something bad that is inevitable, on negative consequences only—we lose the power that our minds have—in figuring things out, in using our Triune Brain as a whole, and not making the survival-based, fear-based (and often harmful) “solutions” the only road we know.
Some Regression: Fears in My Life
Although my longtime friends call me fearless, I do have fears, just like any other human being. While reflecting on this topic, I realize more and more that my parents had something to do with the fact that I never dwell on fears. My Dad made me feel as if I can accomplish anything I started or dreamed about; he was a “pragmatic” leader—we planted a garden together, fixed the roof, weaved baskets, made preserves, carved wood, played chess, made sketches for my Dad’s work projects, and I drove our family’s first car when I was 14. My Mom was an intellectual and inspirational leader who taught me to be curious and ask (rather than avoid) the “Why? Why not? What would happen if…?” questions, which was everything I needed to succeed in life. So, my way to deal with fears would be to ask those questions and to make a plan to find out, to “understand,” as Marie Curie would say, even if it takes time to get into many rabbit holes—and then, execute my plans, pragmatically. With time, and especially after I became a parent, I added another habit that helps deal with fear: I ask, “What is the benefit of dealing with this fear? What did it teach me about myself, others, and the world?” I look for a silver lining or I consider any fear being a sign of a possible “sentinel event.” (I’ve learned about sentinel [unexpected, deadly] events in medicine during my neurology residency training. One of the main hospitals where we worked then had a gunshot trauma center, a burn unit, and a state-level general trauma center, and anything was expected there; so any unexpected event was taken super-seriously. It was good practice for fighting our fear demons.)
One of the unusual fears that I’d like to share was transgenerational fear related to a story of us leaving the USSR a little over three decades ago when I was 30. Our family of four was uprooted from a pretty comfortable (in a Soviet person’s understanding of comfort) and happy life after an incident at the hospital where I worked as a newly minted neurologist—an incident that turned our lives’ trajectories from the very sure top to the bottomless, stateless unknown. The incident was not that dramatic for many people who heard the story, but I experienced real, gut-wrenching fear when the nurse aid (M.N.) who I asked nicely to shave the patient’s head for a burr hole procedure did not respond and chose not to talk to me: I spoke Russian (which was a common language in all Soviet republics, like English is in the U.S.), but on that bright spring early morning in 1989, some Moldavians who were nice coworkers, colleagues, or neighbors until then, decided that Russian is not okay to speak. I did not understand why. The nurse (N. N., an ethnic Ukrainian woman whose family has lived in Moldavia since before WWII), who worked with me on that shift and helped with drilling the burr holes in the patient’s skull, said, “It’s a revolution out there…” After I insisted, she translated for me one of the slogans pasted on the walls of the hospital: “Russians will be drowned in the blood of dirty Jews!” At that moment, I “knew” that we needed to leave the country. I could not explain how I knew.
Nothing like what was happening in Moldavia was occurring in Ukraine at the time. But I felt like there was no future for our kids in the former Soviet Union if something like this could happen overnight; they were three and four at that time. I call this transgenerational fear because I was afraid of something horrible being repeated without consciously knowing my family’s tragedies then: my Mom’s three uncles quartered by horses in Petlyura pogroms; my Grandma being sent to Siberia Gulags; and my Dad’s parents perishing when running from Hitler’s troops that occupied Romania—all because they were Jewish. Decades after all these tragedies, when my generation of Jews could be teachers, scientists, doctors, engineers, ballet dancers—I couldn’t even speak Russian at work!
I was the same person, but overnight, I became a hated “other.” Yet now, it is not because I was (by blood, not religion) Jewish, but because I spoke my mother’s tongue, Russian. I could not really think much, but barely got to the kindergarten, took the kids home, waited for my husband to come back from work, and delivered the news to him. A couple of days later, we started to receive hateful letters (from “nice” neighbors?) about being dirty Jews that have no place there. We did not feel safe anymore. The kids went to live with my parents in Ukraine, and six months later, we left in unmarked railroad cars to Vienna, which was where we were met by representatives of the Jewish community and Austrian soldiers speaking a guttural-sounding language (that we recognized only from WWII movies), with German Shepherds that were bigger than our kids. I did not feel much fear then–if anything, I felt safer, even being stateless and penniless (we were allowed to exchange only $90 per person or $360 for a family of four).
So, what is the “benefit” of my retrospective appreciation of this “transgenerational” fear? It is in the understanding of “why” we left our Motherland, our family, friends, culture, language, and stability. It is also in understanding that we can overcome anything, embrace the journey, and appreciate our families, despite any arguments and hurdles.
Even in the safety of America, one of my greatest fears was losing my son to leukemia. He was 20, finishing college and having a bright future when we got hit with this diagnosis. After two years of not knowing if he will survive and if the medication will work, he finally went into remission! There were ups and downs along the way but he can live, work, create, and now has a family of his own. One would say that there is no benefit to this type of fear. But there was a silver lining here too: this fear mobilized me to create a new life (of working for myself and still doing what I love) that I never would have explored otherwise.
Another fear of mine is not being able to restore the health of a patient, who then dies, and to a lesser extent, maintaining my practice. This fear is mostly about failing in my battles with the hospital’s administration that sees patients as “accounts” rather than people in need of medical care. In the neurorehabilitation team’s view, patients are moms, dads, sons, and daughters first and foremost. As a medical professional I am invested in this “medical family” culture. The benefit of this fear is understanding that I have a pretty good gauge of the potential dangers to patients’ recovery. It also bolstered my skills of advocacy for people who might not even know the dangers that they are facing.
What is the benefit of talking about our fears in general? I think it is a significant one: we have a choice of either giving in to the Fear Contagion or to become part of the remedy that lessens or destroys it.
Inna Rozentsvit, MD, PhD, MBA, MSciEd, is a neurologist and neurorehabilitation specialist trained in psychoanalysis. She is a founder and neuropsychoeducator at the non-profit organization Neurorecovery Solutions, Inc., a programs director at the Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and editor-in-chief of the ORI Academic Press, MindMend Publishing Co., and MindConsiliums, the interdisciplinary journal.
In addition, she is associate editor of Clio’s Psyche and associate director/convener of the Psychohistory Forum. She may be contacted at or www.innarozentsvit.com.
- Dennison, Meg J., Sheridan, Margaret A., Busso, Daniel S., Jenness, Jessica L., Peverill, Matthew, Rosen, Maya L., & McLaughlin, Katie A. (2016). Neurobehavioral markers of resilience to depression amongst adolescents exposed to child abuse. Journal of abnormal psychology, 125(8), 1201-1212. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000215
- Dodsworth, Laura (2021). A state of fear: How the UK government weaponized fear during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pinter & Martin.
- Petit, Philippe (n.d.). In search of fear. Notes from a high-wire artist. Lapham’s Quarterly. https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/fear/search-fear
- Tashjian, Sarah M., Fedrigo, Virginia, Molapour, Tanaz, Mobbs, Dean, & Camerer, Colin F. (2022). Physiological responses to a haunted-house threat experience: Distinct tonic and phasic effects. Psychological Science, 33(2), 236-248.
8. WHITEBOARDINGS: Poetic Psychohistory or Psychohistorical Poetry?
from Howard F. Stein & Seth Allcorn
Whiteboardings is a unique collection of co-authored poetry. We co-create poems on an imaginary whiteboard between us as we visit weekly on Skype. We have coined the term whiteboarding as a verb that distills our method, how we work. Its prime values are tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty, emergence rather than directional planning.
We imagine the surface of a whiteboard in the transitional, open space between us (a notion derived from Donald Winnicott) and write on it our shared “free associations.” Spatially, this process can be visualized to be located between us rather than entirely within each of us. It feels as if the emerging poem has a life of its own, what Thomas Ogden calls a “third,” ours, neither yours nor mine.
From the outside, our way of working appears formless and directionless, disorganized and messy! A poem eventually emerges from not needing to know at the outset where we are going – or even that we are going somewhere. Only along the journey through the unknown do we find the path. Yet the resulting poem feels like an amalgam, unitary, seamless, whole, perhaps even inevitable. The poems we have assembled here are the result of this unique experiment in writing poetry.
“In this remarkable anthology co-authors Howard Stein and Seth Alcorn use the image of the whiteboard to explain and illustrate their unusual creative collaboration. We typically use whiteboards in group settings to brainstorm and note ideas. This is essentially what the authors do in their joint writing, only their whiteboard is the safe “third space” of their collective unconscious and their process involves working with protopoems until they emerge as an expression of the connection between two beings, an intertwining so profound it cannot be disentangled. The poems that emerge from this process are by turns hopeful, bitter, contemplative, and droll.
The authors cast their net wide, embracing topics from tubing to medical calamities, the joyless workplace and George Floyd’s murder. They ask timeless and unanswerable questions: What is the meaning of life? Have the better angels of our nature deserted us? What vanishes and what endures? Can we escape from the zero-sum games that sometimes seem to constitute our lives? When is it time to let go and of what? Many of the poems have images of a world gone awry, such as a river flowing upstream. Others are imbued with an elegiac tone, a sense of looking back on life, sometimes in wonder, sometimes with regret, wondering whether life amounts to anything more than “hulls by the side of the road.” Yet the authors also consistently search for hope, the gentle humanizing touch in an otherwise cold hospital, the upward spiral rather than the Ouroboros snake perpetually eating its own tail, the possibility of meaningful legacy, remnants of felled oak trees whittled into enduring objects. “Nature will have its way” the authors realize and they both mourn and accept this truth. The power of this collection lies in the fascinating way in which two brilliant minds work in tandem to examine this truth together.” – Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Department of Family Medicine; Director, Program in Medical Humanities & Arts, University of California Irvine School of Medicine
Howard F. Stein, an applied, psychoanalytic, medical, and organizational anthropologist, as well as organizational consultant, psychohistorian, and poet, is professor emeritus in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK, US, where he taught nearly 35 years. Howard and Seth, long-time friends, have co-authored numerous scholarly articles, chapters, and books, some of which include Howard’s poems. This book is their first collaboration on poems. Howard is Poet Laureate of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology and has published five previous chapbooks with Finishing Line Press.
Seth Allcorn is a retired, former health sciences center executive at the University of Missouri – Columbia, University of Rochester, Loyola University Chicago, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, and former Vice President University of New England. He is an Associate of the Center for Psychosocial Organization Studies and the author or co-author of fifteen books, and over one hundred articles in scholarly and practitioner journals.
9. The Journal of Psychohistory: Interview with David Lotto, the Editor
By Ken Fuchsman
The following is an interview with David Lotto, editor of the Journal of Psychohistory. This is the longest lasting journal in the field, starting in the 1970s. Dr. Lotto is a practicing psychoanalyst and was part of Robert Lifton’s legendary psychohistory group held at the latter’s summer home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The interview was conducted by Ken Fuchsman. The initials of the interviewer and respondent precede the questions and answers.
KF: What is the range of subjects the Journal of Psychohistory covers?
DL: The range of subjects we cover is quite broad. I had a look at what we’ve published since I became the editor of the journal in 2014. Probably the greatest number of articles would fall under the category of psychobiography. A partial list of the individuals would include material on contemporary and recent historical political figures such Putin, Osama, Trump, Clinton, Biden, JFK jr., Hitler, and Stalin; older historical figures such as de Tocqueville, Montesquieu, Queen Victoria, Henry Morgenthau, and Beethoven; along with Freddy Mercury and Paul Simon. Another category would be current events, first and foremost things Trumpian, but the Iraq war, climate change, terrorism, the Tea Party, mass incarceration, Supreme Court decisions, and the war in Ukraine. And then there’s an array of topics, a sampling includes militarism, authoritarianism, capitalism, racism, white supremacy, empathy, trauma, childhood and child abuse, antisemitism, misogyny, psychoanalytic attitudes toward homosexuality, and propaganda. And finally, writing on historical events – the inquisition, slavery, reconstruction, the Armenian genocide, the holocaust, and apartheid.
What all the articles have in common, whatever the subject matter, is that they all explore the psychological motives and processes that help to explain the subject matter at hand.
Our website, psychohistory.com has an index, by subject, of all the authors and titles of articles published from 1973 through 1998.
KF: As editor, how do you describe psychohistory?
DL: I prefer the adjective rather than noun, psychohistorical rather than psychohistory. I consider any work that examines psychological motivations of the groups or individuals an author is attempting to explain as psychohistorical. I consider the range of subject matter that can be investigated to be extensive. It would include any biography, study of past or current events, intellectual history, history of ideas, cultural anthropological, sociological, and even philosophical inquiries, as long as it focuses on psychological motivation. I would also consider any examination of group phenomena including the investigation of ideologies, political and social movements, as psychohistorical. In addition, explorations into the world of artistic, literary, and musical creations, again to the extent they seek to understand things in terms of human motivations, would be included. I would consider just about all of what is usually referred to as “applied psychoanalysis” to be psychohistorical.
Although most of the psychohistorical studies that have been done have come from a psychoanalytic or at least psychodynamic perspective, I would also consider work using non-psychoanalytic psychological approaches, such as terror management theory, attachment theory, and family systems theories (to name just a few that have been used already in psychohistorical studies) to be psychohistorical as well.
There are many possible answers to questions of which and what sorts of motivations are most useful in understanding any particular subject we are examining. So we don’t, for example, have to say that factors related to child rearing must be central to an account in order to label it as psychohistorical. Nor do we have to maintain that non-psychological factors, the many external forces that impinge on us from the outside, humanly created social, cultural, political, or economic realities, or from forces or events that arise from nature, are not important in understanding why things are the way they are, perhaps in addition to or alongside of the psychological factors.
KF: When did the Journal start and what has been its history?
DL: The journal was started by Lloyd deMause in 1973 and was titled The History of Childhood Quarterly. The name was changed to the Journal of Psychohistory in 1976.
KF: What makes psychohistory important?
DL: The psychological factors involved in driving human activity or creation are crucial to understanding a great deal about the world of human behavior. It gives us a very powerful tool, a method for arriving at the fullest understanding of the subject of our inquires. Although, given my definition of psychohistorical above, there is a huge range of subjects that can be investigated psychohistorically, for me what is most important is the psychohistorical study of people and events that have a major influence over our fates. Even when the focus is on current events it is often crucial to know about the historical roots of what is determining the phenomenon we are trying to understand.
KF: What is your professional background and experience in psychohistory?
DL: I started attending the yearly IPA conferences in New York in the early 1980’s while I was training as a psychoanalyst. I had an interest and read widely in the psychoanalytic literature starting when I was an undergraduate. In 2007 I was invited by Robert Lifton to attend the Wellfleet Psychohistory Group meetings for a weekend in September. I attended the yearly meetings until they ended in 2016. Starting in the mid-1980’s I presented papers regularly at the IPA conference and published several articles and book reviews in Clio’s Psyche and The Journal of Psychohistory.
KF: How did you become editor, and what is your philosophy of editing the Journal?
DL: In 2014 Lloyd deMause asked me to co-edit the journal, although I had been helping out with the journal for several years before that. I became the editor in 2016. Keeping with my expansive view of the subject matter I consider to be psychohistorical, I am open to receiving manuscripts on a wide range of topics, as long as they pay some attention to psychological factors. I see the Journal as a scholarly enterprise and insist on adequate footnoting and referencing. All articles must not have been published previously and undergo peer review prior to editing and publishing. We have an editorial board of about 30 individuals who are the core of our peer reviewers. Articles are sent out to between three and five reviewers. We have an upper limit of 9000 words as I find that longer articles tend to be read less often.
KF: What kinds of feedback do you get from subscribers as to their view of the Journal?
DL: We have no systematic process for requesting feedback. We will publish responses to published pieces as letters to the editor. So far, most feedback has been complimentary. No one has written that they are cancelling their subscription in reaction to anything we have published.
KF: In your time as editor, please describe some of the highlights of the Journal.
DL: There has been a steady stream of mostly quite interesting original articles on many subjects. They are most often a pleasure to read. I also, again mostly, enjoy the editing I do, which always has the goal of improving the quality and style of the paper while, most often, not altering the content. It has also been a pleasure to work with Susan Hein, the publisher of the journal. We are the only two people doing the work that is necessary to produce a quarterly journal and have been able to publish close to three thousand pages of quality material over the last eight years.
KF: If someone is interested in submitting an article, what would be the procedure and process, how long does it take to evaluate a submission, and what kind of feedback is given?
DL: When I receive a submission I read to see if it is appropriate for the journal. If it is, which is most of the time with the submissions we have been receiving, I choose the three to five readers from the editorial board I think are best qualified to review the paper. I usually ask the readers to send me their evaluations within six weeks. If the majority of the readers think the article is appropriate for the journal. I then edit the paper. Often I request some revisions. I try not to ask the authors to make a lot of changes in addition to whatever I have done with my editing. I am usually able to complete the editing shortly after I receive all the peer evaluations so that the author will receive the initial feedback between six and eight weeks after I receive the manuscript. The time between a final acceptance and it appearing in print is variable, depending on how many articles are in the queue. For the most part that time interval has been between one and six months.
10. The International Journal of Controversial Discussions: “Jew Hating: The Black Milk of Civilization.”
from Arnold Richards
The International Journal of Controversial Discussions: Psychoanalysis in the Twenty-First Century (https://ijcd.internationalpsychoanalysis.net/) is a project of Dr. Arnold Richards. The premise of this publication is that an article is published, and that many comment on the article follow. Some support and some disagree with the premises and arguments of the piece. The current edition of this journal is now available. The subject is “Jew Hating: The Black Milk of Civilization.” The co-editors of this issue are two esteemed New York area psychoanalysts, Merle Molofsky and Harvey Kaplan.
The contents of this issue can be accessed at https://ijcd.internationalpsychoanalysis.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/ijcd-Jew-hating-Vol-2-issue-2-journal.pdf.
The lead essay is Arnold Richard’s “The Need Not to Believe: Freud’s Godlessness Reconsidered.” Dr. Richard’s says the three distinct strands of Freud’s Jewishness are his assimilationist commitments, his response as a Jew to anti-Semitism, and Freud’s “utter, militant Godlessness.” It is this third element that Richards evaluates in this paper.
Then there are thirteen responses to Dr. Richards. Among the respondents are David Lotto, Daniel Benveniste, Selma Duckler, David Terman, Merle Molofsky. Six of the responses have the words anti-Semitism in their titles.
But this is not the entire contents of this issue. There is a poem by Paul Celan in the original and translated. Another poem by Merle Molosfsky. There is an Addenda that has an essay by Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, another by the distinguished psychoanalyst Jacob Arlow. The theme of anti-Semitism pervades the Addenda. The journal is free and can be accessed at the link at the end of the first paragraph.
11. BULLETIN BOARD
Psychohistory Forum – The Psychoanalysis/Psychology of Fear and Anxiety – on 1-7-23
Fear dominates so much of our personal, political, and societal lives that we think it valuable to focus on the psychodynamics of this basic emotion, which has so many ramifications. Of course, as human beings, we tend to want to hide our fears from most around us if not ourselves, mostly finding socially acceptable ways of expressing them. The sense that others share our fears seems to make them more palatable. Does the aggrandizement of politicians, musicians, and leaders of all sorts serve as a way of escaping from our sense of vulnerability in a world in which there is so much to fear? To what extent has the media, especially during the pandemic, enlarged our fears? Is the prevalence of escaping into media (TV, movies, games, social media, echo chambers of the like-minded) an attempt to lessen our anxieties? It is our hope that in probing fear, we can be more realistic in dealing with and discouraging escapism into alcohol, drugs, and other negative outlets.
Because FEAR is endemic in our society and world, we are having this work-in-progress virtual meeting on “The Psychoanalysis/Psychology of Fear and Anxiety” with Drs. Inna Rozentsvit, Paul Elovitz, and a third presenter (TBA) on January 7, 2023 (Saturday), from 10:30am-1pm EST. The virtual meeting space open at 10:00am EST.
Topic: Psychohistory Forum Meeting on FEAR – January 7, 2023
Meeting ID: 854 0458 7774
Dial by your location
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
+1 646 931 3860 US
Meeting ID: 854 0458 7774
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbtyMco6UX
We look forward to a lively and informative January 7th presentation and discussion, which I hope you can attend after reading the papers (7a and 7b of this Newsletter) and perhaps writing your own commentary on the papers or a longer paper on the subject (see the Call for Papers).
Paul H. Elovitz, PhD, Historian, Research Psychoanalyst, Professor, Director of the Psychohistory Forum, Editor, Clio’s Psyche, and the Author of The Making of Psychohistory: Origins, Controversies, and Pioneering Contributors (Routledge Publisher),
Clio’s Psyche – FEAR – Call for Papers (due 1-8-23)
Call for Papers:
The Psychoanalysis and Psychology of Fear
In conjunction with our January 7, 2023 Psychohistory Forum Work-in-Progress virtual meeting on the subject with three presenters, for this Spring 2023 Special Issue of Clio’s Psyche, we welcome your submissions, especially personalized ones with psychoanalytic, psychological, and psychohistorical insights on FEAR in a polarized, pandemic stressed world suffering from information overload and attacks on democracy and rationality, including the following subjects:
- Why does fear abound in our personal lives, country, society, and world?
- Why not write about fear in your life, and its ramifications, as is Clio’s editor?
- How do we process fear rather than become immobilized by it or using it to go to war?
- What are the gender differences in the processing of fear in the U.S. and elsewhere?
- Is the enormous anxiety of our society of rapid technological change based upon our fears?
- How do you deal with a patient’s anxiety and fear being so great that they may kill themselves?
- Why are the culture wars (abortion, gay marriage, gender, etc.) based so much on fear of change?
- In “gun crazy America,” do we unconsciously engender fear by encouraging gun ownership?
- Are personal and societal enemies essential to maintain a national and individual identity?
- Why did Bush 43 find it strange to lose the Soviet enemy and then start a needless war?
- Did the Soviet Union collapse because Gorbachev saw the U.S. as a model rather than enemy?
- To what extent has the COVID-19 pandemic enlarged our fears and affected our behavior?
- Why not write a comparative article on the impact of the Spanish Flu and the current pandemic?
- How does fear relate to hope, early childhood, and good/bad/troubled interpersonal relations?
- Why not write an anxiety/fear-focused book review of a famous or important person?
We seek commentaries of up to 1,200 words in the file or longer articles from 1,500-2,500 words—including your title, author name with affiliation, a 25-word abstract, 7-10 keywords, and your brief biography (3-4 sentences) ending in your email address. Send documents in Microsoft Word (*docx or doc) format by January 8, 2023. A high-quality, extremely well written article of up to 3,000 words, which may be accepted to serve as an additional symposium article if received by January 15, 2023.
For the complete Call for Papers, follow the link below:
Functional Psycho-Neuro-Biology Approach to Psychosomatics — in Mental Health and Everyday Life – Workshop at ORI on 12-10-22
Workshop with Dr. Inna Rozentsvit
Date: December 10th, 2022, 10:00am – 4pm (Saturday)
Location: Virtual participation only!
To Register for this workshop, please complete the Registration form
Continuing Education Information: See details here
This full-day workshop will explore a very needed, although sometimes controversial area of one’s life, practice and research, related to brain-mind-body connection, PSYCHOSOMATICS – through the lens of Functional Psycho-Neuro-Biology.
Sigmund Freud could be called the father of psychosomatics, as he brought to light the origins of psychosomatic phenomena in neuroses, war trauma, and hysteria (a modern conversion disorder). He also was the first one to talk about connection of organic symptoms to mental mechanisms of their origins, as well as utilizing psychoanalytic treatment for these conditions, saying: “The psychoanalytic treatment of obvious organic disturbances is not without a future, since it is not unusual for a psychic factor to play a role in the genesis and persistence of these affections” (Freud, 1923).
Later in the 20th century, Object Relations psychoanalyst Joyce McDougall talked about “theaters” of the mind and of the body, borrowing the metaphor of a theater from Anna O, who mentioned that the free associations during her therapy (with Breuer and Freud) were her “private theater.” Joyce McDougall called the body theater “the psychosoma on the psychoanalytic stage.”
In her 1989 book, Theaters of the Body: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Psychosomatic Illness, McDougall wrote that “severe split between psyche and soma… was due to our patients’ unawareness of their emotional states in threatening situations. The curtains on the mind’s stage were tightly drawn, so to speak; no sound reached the outside ears, and yet a drama was being played out in this secret theater that threatened the very life of the theater owner himself.”
Neuroscience research of the last 20–30 years revealed some important mechanisms of the mind/brain-body/soma interactions. E.g., recently, neurobiological researchers identified three distinct brain networks that are involved in movement, cognition, and affect, which are linked to the function of internal organs and the adrenal medulla (responsible for production of stress hormones). Dysfunction of such networks’ communications are at the core of all psychosomatic conditions. Understanding these mechanisms allows practitioners from any educational background to create individualized plans for one’s psychosomatic health, when ideas from Functional Psycho-Neuro-Biology are employed.
Other examples of psychosomatics at play involve taking a placebo and getting positive, healing results. There are more examples of clinical observations done by physicians-internists about specific emotions (such as guilt, envy, and feeling resentment/upset), if chronic and unprocessed, correlating with the majority of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, cancerous and other serious medical conditions.
The contribution of the Functional Neuro-Psycho-Biology to the field of psychosomatics is about truly connecting the psyche/mind and the body/soma – through the “brain”/“neuro” part. The “neuro” part is represented by the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord), the peripheral neural system (the nerves and plexuses serving the skeleton-muscular organs, skin, and others), and the autonomic nervous systems (sympathetic and parasympathetic). Sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are partners: the first one helps us to deal with stress, fight-and-flight, and be on alert, while the second one helps us to rest, digest and eliminate. These two parts of the autonomic nervous system are also involved in hormonal production, so autonomic dysfunction leads to disbalance in the whole-body-machine. This way, Functional Neuro-Psycho-Biology can explain our life through a “wholistic” approach, as well as provide a platform for creative (and sometimes simple) solutions for health and healing. As double-blinded (placebo controlled) studies related to visualizations, breathing practices and meditative therapies – all point to bilateral connections between the psyche and the soma: top-down and bottom up processing (an important part of the Functional Neuro-Psycho-Biology system) that can make-or-break psychosomatic illness.
During this workshop, we will brush up our knowledge about utilization of Triune Brain theory of Paul MacLean, Polyvagal theory of Stephen Porges, Epigenetics, Attachment, as well as all processes and phenomena used in Functional Neuro-Psycho-Biology (brain laterality, “don’t use it – lose it,” “what fires together – wires together,” “regions connected together – grow up together,” and others), and we will integrate all of these into one comprehensive whole.
Case examples will include psychosomatic conditions related to respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiac, immune, allergy, metabolic and other systems.
Announcing the Psychobiography Reading Group
of the Psychohistory Forum on 2-25-23
To encourage the creation and reading of psychobiography, the Psychohistory Forum and its Psychobiography Research and Publication Group are inaugurating the virtually held Psychobiography Reading Group on Saturday, February 25th, 2023, from 11am-1pm EST.
We will discuss Donald Winnicott, reading James Anderson’s chapter “D. W. Winnicott’s constant search for the life that feels real” in 2015 book The Winnicott Tradition: Lines of Development —Evolution of Theory and Practice over the Decades (edited by M. B. Spelman & F. Thomson-Salo).
Winter 2023 Virtual Open House at ORI:
Developmental Trauma, Psychic Structure,
And Clinical Engagement
With Those With Primal Vulnerabilities
When: January 8, 2023 – from 1pm to 3:30pm EST
Participation is free, but registration is required.
Please fill out the registration form below.
The first part of the Open House will consist of a lecture given by Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler, the ORI Executive Director, on her clinical experience working with those who have developmental arrest due to traumatic disruption in the primal bonding with the mother. Distinctions between different character disorder types will be discussed, as well as commonalities.
Commonalities include the prevalence of dissociative defense mechanisms as opposed to the employment of neurotic defenses that are based on repression. The absence of the psychic containment of repression will be discussed. The consequent defensive reactivity that is evident “in the moment” will be contrasted with the self-reflection that can manifest when psychic and transitional space have developmentally evolved through adequate infant/mother bonding and adequate separation-individuation.
Distinctions between the types of psychic structures that develop, with different maternal (and paternal) character types will be discussed. The common terms for such character distinctions are known as the Schizoid, Borderline, and Narcissistic conditions.
Psychic structure distinctions relate to the different defense styles of the different conditions, and these different defense styles inform us about different clinical approaches. For example, mirroring vulnerability in the Narcissist contrasts with questioning self-destructive behavior in the Borderline, or direct interpretation of Internal World fantasy with the Schizoid character.
Since the major eating disorders are also linked with such character pathology, anorexic behavior in the schizoid and narcissistic personalities can be compared with the bulimic behavior in the borderline.
Following the lecture, Dr. Kavaler-Adler will demonstrate some of these concepts in an “in vivo” role-play with Dr. Loray Daws Dr. Daws will play one of his anonymous patients, and Dr. Kavaler-Adler will play the role of the psychotherapist. Group discussion and questions will follow. Also questions about the courses and programs offered by the Object relations Institute will be entertained.
For more information, please visit www.orinyc.org or/and write to the Institute’s Programs Director to
12. IPA CONTACTS
- Brian D’Agostino, President
- Michael Britton, Vice President
- Marc-André Cotton, International Vice President
- Brigitte Demeure, Secretary
- Denis J. O’Keefe, Treasurer
- Inna Rozentsvit, Communications Director, Editor, Psychohistory News,
- David Lotto, Editor, The Journal of Psychohistory
- Susan Hein, Publisher, The Journal of Psychohistory
- Paul Elovitz, Editor, Clio’s Psyche and listserv
- Howard Stein, Member, IPA Leadership Council