Vamık D. VOLKAN, M.D. DLFAPA, FACPsa was honoured on his 80th birthday.
Writer, Researcher, Political Psychoanalyst...
Born in Nicosia in 1932
By Heidi Trautmann
I attach the press release handed out by the Virginia Psychoanalytic Society. Dr. Vamık Volkan was honored in the Clement Atlee Room at the British House of Lords on his 80th birthday, Dec 2012. Please click to open.
I had read this information and congratulated him. I remembered the various occasions I had during the last years to talk to him in Kyrenia where he spends some weeks each year with his family. I would like to bring here an excerpt of our interview which is included in the second volume of my book “Art and Creativity in North Cyprus” soon to come out.
“….His involvement in international affairs began in 1977, about the time when his book on “Cyprus: War and Adaptation” had come out.
“In 1977, the then-president of Egypt Anwar Sadat made a historic visit to Israel. Addressing the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, he declared that 70% of problems between Arabs and Israelis were psychological. Between 1980 and 1986, I was involved in a series of unofficial Egyptian-Israeli dialogues as a member of the APA Committee (American Psychiatric Association). During this period, the focus of my research slowly began to shift away from understanding the individual’s internal world. Although I continued to see individual patients up until 1998, large-group psychology and manipulation of mass movements became my main object of investigation and have been so over the last decades. Thus Anwar Sadat whom I have never met, changed the course of my career.”
Has psychoanalytical approach in political matters ever been considered before, I asked. Or was this a completely new approach?
“It was an absolutely new approach and it found an immediate field of application. I realized that my own training as a physician and psychoanalyst would be insufficient for the task of fully understanding the psychology of large groups and the relationship between leader and followers. In 1987, under the auspices of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, I organized the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI) to advance this confluence of disciplines: an institution unique, as far as I know, in medical school circles, CSMHI counts psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychologists as well as political scientists, historians and former diplomats among its faculty.”
From that time on, this new psychoanalytic approach to diplomatic and political activities centering on problematic world scenes had a snowball effect, and new groups were formed in which Vamık Volkan held important roles, active research groups were established – for example, the Carter Center’s International Negotiating Network, headed by Jimmy Carter, groups which were joined by experts in other fields.
Had his experiences of the conflict in Cyprus – a known territory of sorts – formed a helpful basis in his conclusions on conflicts in other countries then? I mean, had he been sensitized to conflict situations of this size?
“Yes, we could say so; the situations may differ but the language is familiar.”
I wish him and his family a peaceful future in-spite of everything.