Review of Ghost in the Human Psyche: The Story of a ‘Muslim Armenian’ , by Vamik D. Volkan. Oxfordshire, UK: Phoenix Publishing House Ltd., 2019. 122 pp.

by Lora Heims Tessman, PhD

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The troubling, worldwide resurgence of racism makes Vamik Volkan’s: “Ghost in the Human Psyche: The Story of a ‘Muslim Armenian’,” a most timely topic. How does shameful cultural history live in an individual’s psyche and influence individual psychoanalysis? Some years ago, I posited that, “for traumatized individuals, when denial of a dreaded past is replaced by remembrance, intolerable dilemmas in identification may emerge” (Tessman, 1996, p. 329). That led me to question: “under what conditions can memories also be an ally in acknowledging and facing these dilemmas?” (Tessman, 1996, p. 329). What, in psychoanalytic process, might foster the incorporation of memories in ways which counter reenactment of trauma? Ironically, it may require oscillations between two contradictory attitudes. As James Joyce expressed it:

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake;” (J. Joyce. Stephen Daedelus, Ulysses), while Victor Hugo is quoted as believing that “Memory is the only paradise from which you cannot be evicted”. (Tessman, 1996, p. 329).

Psychoanalysis is singularly suited for ‘awakening’ from personal and historically induced trauma, yet fraught: Shame and terror compound the forces which engender concealment through withholding, disguise, and fear of authentic desires. Reliance on such disguises makes free communication not only difficult, but also taboo. For the analyst it becomes a delicate, but continual challenge to avoid unacknowledged dyadic repetition of such taboos<…>

Link to Online Publication [fulltext can also be requested from the library].

Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 56(2-3):457-464, April 2020.

Photo by Shellburne Thurber, 2003

About the Author:

Lora Heims Tessman, PhD, is a member of Boston Psychoanalytic Society and the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in NY. Earlier she was adult and child psychotherapist and researcher at the Judge Baker Guidance Center, the Boston Floating hospital, and, from 1961 to 1992, the Psychiatric Service of MIT.  She is the author of many articles and book reviews and two important books: The Analyst’s Analyst Within (2003) and Children of Parting Parents (1978). She practices psychoanalysis and supervision in Newton, Massachusetts.

Previous Posts:

Steven H. Cooper, PhD (2019). A Theory of the Setting: The Transformation of Unrepresented Experience and Play. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 100:6, 1439-1454.

Anton Hart, PhD (2020). Principles For Teaching Issues Of Diversity In A Psychoanalytic Context. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 56:2-3, 404-417.

Lawrence J. Brown, PhD (2020). Trauma and Representation. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 100:6, 1154-1170.

Penelope Moore, LICSW (2020). Incest from a Young Age … Lasting a Lifetime. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 48(1), 41-54.

Judith L. Kantrowitz, PhD (2020). A Psychoanalytic Memoir: The Analyst Enabled and Disabled by What is Personal. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 68(1), 83–100.

Cuneyt Iscan, MD (2020). Learning Along the Way: Further Reflections on Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy by Patrick Casement, Routledge, Abingdon and New York, 2019, 156pp. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80:2, 235-239.

Anna Ornstein, MD (2020). The Relativity of Morality in the Contemporary World. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40:4, 223-233.

Sarah Ackerman, PhD (2020). Impossible Ethics. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. 2020;68(4):561-582.

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau, PhD (2020). How Demagogy Works: Reflections on Aggression in Politically Fraught Times. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40:4, 234-242

Judy Yanof, MD (2020). A Separation: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 73:1, 172-181.

Elsa Ronningstam et al. (2020). Psychotherapeutic Treatment of Depressive Symptoms in Patients with Narcissistic Disturbances: A Review. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy50, 21–28.

John C. Foehl (2020). Lived Depth: A Phenomenology of Psychoanalytic Process and Identity. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(2), 131-146.

Click here to see a full archive of featured papers. All articles can be requested from the library.