Ukraine: From Invasion to PTSD (Newsweek, Part 2 - Part 1 in DESCRIPTION)

Uploaded 9/8/2022, approx. 14 minute read

Why would be interesting or fascinating for him or her to study psychology?

This is precisely the attraction of psychology. It is simultaneously an extremely creative field because it is literature. And at the same time, it captures myriad manifestations of what it is to be human.

And yes, you can make a difference. You can make a difference if you treat people and help them.

You do see results. Actually, in the majority of cases, you see results, unless you are seriously bad at what you are doing. The majority of cases you see results.

And you are able to save lives and mend lives if not save them. There are failures everywhere, failures in medicine.

Of course, psychology as well. But I am also a medical doctor. And when you compare the two fields, in psychology I feel that I have a much greater impact, if you wish, a systemic impact on all areas of life of the person.

It is a renaissance. It is a resurrection. It is a revival. I am almost using religious terms. It is a bit of a religious experience because you are very often reviving someone. Parts of people die.

Reality is so harsh that all of us are walking around with dead parts, here, here, whatever.

And the good therapies or the good psychologist revives these parts, brings them back to life. It is life-making. It is a life-making thing.

I have been a physicist. I have a PhD in physics. I have been a medical doctor, although I am not practicing. I have been in many fields. I have been an economist. In none of these fields did I feel that I am making a difference. Of course, I made a difference, but an individual difference, a one-to-one difference, a resonant difference.

I have been in psychology for 26 years because it is highly complex. Nothing is more complex than the human mind, not even the universe. It is highly complex. It always surprises me. It never ceases to surprise me.

And you can really help. If I go to Ukraine, maybe I will save a hundred lives. How many people can say this? And in which discipline can you use it?

And even if it is not a science, we can say that psychology tries to use reason, to use some methods, and it is not shamanism.

Yes, it is not fantastic.

It is reality-grounded, reality-based. A lot of it is evidence-based. It does not make it science, but it is evidence-based.

So it is a good practice, a set of good practices, which one generation of psychologists passes to the next.

I am a professor, so I am teaching my students, and they will pass it on.

And there are different schools somehow.

There is a lot of disagreement about the whys of psychology, why things happen. But there is little disagreement actually about what is happening. There is just a lot of disagreement about why things happen.

But when you look at these disagreements much more closely, you discover that it is not a disagreement about reality, it is a disagreement about language.

Very often different schools actually are different ways of saying the same thing, just using different language.

So if you are very stoic about the validity of language, if you say, what do I care which word I use as long as I touch the essence, if you realize that ego and Eden in Freud's model are just metaphors. They are not reality. It is no one captured an ego and put it in a refrigerator.

It is a metaphor. So if you realize that this is a metaphor, then the internal family system, which is a much more advanced school, is also a metaphor. It is all metaphors. It is all literature, that is what I am trying to say.

The greatest psychology to have ever lived was the Siarcian.

So in order to become a good psychologist, you have to read a lot of books of literature.

Of course, in my at least classes, Dostoevsky is obligatory reading, Muslim is obligatory reading and so on.

By the way, I am not the only one. Look at someone like Jordan Peterson. He also says the same. Dostoevsky is a great psychologist and so on.

There is not an agreement. The thing is that a lot of people who go into Siercian.

So it is not only about technical issues, it is about understanding.

I was about to say. A lot of people who go into psychology, they are technicians. They think the human mind is like a car and they are being taught how to be mechanics in a garage.

That is of course not true. It is not true. It is about resonating with the other person. It is about the common experience of humanity. It is about providing insight. Insight is simply seeing yourself and your life from a totally different point of view. Amazing from up or down.

So you need to be creative. You need to be creative. It is absolute. You need every therapy session and every paper in psychology is a work of art, is literature. You need to have a lot of humility. A lot of humility in front of the human phenomenon. If you are arrogant, you miss, you are not a good psychologist. Every therapy session is an experience at being humble, if not humiliated.

I remember a book of Viktor Frankl about the meaning of life. Search for meaning. That book is a living example that even in a worst place imaginable like during the Holocaust, Auschwitz, somehow you can find a basis for meaning.

That is because people confuse meaning and purpose. Purpose is something else. Goal orientation.

That is not meaning. There are many people who are very accomplished and their lives are meanings. Meaning is not about purpose. Your being is meaning. Your very existence is meaning. You see what happened in Auschwitz? You could not be goal oriented. Auschwitz is a laboratory where you could not have any goal because a crazy SS guard could kill you the next minute. It was meaningless to plan in Auschwitz. You therefore, Auschwitz forced you to focus on the essence, on what matters and what matters was your being and your existence.

I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday and I told her, the world would not have been the same had you not been born. The world would not have been the same had you not acted the way you did. The world would not be the same if you were to kill yourself for example.

In other words, you are co-author. You are co-author of the world. When I say the world, I don't mean Romania. I mean the universe. If so, Romania happens to be in the universe. The whole universe will not be the same if I were to kill myself this very second. I will have forced the universe to be different. Every action of mine forces the universe, the whole universe to be different.

So we are co-authors of the world. What other meaning are you looking for?

Your very existence is it. That's the meaning.

It's a beautiful metaphor, this one. All of us are co-authors of the universe.

But it's a physical fact. If you were to die this very minute or you must agree with me that the world would not be the same. So if the world is not the same, you have an impact on the world. You can create the world. You can co-author.

By the way, this is also in physics. In physics, when we try to interpret quantum mechanics, there is a school of thought that says, it's called many worlds interpretation. School of thought that says that every time someone makes a decision, the universe splits. In one part there is the decision, in another part there is it. And it may come as a surprise to you, you're not a physicist, but that's the dominant view of physics now, actually.

But it's also a matter of philosophy here. For philosophers it's also a very interesting issue.

Yes, but we can agree if we want to avoid mysticism. We can agree on a simple fact.

The world with me is not the same like the world without me. I mean, we can't argue with this. The world with this chair is not the same as the world without this chair. In this sense, I am a co-author of the world.

And if I'm a genetic, in other words, if I act, every action of mine makes me a higher level co-author.

But even if I only exist, that's enough, just existing. I'm co-author. What bigger source of meaning can there be?

I mean, there's this meaning. And this is what Franklin, in my view, had learned in Auschwitz.

Because in Auschwitz you couldn't have a career plan, you couldn't invest in your education, you could... All the nonsense was stripped off. And he came face to face with the essence.

He survived, I think, if my memory doesn't fail me, a few years in Auschwitz. Shocking, I'm pretty sure.

So we are, let's say, at the end of this beautiful interview. If you want to add something, I don't know, about psychology, about Ukraine, about the meaning of life, anything you want to add?

Ukraine is a parable. It's not only a war. It's a parable of what happens when narrow interpretations of history and humanity prevail.

Such narrow interpretations go hand in hand with the suspension of liberties and rights.

Regrettably, all over the world, there is an extremely clear movement towards the suspension, towards these narrow interpretations.

And I think the reason people adhere to authoritarian regimes and so on and so forth, is because reality has become unbearable. Reality is no longer tolerable.

It's harsh.

You see, I say in some of my interviews and videos, I say that this is possibly the worst period in human history.

What do I mean by that?

In the 14th century, half the population, anyone between 1000 and half the population of Europe, died in the Black Plague, in the Black Death. That was bad. We would agree that it's much worse than today in terms of mortality.

But you know, if you were alive in Europe in the 14th century and your whole family died of the plague, you still could go to your church. You still could go to the Lord of the Manner, the feudal Lord. You still believed in God.

In other words, you were still embedded in institutions, in the social fabric. You had where to go.

You had a place in that world.

You had a world.

You had a world.

We don't have a world anymore.

God is dead. Church is dead. God is dead. Nietzsche killed him. We atomize. We're all existentially alone.

So even if the disasters we are facing are on a much lower scale than the 14th century, our capacity to cope with these disasters is infinitely lower, which leads back to the theme of this interview, trauma.

Trauma is a new phenomenon. First time trauma was described as about 100 years ago. Why? Because people were stupid.

Depression was described in the 17th century. Psychosis was described in the 18th century. Psychopathy was described in the 19th century. Sadism in the 19th century.

Only trauma is a newcomer.

Why? Were people so stupid they didn't notice trauma before? No, it's a new phenomenon. It's a new phenomenon because we are all alone. We have nowhere and no one to go to. We are so atomized, so broken.

It's a paradox because we are in the most connected period of history. We are connected with each other by internet life.

It's another confusion between connection and meaning. Again, a purpose and meaning. Connection doesn't create meaning. There's a lot of connection between Russian soldiers and the women they bring that wouldn't render the interaction meaningful. Connection is not meaning.

That's a confusion in social media. That's why we have friends in social media.

This is an abuse of the language. Social media and similar technology are abusing language. The same way I'm sorry to say that the Nazis abuse language in the concentration camps where the gas chambers were called busts. When you call total strangers, friends, you are corrupting the language. The language is the only thing that stands between us and a total degeneration into barbarity. When we are destroying language, we're destroying meaning. We're destroying meaning. We're destroying our own survival.

That's why we need Wittgenstein.

We need many things. Wittgenstein said that private languages cannot exist, only languages which are communicable. I think it's one of these extremely rare occasions that this genius was wrong. I think we are in the process of developing private languages. Everything is breaking down and we are forced to develop private languages to communicate with ourselves. We're becoming self-sufficient even as far as language is concerned. We're self-referential. We're referring to ourselves.

All this is connected to this interview. Don't think we're straying far. The trauma is about this.

What is trauma? It's inability to process information. You simply can't process the information. Either there's too much information or the information is too destructive and so your mind shuts off.

Trauma involves dissociation. Dissociation means that you cut off the information and you forget about it. Bury someone.

This is all about language. This is all about atomization because when you're faced with a trauma, never mind if you're surrounded by extended family of 250 members, you're all alone. When you're faced with a trauma, you're all alone.

The extreme existential loneliness in the face of a dropping bomb or a dead person or your pet. If you're killed, your pet was killed. Or you're being raped. You're all alone that minute. Even if you're surrounded by 100 other people. Loneliness is the core of trauma and the breakdown of language. The mind shuts. Mind shuts and everything is buried.

Freud was the one who said that these memories are buried. They bury with them negative energy. It's a process called Ag reaction. They bury in negative energy.

This negative energy is like poison. It continues to work in the unconscious and destroys conscious processes like cognition, motion and so on. It's all interconnected. Everything we discuss is interconnected.

So my compliments on your questions because they're very astute.

Yeah, and all that you said made me think that all of these issues are strongly related also with philosophy.


It's strongly related with philosophy and with a lot of philosophical problems about our place in this world.

I like your questions because they touch on them. I think the decline of philosophy is extremely strong indicator of our condition, which is not a good condition. Philosophy used to be the mother of sciences and now it is the step, step, I don't know what, daughter or something. Philosophy is mocked, ignored. Only those who can't make it in technology or in science go to philosophy.

We don't allow philosophy anymore to define for us the agenda, the agenda of eudaimonia, a good life, proper life, and the agenda of the sciences.

Until the 1930s or 1940s, philosophers just told scientists what to do. Karl Popper told scientists what to do. Bertrand Vassal told scientists what to do. Philosophy told science what to do.

When the philosophical compass was lost because of the hubris and grandiosity of the sciences and so on, we lost, literally lost our compass.

We could not navigate anymore.

The first manifestation of this was the nuclear bomb. Nuclear weapons were the first manifestations where morality no longer dictated, ethics no longer dictated.

And so the decline of philosophy is, and we should try very hard to resurrect philosophy as a guiding principle.

Karl Popper told not only to scientists what to do or what to think to, but also to politicians because his political works are very important.

Philosophers set the guidelines. They set the guidelines in politics regarding science. They set the guidelines. That was the job. The job was to set guidelines.

They could use ethical systems. They could use rational systems, systems of reasoning, logic, formal languages, but whichever, whatever instrument they happened to use, the idea was to guide them.

And when we discarded these guides, we lost our way. We went astray. Everything, not so few.

Thank you very much.

Thank you. I think that we can talk for hours. Yes, but this interview will have to end somehow.

Yes, thank you.

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