Sitting on the Couch

“The patient has been living in a continuous state of trauma, with chronic ups and downs, and an occasional reawakening of the traumas he continues to suffer from. The patient constantly moves back and forth between trauma and denial (escapism), looking for a meaning to his overall experience and a father figure to show the way. 

The patient has tremendous coping mechanisms and resources, but has forgotten how to live a quiet life, without nightmarish traumas. When the patient undergoes short and quiet episodes, and all seems to be well, residues surface and inner conflicts begin. 

The patient manages to function quite well despite his condition, though years of dealing with trauma and post-trauma have paid a price, impressing mechanical and robotic patterns of behavior.

Making it easier to deal with loss, the traumas have pushed the patient into emotional isolation where he no longer notices or cares about the suffering taking place within his own society or in other societies. This isolation has in turn blocked any emotional flexibility, needed for finding a way out of his current situation.

The patient’s cultural and historic background contributes to a general feeling of constant threat, isolation and insecurity, causing him to be over suspicious and prone to panic attacks.  

Recommended treatment – give the patient meaning, and in large quantities. Present him with a horizon and a goal to which he can strive towards. It will give the patient a meaning to all that he is undergoing and help him cope. And of course – there is a big importance to the existence of a proper parental figure, an authoritative figure to guide him through the crises.”

Now what if we take the paragraphs above, and replace the word “patient” with the words “State of Israel”? Give it a try.
This was actually the original meaning of this synopsis/diagnosis/prognosis, conducted by Prof. Bleich of Tel Aviv University, for the Israeli Yedioth Aharonot newspaper.*
However, one does not have to be a psychiatry professor to acknowledge that there is a large element of truth in this analysis. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has waged countless wars and limited military operations (e.g., “Pillar of Cloud”), all extracting a tall price from its citizens, both economically and politically. But it seems the real collective price Israel has paid, and continues to pay, can only be described in psychological terms:
  1. Israelis are apathetic regarding the suffering the “other”. The “other” in this case could be fellow citizens belonging to other societal classes, or the Palestinians who are also undergoing traumas of their own, in a very different yet parallel process.
  2. Israelis find it hard to initiate or even consider alternative “ways out”, explaining, in part, the death of existing peace initiatives and the lack of new ones. 
  3. In the past few years, Israel has lacked a parental figure to guide its way and offer a new horizon that could give meaning to all the traumas it  has undergone, and continues to undergo.

Israel has achieved plenty, even in this traumatic state, and there is much to be proud of. One could argue therefore, that there is no real meaning to this “shrink talk”. But can we really afford to ignore the overall collective psychological damage done to us by years of continuous and intermittent trauma? Where does this leave us when looking forward to the future?
Before sending the bombers off to the Persian Gulf, it might be a good idea to take the medicine the dear Dr. prescribed above – a defined goal and horizon to look forward to, and a leader to guide us. 
Good luck to us, and happy elections holiday!

A. Meidan, “A Country on the Couch”, Yedioth Aharonot, 23rd of November, 2012.

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