Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 56–74 | Cite as

“You can’t choose these emotions… they simply jump up”: Ambiguities in Resilience-Building Interventions in Israel

Original Paper


Following the growing critique of the use of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in post-disaster interventions, a new type of intervention aimed at building resilience in the face of traumatic events has been making its first steps in the social field. Drawing on fieldwork of a resilience-building program for pre-clinical populations in Israel, we analyze the paradoxes and ambiguities entailed in three inter-related aspects of this therapeutic project: The proposed clinical ideology aimed at immunizing against traumas; the discursive and non-discursive practices used by the mental-health professionals; and, participants’ difficulties to inhabit the new resilient subject. These contradictions revolve around the injunction to rationally handle emotions in response to disruptive traumatic events. Hence, the attempt to separate between a sovereign rational subject and a post-traumatic subject is troubled in the face of experiences of trauma and social suffering. Furthermore, we demonstrate how these difficulties reconstitute unresolved tensions between mimetic and anti-mimetic tendencies that have been pervading the understanding of trauma in the therapeutic professions. Finally, we discuss how the construction of the resilient subject challenges the expanding bio-medical and neoliberal self-management paradigm in mental health.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Resilience Therapeutic interventions Self-management Israel 


  1. Baum, Naomi L. 2005 Building Resilience: A School-Based Intervention for Children Exposed to Ongoing Trauma and Stress. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 10(1-2):487-498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Breslau, Joshua 2004 Introduction: Cultures of Trauma: Anthropological Views of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in International Health. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 28(2):113-126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brunner, José 2002 Identifications, Suspicions, and the History of Traumatic Disorders. Harvard Review of Psychiatry 10(3):179-184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Das, Veena 2007 Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dwyer, Leslie, and Degung Santikarma 2007 Post-traumatic Politics: Violence, Memory, and Biomedical Discourse in Bali. In Understanding Trauma: Integrating Biological, Clinical and Cultural Perspectives. Laurence J. Kirmayer, Robert Lemelson and Mark Barad, eds. Pp. 403-432. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ehrenberg, Alain 2010 The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press.Google Scholar
  7. Ehrenberg, Alain 2014 Individualisms and their Discontents: The American Self versus the French Institution. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 21(4): 311-323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fassin, Didier, and Richard Rechtman 2009 The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Foucault, Michel 1988 Technologies of the Self. In Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman and Patrick H. Hutton, eds. Pp. 16-49. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  10. Friedman-Peleg, Keren 2014 Between Jewish Settlers and Palestinian Citizens of Israel: Negotiating Ethno-National Power Relations through the Discourse of PTSD. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 38(4):623-641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Friedman-Peleg, Keren, and Yehuda C. Goodman 2010 From Posttrauma Intervention to Immunization of the Social Body: Pragmatics and Politics of a Resilience Program in Israel’s Periphery. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 34(3):421-442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Friedman-Peleg, Keren, and Yoram Bilu 2011 From PTSD to “National Trauma”: The Case of the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War. Transcultural Psychiatry 48(4):416-436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hacking, Ian 1998 Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Howell, Alison 2012 The Demise of PTSD from Governing through Trauma to Governing Resilience. Alternatives 37(3):214-226.Google Scholar
  15. Illouz, Eva 2008 Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  16. James, Erica Caple 2004 The Political Economy of ‘trauma’ in Haiti in the Democratic Era of Insecurity. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 28(2):127-149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kienzler, Hanna 2008 Debating War-Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in an Interdisciplinary Arena. Social Science & Medicine 67(2):218-227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kleinman, Arthur, Veena Das, and Margaret Lock 1997 Social Suffering. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kleinman, Arthur, and Robert Desjarlais 1995 Violence, Culture, and the Politics of Trauma. In Writing at the Margin: Discourse Between Anthropology and Medicine. A. Kleinman, ed. pp. 173-189. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Kleinman, Arthur, and Joan Kleinman 1997 The Appeal of Experience; the Dismay of Images: Cultural Appropriations of Suffering in our Times. In Social Suffering. Arthur Kleinman, Veena Das and Margaret Lock, eds. Pp. 1-23. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kobasa, Suzanne C. 1979 Stressful Life Events, Personality, and Health: An Inquiry into Hardiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1):1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lahad, Mooli 1997 BASIC Ph: The Story of Coping Resources. In Community Stress Prevention. Mooli Lahad and Alan Cohen, eds. Pp. 117-145. Kiryat Shmona: The Community Stress Prevention Center.Google Scholar
  23. Leys, Ruth 2000 Trauma: A Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lomsky-Feder, Edna, and Eyal Ben-Ari 2007 Trauma, Therapy and Responsibility: Psychology and War in Contemporary Israel. In The Practice of War: Production, Reproduction and Communication of Armed Violence. Aparna Rao, Michael Bolig and Monica Bock, eds. Pp. 111-131. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  25. McKinney, Kelly 2007 “Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence”: Testimony, Traumatic Memory, and Psychotherapy with Survivors of Political Violence. Ethos 35(3):265-299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meichenbaum, Donald 1985 Stress Inoculation Training. New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  27. Plotkin-Amrami, Galia, and José Brunner 2015 Making Up ‘national Trauma’ in Israel: From Collective Identity to Collective Vulnerability. Social Studies of Science 45(4):525-545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Plotkin-Amrami, Galia 2013 Between National Ideology and Western Therapy: On the Emergence of a New “Culture of Trauma” Following the 2005 Forced Evacuation of Jewish Israeli Settlers. Transcultural Psychiatry 50(1):47-67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pupavac, Vanessa 2002 Pathologizing Populations and Colonizing Minds: International Psychosocial Programs in Kosovo. Alternatives 27:489-511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rose, Nikolas 1996 Inventing our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy 2008 A Talent for Life: Reflections on Human Vulnerability and Resilience. Ethnos 73(1):25-56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Weiner, Talia 2011 The (Un)Managed Self: Paradoxical Forms of Agency in Self-Management of Bipolar Disorder. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 35(4):448-483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Young, Allan 1995 The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Young, Allan 2007 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder of the Virtual Kind: Trauma and Resilience in Post-9/11 America. In Trauma and Memory: Reading, Healing, and Making Law. Austin Sarat, Nadav Davidovitch and Michal Alberstein, eds. Pp. 21-48. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

Personalised recommendations