The American Journal of Psychoanalysis

, Volume 79, Issue 2, pp 139–155 | Cite as


  • Vamik D. VolkanEmail author


This paper aims to explore severe societal–political divisions and interferences with democratic processes and human rights issues in many locations around the world, including in the United States, and examines the role of leader–follower relationships related to such developments. The term “large group” describes hundreds, thousands or millions of people— most of whom will never see or even know about each other as individuals, but who share many of the same sentiments. This paper first describes how a child becomes a member of a large-group and how adults sometimes develop a second type of large-group identity. Looking at such phenomena provides the background data needed to examine the spread of the metaphorical question, “Who are we now?” worldwide, as well as to examine the evolution of present-day authoritarian regimes, extreme right-wing politics and rhetoric, wall-building, and societal–political divisions.


depositing suitable reservoirs of externalization chosen trauma chosen glory time collapse pseudo species soul murder glass-bubble fantasy 



  1. Anzieu, D. (1984). The group and the unconscious. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  2. Arıboğan, D. U. (2018). Duvar: Tarih Geri Dönüyor [Wall: Going Back in History]. Istanbul: Inkilap.Google Scholar
  3. Bloom, P. (2010). How pleasure works: The new science of why we like what we like. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  4. Blos, P. (1979). The adolescent passage: Developmental issues. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  5. Burns, J. M. (1984). The power to lead: Crises of the American presidency. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  6. Chasseguet-Smirgel, J. (1984). The ego ideal: A psychoanalytic essay on the malady of the ideal. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  7. Emde, R. N. (1991). Positive emotions for psychoanalytic theory: Surprises from infancy research and new directions. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39S(Supplement), 5–44.Google Scholar
  8. Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society (p. 1985). New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the life cycle. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  10. Freud, S. (1921). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego (Standard ed., Vol. 18, pp. 63–143). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  11. Freud, S. (1939). An outline of psycho-analysis (Standard ed., Vol. 23, pp. 211–253). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kernberg, O. F. (1976). Object relations theory and clinical psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  13. Kernberg, O. F. (2003a). Sanctioned political violence: A psychoanalytic view part I. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 84, 683–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kernberg, O. F. (2003b). Sanctioned political violence: A psychoanalytic view part II. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 84, 953–968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Loewenberg, P. (1995). Fantasy and reality in history. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Markides, K. C. (1977). The rise and fall of the Cyprus Republic. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Parens, H. (1979). The development of aggression in childhood. New York: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  18. Prince, R. M. (2018). The lonely passion of the “people”. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 78, 445–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Purhonen, M., Kilpeläinen-Lees, R., Valkonen-Korhonen, M., Karhu, J., & Lehtonen, J. (2005). Four-month-old infants process own mother’s voice faster than unfamiliar voices: Electrical signs of sensitization in infant brain. Cognitive Brain Research, 24, 627–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schmidt-Löw-Beer, C., Atria, M., & Davar, E. (2015). Communism and the trauma of its collapse. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 75, 394–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shengold, L. (1991). Soul murder: The effects of childhood abuse and deprivation. New York: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  22. Spitz, R. A. (1965). The first year of life: A psychoanalytic study of the normal and deviant development of object relations. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  23. Stern, D. N. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  24. Suistola, J., & Volkan, V. D. (2017). Religious knives: Historical and psychological dimensions of international terrorism. Durham, N. C.: Pitchstone.Google Scholar
  25. Turquet, P. (1975). Threats to identity in the large-group. In L. Kreeger (Ed.), The large group: Dynamics and therapy (pp. 87–144). London: Constable.Google Scholar
  26. Volkan, V. D. (1976). Primitive internalized object relations: A clinical study of schizophrenic, borderline and narcissistic patients. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  27. Volkan, V. D. (1988). The need to have enemies and allies: From clinical practice to international relationships. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  28. Volkan, V. D. (1991). On chosen trauma. Mind and Human Interaction, 3, 13.Google Scholar
  29. Volkan, V. D. (1996). Bosnia-Herzegovina: Ancient fuel of a modern inferno. Mind and Human Interaction, 7, 110–127.Google Scholar
  30. Volkan, V. D. (1997). Bloodlines: From ethnic pride to ethnic terrorism. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  31. Volkan, V. D. (2004). Blind trust: Large groups and their leaders in times of crises and terror. Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Volkan, V. D. (2010). Psychoanalytic technique expanded: A textbook of psychoanalytic treatment. Istanbul/London: OA Press.Google Scholar
  33. Volkan, V. D. (2013). Enemies on the couch: A psychopolitical journey through war and peace. Durham, NC: Pitchstone.Google Scholar
  34. Volkan, V. D. (2014). Psychoanalysis, international relations, and diplomacy: A sourcebook on large-group psychology. London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  35. Volkan, V. D. (Issue Ed.). (2015). Special issue: The intertwining of external and internal events in the changing world. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 75(4).Google Scholar
  36. Volkan, V. D. (2018a). Refugees as the other: Large-group identity, terrorism and border psychology. Group Analysis, 51, 343–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Volkan, V. D. (2018b). Mourning, large-group identity, and the refugee experience. In T. Wenzel & B. Droždek (Eds.), An uncertain safety: Integrative health care for the 21st century refugees (pp. 23–35). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  38. Volkan, V. D., & Itzkowitz, N. (1994). Turks and Greeks: Neighbours in conflict. Cambridgeshire: Eothen Press.Google Scholar
  39. Waelder, R. (1936). The principle of multiple function: Observations on over-determination. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5, 45–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Winnicott, D. W. (1969). Berlin wall. In C. R. Winnicott, R. Shepherd, & M. Davis (Eds.), D.W. Winnicott: Home is where we start from: Essays by a psychoanalyst (pp. 221–227). New York: W.W. Norton, 1986.Google Scholar
  41. International Dialogue Initiative. [Website]. Retrieved from
  42. Volkan, V. D. (2019). A study of ghosts in the human psyche. London: Phoenix.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus Professor of PsychiatryUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations