Compared to the Middle East, though, the situation in the holler seems more easily to morph toward healing. Kids and animals can do that. I've always been amazed in my psychoanalytic work with children at how quickly they will engage in explorations of their inner workings compared to adults, whose reluctance keeps old losses and hurts locked up like scorpions in acrylic paperweights.
Unfortunately, this happens to groups and nations as well. In his book, The Need to Have Enemies and Allies, Vamik Volkan notes that the longer a group or nation engages in violence without mourning the losses, the more that conflict becomes "psychologized." In such cases, says Volkan, hidden emotional issues and more primal methods to resolve them come to dominate and modify real-world aspects of the conflict.
Volkan's interest in large-group violence did not emerge from an ivory tower or some place disconnected from current hot spots in the Middle East. Not only did he grow up in Cypress prior to geographical separation of embattled Turks and Greeks, but he often refers to an event whose significance--perhaps for all of us--becomes clearer as the Middle East boils and American foreign policy reveals its true and not-so-shining colors. The occasion was an address to the Israeli Parliament on November 20,1977, and the speaker was then Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat, who talked of his hopes that Arabs and Israelis could break through a remaining wall that prevented true reconciliation:
Suspicion, rejection, fear, deception, hallucination, distorted interpretation-strong words, perhaps. But those who've found the desire--or necessity, by way of suffering--to explore the expanses and depths of their own minds will immediately recognize the territory of which Sadat spoke. They will understand the parallels between enemies and allies as we relate to them in our minds, and the re-creation of those relations in the world. Sadat's insight speaks to the maturity of the mind that conceived it, a maturity that seems lacking in the minds of many leaders and diplomats today.
The dog-cat wars in the holler intensified about the same time that the recent crisis with Israel and Lebanon erupted. Or did I imagine that it did? I tried several things that I thought would help resolve the skirmishes, but I only became more frustrated, and my pets rekindled old spats I thought they'd settled. After a few days of this, my frustration turned to sadness and disappointment. I caught myself in a moment of suffering so clear as to be one of those aha! moments--my interventions confused Celie and George and made me feel helpless to keep the peace.
In the past few years we have witnessed remarkable developments on fields of battle in our minds and in the world. Nation by nation, group by group, family by family and individual by individual, the way we relate to the Earth and to each other is being called into question. The best of who we are as a human race continues to shine and evolve, but the worst of who we are is being forced out of hiding and into the light. There's no way to simplify what we're seeing as we look into our own souls and study the events unfolding in the world around us. And there's no way around it. The time is ripe for each person, family, group and nation to root out ancient terrors and losses, to grieve them and heal them, and then to move on.
Some resources, if you're interested:
Dr. Volkan's more recent books include Bloodlines: From Ethnic Pride to Ethnic Terrorism; The Third Reich in the Unconscious; Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis and Terror; and Killing in the Name of Identity: A Study of Bloody Conflicts.
Dr. Volkan founded the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction. Though the center closed in 2005, the University of Virginia still maintains the center's home page at http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/csmhi/ -- lots of good information there.
A great book by Lloyd DeMause, The Emotional Life of Nations, is available free online at http://www.psychohistory.com/. Lots more free reading at that site on the history of child rearing practices and DeMause's psychogenic theory of history. You can also sign up for a discussion listserv in which members analyze current events in terms of psychohistorical theory.