NATIONAL-MASS PSYCHOSES IN THE REGION OF THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
Many attempts have been made to understand the essence of the process often called “The disintegration of the Former Yugoslavia”. All these attempts might be considered to be only partially successful, as they usually concern particular phenomena that appeared during this “process” which is still, unfortunately, unfinished. Generally, the details of the military, geostrategical, geopolitical and regional political interests and the background influence of certain economic interests, have so far been analyzed by the descriptive approach and so-called analysis.
These interpretations do not seem very successful in diminishing the confusion and the horror felt in other countries in Europe and in the world, because on the one hand they explained the brutal way in which this process was initiated and developed, and on the other hand looked at the reasons for its erupting in the first place. To a large extent this confusion can be attributed to the feeling that there is a country at the center of these events which managed for almost half a century existed and acted on the military level responsibly and firmly and on the social plane consistently at a reasonably high level. This confusion is compounded in its significance when we realize the fact that this situation is shared with thousands or even millions of other people, as one might say without exaggeration, who have experienced and survived a similar process of the violent disintegration of the whole and the creation of smaller units, organizing the new identities and values.
The symbolism of this position may direct to the essential splitting between the reasonable and the experiencing Ego, if we try to understand that association through the psychodynamic model of thinking. This linkage is not the only thing which prompts further consideration that the basis of the disintegrative process and the release of such uncontrolled destructive forces which accompanies this process are largely due to this division, but we have to look for it in the psychological area. In particular, one is driven to try to make sense of the deep constellation of forces and their metapsychology in the creation of the mass conditions at a certain place and time for the basis of the historical development of the process.
This essay will attempt to open the door to the psychological analyses and the interpretations which concern the phenomenon of the mass psychosis in the region of the Former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, we will look at particular psychodynamic aspects like the structural changes, instinct connections, the changes in self identity and the individual nuclear self, the group process, the collective unconscious and the perspectives of the process which opened new areas in the human civilization. Particularly with regard to the horror and the insanity.
However, in this, I consider that a psychiatrist and the psychoanalytically orientated psychotherapist, is a feeble witness of the events unfolding in front of his eyes “in situ”, and can only make a contribution with a view to present and future generations for the benefit of civilization. Particularly, towards their constant guarding against the evil, which in this case is still acting and operating, disguised and well organized.
We may begin by looking at the development of the process of the creation of the phenomenon called “National mass psychosis in the Former Yugoslavia”, through certain historical sequences. Here, the cohesive self of the Former Yugoslavia begins to disintegrate progressively into the particles of the Self.
At the end of the first half of the eighties it existed as the sustained and constant object named the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. The stability of its identity internally in the mass psychology is due to the multigenerational transfer of the model of the identification. That model succeeds in establishing the identification by making a new, artificial nucleus of the identity called “Yugoslav”, as a new composite form of “the nationality”. That “nationality” serves as the basis for creating the cohesive mass-self and the nucleus for the future superstructure, which was confirmed to have real value through the census conducted at the end of the eighties, when it rose to fourth place on the scale of the most frequent “nationalities”. That means that there were 2 million people who identified themselves with the model called “Yugoslav” of the total 22 million inhabitants. This category had some feeling for the increasing potential threat to the other “nationalities” like, the Serbs, Croats, Moslems (also a newly constructed form), Slovenes, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Albanians etc. (in total there were more than twenty “nationalities” in SFRJ at that time!).
The value and the significance of the model of the identification “Yugoslav” (like for example: “American” or probably in the future “EUnean”, “European”), were inaugurated and constantly supported after the second world war, by Josip Broz Tito, the historical creator of SFRJ and The Movement of Independence. The repetitive form of the declaration “brotherhood and unity” were offered as the best mechanism for overcoming the mutual national intolerance, which was particularly evident between the Serbs and the Croats, as well as between the others people of the Balkans ( Bulgarians - Serbs, Turks - Greeks, Bulgarians – Macedonians, Albanians-Serbs, Greeks-Macedonians etc.). It also instigated many crimes, destruction and genocide with mass horrors, before and during the Second World War. At the end of the eighties, however, there were many generations in the S.F.R.J., whose own national identity was connected with the country and for whom anything that happened prior to the war was indistinct and extremely distant from them. The stories about the national and the religious hate at that time they felt to be unreal and fantastic.
At that historical moment it begins successively to develop a new (old) process of the present system. At the same time, in particular parts of the system, continuously and more intensively it begins to have an influence over the masses. The bases of the influence are the information that bring into focus the definition of the separated national identities, idealizing one’s own group and deprecating the others. Such targeted and deliberate information created the system that stimulated fantasies about the threat to the existence of their own nation from the others. The pattern for the newly invented representations about the future, which in any case were very far from any kind of reality, was effected by the kind of information chosen from the past and the present. The synchronized programming of the inner fantasy world of the civilians came to effect changes in their identity, and then to the resultant reforming of the mass into more homogeneous national groups until the whole idea of identity was placed in the homogeneous mass.
In tandem with this process of disintegration and dissolution, the individuals in the mass, like “the plankton in the sea”, could be seen to reflect the increasing group tension and aggression. Impulsiveness became the basic mechanism for discharging feelings within the group, and this was followed and re-enforced by the negative feedback from the other groups, which consisted of threatening behavior. At that historical moment, supported by the political leadership and the media, it began to develop and harden the paranoid mechanisms of the mass. Ideas of persecution, megalomania and messianic mission arose; the masses accepted these ideas and thought that it was perfectly logical that the persecuted should become the persecutor. The masses, from the clinical point of view, have already demonstrated the symptoms of induced psychosis, folie a deux, having as its own creator the leaders and the substitute media elements, which behaved according to prescribed paths. Individuals in the mass showed clear symptoms of losing the capacity to criticize, the loss of any personal moral inhibitions and the absence of understanding reality, which were overwhelmed with nationalistic ideas until the state of delusion was reached. People as a whole reacted without thought because of the tremendous tension that needed to be discharged.
This was the period when people began to look for and to find victims, the period of explosive uncontrolled destructive forces. This happened at the beginning of the nineties, when the inferno began to spread at a great rate and the mass hurled themselves at each other blindly like an extremely bad tempered dog, and their leaders controlled them, at a distance, by invisible strings. In that cataclysm of violence and mass insanity begin the endless horror, without any boundaries in discharging and choosing the objects for destruction. The individuals who participated in this mass horror had a completely changed identity, psychotically changed, and were often in a condition of euphoria, exaltation and trance.
This condition of the mass in that period was constantly sustained at high intensity because of the behavior of their leaders and those who acted on their behalf in the military, information and the cultural-entertainment areas. The drugs of such behavior were provided unstintingly both directly and in the background. Everything was directed to sustain this mass psychosis as long as possible and the aggression of the “individuals who were blind to reality” could be constantly as much as possible. Violence was openly supported as in some way magnificent, and insanity was identified with courage. The mass definitely became the prisoner of the system, hypnotized in its reaction to the leaders’ directions, exterminating everyone who opposed or tried to awake the mass from their trance.
In this constellation of forces, unprecedented crimes and destruction were perpetrated in some regions in the Former Yugoslavia over a period of 2 or 3 years. The deliberately created fantasies of the inner worlds of the individuals were acted out in reality. The acting-out was identified with the destruction of the outer world.
The horror continued for as long as was necessary, according to the scripts of the political leadership. They produced it and organized it very precisely. At this moment, however, it seems that they would never be seen to be responsible for their role, crucial for the development of this process. Who knows, perhaps this too has some logic. The instigators, perhaps, are needed by someone to realize the rest of the scripts?!
THE PSYCHODYNAMIC ASPECTS
From the point of view of the depth psychology and psychoanalytical metapsychology, certain changes by individuals and groups as a part of this mass psychotic process have been imposed as the significant elements to be observed and followed. Such changes were noticed in the global structure of the personality, certain Ego-functions as Ego-boundaries and reality testing, the changes in the sphere of the drives, on the level of the identity and the self, and the group process with the particular accent on the transference relations produced in its frame as the trans generational aspects of that process.
Related to the structure of the personality, the greatest changes were evident in the structure of the Super Ego. The clearest changes could be seen in the quality of the Ego-Ideal, by creation of the newly-composed fragments with the parallel negation and suppression of the earlier contents. Simultaneously with this, the process of undermining the earlier established ethical principles is developed, directed to the regulation of the interpersonal and group relations. This resulted in the weakening of those elements until there was a complete absence of the principle of responsibility. Through the mechanisms of moving on and the projection, it was transferred from the mass to the imago of the leader.
At the same time, the weakening of the mechanism for suppression of the drive forces was evident. Thus, they were appearing and discharging within the individuals of the mass without any restriction, and at certain points they were leading to the complete domination of the pleasure principle and the absence of the principle of reality. The image of the leader, as the substitute object of the parent-father, was introjected as object who supports this change of the balance. The mass and the individuals in and out of it, in that atmosphere, they could freely discharge the impulses and the increased tensions regularly complemented by the mass media. The suppressed, bad objects from the past, could be freely projected onto the “enemy,” to the gratification of the most bizarre suppressed impulses and fantasies of the sadistic, necrophilic, incestuous and even partially cannibalistic type. Through this model of “Inversed Super Ego,” the aggression was supported as a positive, social gratified model and as the only defense from the projected fears of the “other.”
Simultaneously with the process of creating a more and more cohesive mass, it could recognize the changes in the Ego-functions of the individuals. This concerns particularly the boundaries of the Ego and reality testing function. One could observe the progressive, successive weakening of the integrity of the individual Ego-boundaries to its base and transitory loosening until the Ego-structures in the group Ego and the group Super Ego for a long period dissolved. Such changes at the level of the inner and outer boundaries of the Ego could be observed simultaneously with the explicit distortion of its function of testing reality. In these conditions of mass ecstasies, acting wholly impulsively, behaving till completely giving oneself to the pleasure principle, this function was destroyed.
After all of this, it could be seen that the individuals of this mass had suffered psychotic changes. The group Ego resulted from this group matrix, it could be said that it is completely psychotic, and on the other hand, the Group Super Ego serves the paranoid mechanisms, supported by the complementary ethical and ideal-values.
From the point of view of the instincts, it could be said that the Libido had effected paradoxically its purpose connecting the individuals in the mass. This mass, because of the pathological defensive mechanisms, incorporated successively through the mechanism of identification, developed later to act on the principles of the Thanatos, gratifying the regressive, partial and inverted derivatives of the sexual drives.
Losing the Ego-boundaries, the function for testing reality, the dissolution of prior values incorporated in the Super Ego and the current surroundings of the maintenance the uncontrolled discharge of the instinct’s impulse and it’s derivatives, the changes of the individuals became explicitly at the level of the personal identity and ideas of the self. Furthermore, the greater part of personal identity is lost, and in the same time the introjects of the new composed models of the identification are substituted. At the moment of the ecstasy by the released instinct pulses there had been abandoned the central values of the self, and the individuals are alienated from the nucleus of self, abandoning, at the same time, the nuclei around which the concepts of self values had been based earlier. All these happened at the unconscious level of the persons, without their being able to recognize the process of their changing and the models through which it was released. The giving oneself up to the trance by the released instinct expression had more attractive and more powerful force. By the clinical point of view, these changes are more familiar to the syndromes of the “reactive identity diffusion “ and “disintegration of the nuclear self cohesion.”
From the empirical point of view, these structural changes remain always as the most serious problems in the treatment of transitory psychotic conditions. These could be the most serious problems that could appear in any attempts to reconstruct the group rules as a basis for the creation of a new society and the system within, after the psychotic dissolution of the prior.
Following the other aspects of the group process, it was considered certain specificity in the creation of the models called “National mass psychosis.” They could be, at the beginning, characterized as “anti-therapeutic,” that means generally in opposite to the principles and the rules of the therapeutic groups. The group tension, for example, was clearly continually stimulated in order to keep it at the highest level. Usually in the group, the mass was encouraged and supported in its delusion by a subject that brought the projected and persecution content, always clearly focused as the work of some other group, usually of a different nationality. This was the basis for the creation and sustaining of the paranoid atmosphere in which the group (mass) was involved. With the unscrupulous and the brutal destruction of the group members who openly resisted the leaders or their substitute objects, an atmosphere of phantasms with the terror, nightmare imaginations and the fear of the self destruction in the other members. In this atmosphere, it was logical to impose the choice of the identification with the aggressor as the most frequent defense mechanism. The choice was easy and attractive to accept because of the simultaneous realization of the impulse of the libido in the group with regard to the suppressed fantasies and their free and easy gratification. At the same time the free realization of the partial, perverted and inverted derivatives of the instincts could be realized.
During the time it became evident that this dedifferentiation with the further unification of the Eros and Thanatos, at the described level resulted in the creation of the social chaotic situation and the interpersonal terror with the extreme dimensions. At the moment, one can see the progressive reduction of the intensity of the group tension as well as simultaneously the defense-paranoid mechanisms, but it is still far from reaching the level of restitution.
Considering further through the transgenerational transferences and the collective unconscious, and through the analytical point of view, certain more important points are significant in respect to the present or they are more significant for the future of the group mechanism presents in the Former Yugoslavia as in the Balkan too. One can see through history that from time to time the mass phenomena had repeated artificially identically to those above described, who were always resulted with the catastrophe of the civilization. That destruction further resulted with the consequences of the biological, psychical and sociological level. Certain analyses of the fatal repetition of the phenomenon in the Balkans indicates the fact that the groups of this region are subconsciously inclined to choose leaders who have paranoid-impulsive charisma in themselves. Also, it is obviously the fact that the most frequent mechanisms of defense are inherited in the social atoms of the potential future mass, the families, in these regions and directed to the relation with the authorities, are or the passive acceptance until one reaches mass regression, or the identification with the aggressor. The model of identification with this kind of leader, is created by the unconscious illusion that the prior fixation could be overcome in this way and this arises as a result of the fear of castration. In the re-establishment and consolidation the fixation at this level of the fear of castration, of the enormous significant is the traditional role of the mother and the subconscious drives dealing with the jealousy of the penis, in the female population, that is also transgenerationaly inherited.
The phenomenon of the unconscious compulsive repetition of the mass psychosis model of the nationalistic type, in the history of these regions presents at last one warning: Have not the Thanatos definitely created through the form of compulsive repetition a poor prospect for the future of the civilization developing on the Balkan?
What conclusions could be drawn and what assumptions could be made for the future from this moment onwards, when the disintegrative force dominates in the regions of the Former Yugoslavia? This could also be seen on the individual and social plan, and as the logical consequence, on the level of the current countries. As the individual person is the basic element that composes the mass that understands the matrix, determines the type of the group where it belongs, and in addition the society, our considerations about how matters look will be directed to certain aspects of the analysis of the individual psychology.
The basic psychological problem, from the psychotherapeutic point of view, which would be posed to any individual in these regions, is the problem of the diffusion of the identity and the loss of contact with the nuclear self values. Imagine the mass of the people who ordinarily function at the biological existence level defending generally with the mechanism of the rationalization. The mass of the people who deeply inside experience themselves as mentally empty, full of suppressed traumas, horror and the catastrophic fantasies, separated from the self values which in the past gave them the sense of their self existence and the faith in the values of the creation!? Besides all of these, they feel deeply within themselves baffled and as if their life has been taken away!?
Here the question arises of the difficulty of the inner conflict of these individuals like a mortgage from the past, and also the values that have to be passed on to their own children, the belief for the future and the value of their self-existence? It seems that this inner structural conflict is too difficult spontaneously to resolve itself and get mass insight. It is clear, at least by now, that it is “resolved” generally by suppression, splitting or irretrievable regression. These “maneuvers,” however, do not produce a proper resolution through insight, but only avoiding of the present problem. Furthermore, this outcome can only repeat again the old problem, which can be a potential for the repetitive reawakening of the pathological transference at some other historical moment.
I think that one has to seek an answer at this point and to discover the basis for the future of the Balkans, apart from the understanding of the strength of compulsive repetition in this region. The learning experiences gained on the base of deep psychological and psychotherapeutically approaches indicate that these strong repetitions could start the path towards a cure only by giving the opportunity for proper, genetic insights at all levels and their further solution. The conscious can only in that way protect the creation and the construction from the periodical strong impulse to repeat the destruction. This needs strengthening of the proper individual conscious in the recognition of the regional metapsychology of the group, mechanisms and the responsibility of the choice of the systematic decisions at the significant historical sequences.
Can this be done in these regions? One thing can be certain; the answer could not be given or could be sufficiently provided by the present reality. The future of the Balkans, traditionally, is always uncertain. Perhaps “The Spirit of the Balkan” bears in itself some deep meaning, invisible to us, here and now?
This text was created in 1998, published in “Macedonia Times in 1998, explicated in the workshop as a part of the EAP seminar “Ethics, Human Rights and Psychotherapy” at the Council of Europe in March 1999