Monday, August 07, 2006

Arabic Psyche, Magna in general...

Not many years ago, my friend M.A., a talented and hardworking young Arab, was describing for me his summer course in enthusiastic words and it was one of the rare times that he allowed himself enthusiasm concerning his instruction. It was an introductory course in psychology which provided him with a theoretical framework, giving him the chance to deal with many of his remarks and experiences. By that time, he thought how wonderful it would have been if he had decided to pursue this field of studies and if his family had supported him in his efforts. I told him, I remember, that the day that the upper middle class fashion will allow Arabs to approach the aid of psychoanalysis without guilt and without the stigma of “madness” or “disorder”, the first generation of equipped analysts will by necessity become millionaires and that the first clinics should have the size of hotels, such a big number of beds and sofas would be needed. The honest friend replied that he doubted it seriously whether even his grandchildren would approach psychology or analysis in a relaxed manner. And out of integrity, he later quitted his studies in the medical field, despite his good marks and the encouraging words of his professors. He changed his scientific field completely and he managed very well, applying the favorite Arabic principle that professional success and personal passion or liking should not mingle.
I found before yesterday a short article in the Greek newspaper Ta Nea based on the interview of Jihad Mazarweh to the German newspaper “Die Zeit”. The interviewee is one of the 15 Arab psychoanalysts around the globe, and he grew up as an inferior class citizen in Taibeh, an Arabic village located in Israel. He left to Freiburg, Germany, where he studied Psychology, Sociology and Criminology. Since 1984 his Center for Psychoanalysis focuses on the therapy of the trauma of war and torture. He claims that the Arab world will not manage to get through without the aid of analysis and therapy. The traditional structures collapse, the collective identity is shrunk and, to this moment, the available alternatives are alcohol and drugs. Mazarweh prefers working with women, because when they make up their minds to ask for help concerning sexuality and family, they are decisive and usually they take it to the end. Men, to the contrary, sooner or later collapse, and if the resistance of women is made of cement, the resistance of men is made of stainless steel. In the end, because of the prevalence of hierarchies and guilt-shame in the Arab society, when it comes to the point to talk about fantasies, complexes or desire, they would pick a Jew psychoanalyst, given also that Israel has the highest rate of psychoanalyst/patient globally. This occurs in societies that almost every satellite channel gives space to presenting and interpreting dreams, in a way that even Freud would admire, because they are detailed and delicate taking specific conditions into consideration.
Personally I have encountered the magna anima, the big psyche, the giving heart of the Arabs and its complicated, twisted ways, which sometimes disguise it into its opposite, the anima parvula: People who lead the most extreme dreams of the West and in public they would not admit doing so. People who doubt and their intrinsic voice constantly criticizes; but in public they reiterate fixed sentences, from the holy books or the traditional wisdom of previous centuries. They avoid poetry like pestilence but they confess their inner feeling through the verses of a song of Fayrouz. They imagine the tidy public space of the Western cities, with the parks and alleys, but all they invest in is the private realm. An emotional eroticism is spread everywhere in their literature, body language and dreams, but in terms of the public discourse, they appear as being imprisoned in the most austere Carmelite convent. They refuse the notion of the citizen, and then they appear as a unified suffering entity, with the signs of war on their bodies and in their eyes. So many successive generations of lost relatives, refugees, migrants, lost lands, alienated fields, taken away just before harvesting their crop… So much repulsed pain. Such extensive use of the ultimate solution of silence: because I see that on many occasions the elderly would not tell their precise stories to the generation of their grandchildren and the public narratives through history classes, television and special days of commemoration are selective, heroic and impersonal.
I notice how milder contradictions in Greece, have troubled my generation, leading to stress, dual behaviours and complexes. But, recently, quite few friends have told me in confidence that they decided to face the split and to spread their limps on the leather sofa of the analyst.

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