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Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dr. Vamık Djemal Volkan was born to Turkish parents in Cyprus. He received his medical degree from Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey. He immigrated to the United States in 1957, where he did his internship, psychiatric residency, and psychoanalytic training. He became a faculty member at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1963 and, upon his retirement, became an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry in 2002. 
 
While a faculty member, he served as the Medical Director of the University of Virginia's Blue Ridge Hospital for eighteen years. Blue Ridge Hospital, an inpatient facility for psychiatric disorders, physical rehabilitation, geriatrics, epilepsy, and drug and substance abuse, was an integral part of the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center from 1978 to 1995. Dr. Volkan played a key role in its development. On the Blue Ridge grounds, there were outpatient facilities for adult, child, and family psychiatry. The Highlands Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Biofeedback Clinic, Forensic Psychiatry Clinic, Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction, and the Sleep and Dream Laboratory were all segments of the Blue Ridge Hospital complex. The hospital was closed in 1996 when the clinical activities were transferred to the main campus of the University of Virginia's Health Sciences Center.  
 

In 1987 Dr. Volkan created a center under the umbrella of the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine: "The Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI)." This center was the first of its kind. The faculty consisted of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, psychologists, as well as former diplomats, political scientists, historians, and others. Dr. Volkan’s aim was to expand the concept of "preventive medicine" to include an examination of societal responses to massive aggression due to wars or war-like situations and to develop methods to "vaccinate" large-groups against violent acts. CSMHI had grants for projects in Soviet Union, Baltic Republics, Albania, Kuwait, former Yugoslavia, Georgia, South Ossetia, Turkey, Greece, the USA and other locations. Dr. Volkan directed CSMHI from 1987 until his retirement in 2002.

 

Dr. Volkan was a founder of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP). ISPP draws its membership from many disciplines: psychology, political science, sociology, psychiatry, history, and anthropology. It transcends academic and professional boundaries by serving as a meeting ground for scholars in academia and persons working in government and public post. ISPP’s Constitution was written during his tenure as President. 
 
Starting in 1989, Dr. Volkan also served as a member of the Carter Center’s International Negotiation Network (INN) under the direction of former USA President Jimmy Carter. 1987, President Jimmy Carter founded INN a flexible,  informed network of eminent persons, conflict resolution practitioners, Nobel Peace laureates and former heads of state, dedicated to resolving international conflicts through peaceful means.
 
 
 
 
DR. VOLKAN'S "FOUR LABOTARORIES" :
 
Dr. Volkan’s "laboratory" for psychopolitical studies centered on four fields of research :
 
 
1- Observing "enemy" representatives in years-long unofficial diplomatic negotiations : Arabs-Israelis, Americans-Soviets, Russians-Estonians, Georgians-South Ossetians, Serbs-Croats, and Turks-Greeks.
 
 
 
  
                        6 Years
  
 
                    2 years
                   
 
 
                    6 years
 
 
 
                    2 years
 
 
 
                     6 years
 
 
 
                     2 years
 
 
 
2- Interviewing traumatized people : Cyprus, Kuwait, former Yugoslavia, Albania, Georgia, and South Ossetia. 
 
 
  
 
                                       Cyprus
 
  
 
                                        Kuwait 
 
  
 
                      Former Yugoslavia and Albania
 
  
 
                            Georgia and South Ossetia
 
 
3- Visiting "Hot Places" : Paldiski, Estonia; Crying Father Monument, Tskinvali, South Ossetia.
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
4- Interacting with political and religious leaders : Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, Yasser Arafat, Rauf R. Denktaş, Arnold Rüütel, Olusegun Obasanjo, Jean Bertrand Aristide and others.
 
 
                   
                     
 
                   Jimmy Carter                                    Mikhail Gorbachev
 
                      
 
                   Desmond Tutu                                       Yasser Arafat
 
                  
 
                 Rauf R. Denktaş                                     Arnold Rüütel
 
                                  
 
              Olusegun Obasanjo                               Jean Bertrand Aristide
 
 
 
 
 
Psychopolitical work :
 
Following the opening of the Center for the Study Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI) at the University of Virginia, the Soviet Duma made a contract with CSMHI allowing Dr. Volkan and his team to study the psychology of the USSR-USA relationship and to suggest efforts to take the emotional poisons out of this relationship.   
 
● After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dr. Volkan and his team helped in the evolution of a peaceful separation between the Russian Federation and the Baltic Republics (especially Estonia.) The former President of Estonia, Arnold Rüütel, was a participant of this six-year-long work. The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, was CSMHI's partner in this project.
 
● Dr. Volkan with Dr. Joyce Neu from the Carter Center and Prof. Norman Itzkowitz from the Princeton University/CSMHI investigated post-Enver Hodxa Albania in order to come up with a strategy helpful for economic development in that country. This project was sponsored by the Carter Center. 
 
● Dr. Volkan was a member of a CSMHI group headed by the former United States Ambassador to Kuwait, W. Nathaniel Howell, Jr., that examined the psychosocial conditions in Kuwait, at the request of the Kuwaiti Government, after this country was invaded by Iraq and then was liberated.
 
● In 1992, he visited Senegal with former President Jimmy Carter and other members of Carter Center's International Negotiation Network (INN) to meet with the representatives of many conflicted areas in Africa.
 
● He studied the reactivation of the "memory" of the Kosovo Battle (1389), in Serbia after the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and participated in grass root dialogues among Serbians, Croats, and Bosniaks.
 
● As a temporary consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), he investigated conditions in Albania and Macedonia following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and assisted mental health workers who were dealing with violence in that part of the world.
 
● He and his CSMHI team consulted with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning Turkish workers and their families in Europe.
 
● For two years he was consultant to Arbeitskreis für Intergenerationelle Folgen des Holocaust (PAKH), a group of German psychoanalysts and psychotherapists who opened a dialogue about German silence concerning Holocaust-related issues with a group of Jewish German psychoanalysts and psychotherapists. In 2007, he visited Köln, Germany, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of PAKH.  
 
● From 1998 to 2002, he led a CSMHI team in attempting to open unofficial dialogues between Georgians and South Ossetians.
 
● He worked for five years at the Internally Displaced Person's (IDP) Camp at the Tbilisi Sea, Georgia, in an attempt to improve these individuals' lives.
 
● During 2000 and 2001 he joined high-level Turks and Greeks unofficially discussing the Turkish-Greek Relations.
 
● From 2000 to 2002 he was a member of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC).
 
● Dr. Volkan has appeared before audiences in Great Britain, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Romania, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Albania, Macedonia, Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait, Georgia, South Ossetia, Peru, Chile, Kuwait, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Northern Ireland and the United States. He continues to be invited to speak nationally and internationally on psychopolitical topics. 
 
● In 2006, he spent time in the township of Langa in Cape Town, South Africa in order to understand the continuing effect of apartheid.
 
● On October 22, 2006, he gave a keynote speech at the Cape Town University, South Africa, honoring Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 75th Birthday and his life and celebrating the 10th Anniversary of  the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's activities.
 
● He is currently involved in bringing together representatives from the Western and Islamic worlds to examine the existing perceptions and feelings concerning the so-called Western-Islamic world split. 
 
Through his psychopolitical work, Dr. Volkan became convinced that the psychology of large groups (ethnic, national, religious, ideological) needed to be understood as a distinct dynamic in its own right.
 
As he worked in various countries, brought together various "enemy" representatives together for unofficial dialogues, spoke with many world leaders, and spent time in refugee camps, Dr. Volkan developed new theories about large-group psychology and suggested new strategies for peaceful coexistence. He focused on large-group identity, how societies under threat are subject to large-group regression, and how political leaders may manipulate this regression. His development of psychopolitical theories that help us understand the human dimensions of massive destructive acts has distinguished him from many others who have been involved in unofficial work for peaceful solutions of international conflicts. 
 
His theories examine how certain universal elements of human nature converge to create an atmosphere that gives rise to violent aggressive acts and allows the smothering of individual rights and freedoms. He describes how humiliating and killing "others" can lead to the evolution of new political ideologies within the affected societies, poisoning existing cultural rituals and turning them into destructive ones, modifying large-group identity, and, in short, setting the stage for new massive tragedies that manifest decades or even centuries later. He coined the term "chosen trauma" to describe this phenomenon.
 
He developed a method of unofficial diplomacy, "The Tree Model," which was tested during his and his team's work in Estonia and the Republic of Georgia and which can be utilized to prevent bloodshed and to create peaceful coexistence between opposing large-group elsewhere.
 
Writing about Dr. Volkan's work Dr. Leo Rangell, the former President of both the American Psychoanalytic Association and the International Psychoanalytic Association, states that Dr. Volkan's findings are "perhaps the most significant expansion of psychoanalytic group psychology since Freud's original breakthrough."
  
● Dr. Volkan/CSMHI received grants from the following sources for psychopolitical activities :
 
William Massey Foundation
 
PEW Charitable Trust
 
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
 
Carter Center
 
USA Institute for Peace
 
National Institute of Mental Health (N.I.M.H.)
 
Agengy for International Development (A.I.D.)
 
International Research Exchanges Board (I.R.E.X.)
 
W. Alton Jones Foundation
 
Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy
 
DART Foundation
 
Bahçeşehir University
 
    
 
Clinical work :
 
 He evolved a method -"the Field-Work Method"- of teaching psychodynamic psychotherapy. 
 
● He developed psychodynamic theories about "difficult" patients, including individuals with narcissistic, borderline, and psychotic personality organization.
 
● He described the concept of  "infantile psychotic self" and its evolution into various psychotic conditions.
 
● He coined the term "glass bubble fantasy," which is a typical fantasy exhibited by individuals with narcissistic personality organization.
 
● He suggested modifications in psychoanalytic treatment of "difficult" patients. 
 
● He examined transsexualism and provided a theory explaining the psychodynamics of this condition.
 
● He contributed to the understanding of the concept of actualized unconscious fantasies and illustrated how an unconscious fantasy becomes concretized after certain types of childhood traumas.
 
● He studied "mourning and adaptation." He coined the terms "linking object" and "linking phenomenon" to illustrate how the self-representation of a mourner becomes psychologically connected with the object representation of the lost person or thing.
 
He offered a therapeutic technique called "re-grief therapy."
 
● He studied individuals’ and societies’ reactions to massive trauma and researched how transgenerational transmission of trauma takes place. He coined the term "deposited images" to describe "psychological genes."
 
 Dr. Volkan was the founder and editor (from 1987-2003) of a quarterly journal, Mind and Human Interaction, which opened meaningful dialogues between the disciplines of history, culture, politics, and psychoanalysis. 
 
● He has been or is on the editorial boards of numerous scientific journals, including; 
 
Comprehensive Psychotherapy
 
Political Psychology
 
International Journal of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
 
The Yearbook of Psychoanalysis
 
The Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology
 
The Psychoanalytic Study of Society
 
The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association
 
International Journal of Children's Rights
 
Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis
 
Israel Journal of Psychoanalysis
 
Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society
 
Applied Psychoanalytic Studies
 
International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies
 
Journal of  Organizational Psychodynamics
 
Pitchstone Publishing
 
Oa Publishing (Özler Aykan Publishing)
 
 
His work has been translated into Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, and Turkish.
 
● References to Dr. Volkan's work have appeared in almost every major USA publications, including, Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.    
 
● Interviews with Dr. Volkan or references to his work have been published in newspapers and journals or aired on radio or television in numerous countries, including, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy, Turkey, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Australia, Egypt, Israel, Georgia, South Africa, and others.
 
● During the fall of 2005, Dr. Volkan regularly appeared on various Turkish television programs, speaking about psychopolitical issues and participating in a public debate on societal and political problems facing Turkey and the world.  
 
● Dr. Volkan and his work have also been featured in various documentaries :
 
     Atatürk, a full-length film by Tolga Örnek (2000). 
 
    Dragon's Eggs, a full-length film by Allan King (1998), based on CSMHI's work in Klooga, Estonia, on society-and democracy-building. 
 
    A Documentary on Dr. Volkan's Psychopolitical Work, a documentary by Christina Kronaus (2004), first shown in Vienna, Austria.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
  
 
 
 
 
  
Copyright © Vamık D. Volkan and Özler Aykan 2007.
 
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Editor: Özler AYKAN
Last modified on: May 28, 2012