Looking under fire - The psychodynamic third position in times of war

Jasmin Spiegel


In recent times of war, propaganda and hate unlocked strong psychological defenses such as splitting, projection, or denial, both at the individual and the societal level. The objective of this paper is to re-introduce psychoanalysis as an almost forgotten worldview of humanistically informed science in the discussion about collective reactions to war. Psychoanalytic concepts of the gaze will be connected to intergroup phenomena characterizing times of war, such as hatred or resistance. The popular psychoanalytic metaphor of “thinking under fire”, which refers to being able to think in highly stressful situations, will be applied to our visual appropriation of the world in the era of social media. The metaphor of “gazing under fire” will be developed and embedded in the communication in times of fake, fragmented, and radicalized Weltanschauungen. A psychoanalytic position of the “third”, which looks beyond toxic polarization will be claimed as a basic tool that overcomes dichotomies and essentialist ethnocentric political world views. This position can be reached by acknowledging both one’s own guilt as well as the others` pain, despite the primacy of historical and social contextualization of collective suffering. Informed by the psychoanalytic basic principles of communication and treatment, this paper will potentially contribute to the relevance of psychoanalytic concepts for humanities as well as the intellectuals` psychic flexibility in times of war.


psychoanalysis, the third position, humanistic science, looking under fire

Full Text:



Ahmed, S. (2014). The cultural politics of emotion (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Argyle, M., Dean, R. (1965). Eye contact, distance and affiliation. Sociometry 28, 289-304.

Argyle, M., Lefebvre, L., Cook, M. (1974). The meaning of five patterns of gaze. Eur J Soc Psychol. 4(2), 125–136.

Berger, J. (1980). About looking. New York: Pantheon Books.

Benjamin, J. (2004) Beyond doer and done to: An intersubjective view of thirdness. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 63(LXXIII): 5–46.

Benjamin, J. (2016). Non-violence as respect for all suffering: Thoughts inspired by Eyad El Sarraj. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 21, 5-20.

Bhabha, H. K. (1994) The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.

Bion, W. R. (1961). Experiences in groups. London: Tavistock Publications.

Bion, W. R. (1962) A theory of thinking. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 43, 4-5.

Bion, W. R. (1967a) Notes on memory and desire. Psychoanalytic Forum, 2, 272–280.

Bion, W. R. (1967b). Notes on Memory and Desire. In R. Lang (Ed.), Classics in Psychoanalytic Technique. New York and London: Jason Aronson, Inc.

Bolmont, M, Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S. (2014). Love is in the gaze: An eye-tracking study of love and sexual desire, Psychol Sci. 25(9), 1748-1756.

Bolmont, M., Pegna, A., Bianchi-Demicheli, F. (2017). Visual patterns of sexual desire. An original and exploratory study in eye-tracking, Sexologies, 26(4), e65-e70.

Blass, H. (October 21, 2019). Ich hasse, also bin ich. Zur selbstkonstitutiven Funktion des Hasses. (I hate, therefore I am. On the self-constitutive function of hatred). Heidelberger Dienstagsreihe, https://psychoanalyse-mitschnitt.podigee.io/1-hass4.

Brom, D. (2014). Thoughts about survival mode theory of posttraumatic reactions. In D. Brom, R. Pat-Horenczyk & J. D. Ford (Eds.), Treating traumatized children: Risk, resilience and recovery (pp. 133-149). New York, Routledge.

Chemtob,C . M., Roitblat,H . L, Harnada,R . S., Carlson,J . G., & Twentyman, C, T. (1988). A cognitive action theory of post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2(3), 257-275.

Coswill, K. (2000). I thought you knew: Some factors affecting a baby’s capacity to maintain eye contact. Infant Observation, 3(3), 64–83.

Ekman P, Friesen WV (1974). Nonverbal behavior and psychopathology. In Friedman RJ, Katz MM, (Eds). The psychology of depression: Contemporary theory and research. Washington D. C.: Winston.

Falk, A. (2004). Fratricide in the Holy Land: A Psychoanalytic View of the Arab–Israeli Conflict. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

Ferenczi, S. (1988) Ohne Sympathie keine Heilung. Das klinische Tagebuch von 1932. Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag

Breuer, J. & Freud, S. (1893) On The Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena: Preliminary Communication from Studies on Hysteria. SE 2.

Freud S (1913). On beginning the treatment. SE 12.

Freud S (1915). Thoughts for the times on war and death. SE 14.

Freud S (1923). The ego and the id. SE 19.

Frosh, S. (2015). Beyond recognition: The politics of encounter. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 20, 379–394. doi:10.1057/pcs.2015.43.

Frosh, S. (2016). Introduction to special issue on `Acknowledgement and accountability in the Israel-Palestine conflict`, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 21, 1–4. doi:10.1057/pcs.2015.57.

Fuchs T. (2021). Kränkung, Rache, Vernichtung. Zur Phänomenologie des Hasses. (Offence, revenge, annihilation. On the phenomenology of hatred) Psyche, 75, 318–350.

Gessen, M. (December 9, 2023). In the shadow of the Holocaust. How the politics of memory in Europe obscures what we see in Israel and Gaza today. The New Yorker, The Weekend Essay.

Hall J. A., Coats E. J., LeBeau L. S. (2005). Nonverbal behavior and the vertical dimension of social relations: A meta-analysis. Psychol Bull., 131, 898-924.

Hadar, U. (2016). Resisting (with) the other: A tribute to Eyad el-Sarraj. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 21, 329-347. doi:10.1057/pcs.2016.2

Heifetz, D. (2023). The Map to Compassion: A Systems-Based Model of Human Needs. Journal of Awareness-Based Systems Change, 3(2), 41-74.

Heimann, M. (2022). The mirror operator. Int J Psychoanal., 5, 707-725.

Heron, J. (1970). The phenomenology of social encounter: The gaze. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research 31 (2), 243–264.

Hollander, N. C. (2015). Trauma as ideology: Accountability in the “intractable conflict”. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 21, 59–80. doi:10.1057/pcs.2015.67

Jabr, S., Berger, E. (2016). An occupied state of mind: Clinical transference and countertransference across the Israeli/Palestinian divide, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 21,21-40.

Kemp, M. (2011) Dehumanization, guilt and large group dynamics with reference to the West, Israel and the Palestinians. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 27(4),383–405.

Lacan, J. (1977). The split between the eye and the gaze. In Miller, J. A. (Ed.) Trans. Alan Sheridan. The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis (pp. 67-78). New York: Norton, 1981.

Mehrabian A (1972). Nonverbal communication. Chicago: Aldine Atherton.

Mitchell WJT (1992). The pictorial turn. London: Routledge.

Modigliani A (1971). Embarrassment, facework and eye contact: towards a theory of embarrassment. J Pers Soc Psychol., 71,15-24.

Riemer M (1955). Abnormalities of gaze: a classification. Psychiatr Q, 29, 659-672.

Rose, J. (2007). The Last Resistance. London: Verso.

Rosenfeld, H. (1971). A clinical approach to the psychoanalytic theory of the life and death instincts: An investigation into the aggressive aspects of narcissism. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 52(2), 169–178

Segal, H. (1987). Silence is the real crime. International Review of Psychoanalysis, 14(1), 3–12.

Sheehi, L., Sheehi, S. (2016). Enactments of otherness and searching for a third space in the Palestine-Israel matrix. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 21,81-99, doi:10.1057/pcs.2015.66.

Jaddaliya, Interview with Sheehi , L. & Sheehi, S. 14.03.22 https://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/43950

Sheehi, L. & Sheehi, S. (2022). Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Practicing Resistance in Palestine. Routledge.

Shnabel, N., & Noor, M. (2012). Competitive victimhood among Jewish and Palestinian Israelis reflects differential threats to their identities: The perspective of the needs-based model. In K. J. Jonas & T. A. Morton (Eds.), Restoring civil societies: The psychology of intervention and engagement following crisis (pp. 192–207). Wiley Blackwell

Sontag, S. (December 9, 2002). Looking at war. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/12/09

Stern, D. (1974). Mother and infant at play: The dyadic interaction involving facial, vocal, and gaze behaviors. In Lewis M, Rosenblum LA, (Eds.) The effect of the infant on its caregivers, (pp. 187-213). New York: Wiley.

Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. Basic Books.

Tang D, Schmeichel BJ (2015). Look me in the eye: Manipulated eye gaze affects dominance mindsets. J Nonverbal Behav 39, 181-194.

Tronick, E., Als, H, Adamson, L., Wise, S., Brazelton, T. B. (1978). The infant’s response to entrapment between contradictory messages in face-to-face interaction. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry., 17,1-13.

Manlove, C. (2007). Visual “Drive” and Cinematic Narrative: Reading Gaze Theory in Lacan, Hitchcock, and Mulvey. Cinema Journal, 46(3), 83-108.

Merleau-Ponty M (1962). Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Volkan, V. (2007). Massive Trauma: The Political Ideology of Entitlement and Violence. Revue française de psychanalyse, 71, 1047-1059. https://doi.org/10.3917/rfp.714.1047

Winnicott, D. W. (1949). Hate in the countertransference. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 30, 69–74.

Winnicott, D. W. (1960). The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 41, 585-595.

Woolf, V. (1940). Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid, Bradshaw, D. (Ed.), Selected Essays (pp. 216-222). Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6667/interface.23.2024.224


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2024 Jasmin Spiegel

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved | Interface | ISSN: 2519-1268