A Group-Dynamic Understanding of

Structural Violence and

Group Psychotherapy

Andreas von Wallenberg Pachaly, Düsseldorf (FRG)


In this paper, I wish to discuss the political or even better so-

cial dimension of psychoanalysis in general and psychoanalytic

group-therapy especially! To approach this subject, I want to intro-

duce to you the concept of structural violence as it was put forward

psycho- and group-historical understanding, which helps us to diag-

by Johan Galtung in the early seventies. Next, I wish to develop a

group-dynamic understanding of this concept as well as attempt a

fied internalized group-dynamics of his primary group.

nose the downfall of structural violence within the personality-

structure of an individual patient, which I understand as the petri-

therapy as a way of encountering other human beings, Here and Now,

The next step will be to integrate the psycho-historical and group-

dynamical concept of structural violence and the dimension of group

terpersonal matrix through the matrix of the member patients and the

as well as to make alive their past experience in the Here and Now.

This means that through transference and countertransference and,

Through the pattern of the differentiated developmental state of a

above all, through the process of externalizing an internalized in-

person of the therapist we can get hold of the interpersonal fab-

ric that enforced structural violence as well as its downfall in the

personality structure of the individual patient.

patients ego-functions, by his group-dynamical position and by the

Though structural violence is not enforced as direct personal vio-

interpersonal fabric he „produces“, we can diagnose, what structural

violence did to this particular patient, how it damaged him in his


personality-growth, and how it cripples him in his interpersonal ca-

and analytic group-therapist in the process of making personal

lence we have to be aware of the fact that it is yielded by the pri-

mary group as a catalysts of structural violence. Here it becomes

important to understand the interrelationship between group-dynamics

in small groups, e.g. families and large social groups, like church,

army, political organizations etc..

ders and limits, within which this particular therapist will be able

Last not least, we have to scrutinize the role of the group-analyst

structures of structural violence visible, fellable, and enable a

retrieval of ego-development. The living-condition of a therapist is

as much a necessary condition (the group-dynamics of his surrounding

However, we also should be aware of the fact that there exist social

group, he chooses to live in) as is his own ego-structure with its

own downfalls of structural violence. This will determine the bor-

to cope with structural violence in his patients. Much we owe to our

Argentinean group-analysts, who try to give us a profound analysis

structural violence. We should also think of German analysts, who

of their entanglement with totalitarianism as an extreme version of

until recently didn’t even dare to look upon their degree of enme-

researcher Johan Galtung (1975) developed a sociological understand-

shment with their nations nazi-past.

times and circumstances, favorable to the becoming aware of structu-

scious of the frozen, unconscious power structures of a given soci-

ral violence and also on the opposite unfavorable to the making con-


ing of structural violence. He recognized that violence also mani-


At the end of the sixties the Oslo social scientist and peace

and brutal than those of direct personal violence.

fests itself in unequal opportunities resulting from unequal distri-

bution of power, in differences in powers of decision-making

health services etc.. His objective was to describe that apart from

regarding the distribution of resources, educational opportunities,

violence which acts indirectly but with consequences no less cruel

personal violence in relations between individuals there is a latent

Galtung defines violence as the cause of the difference between

Africa and South East Asia, which gave them a high turnover for this

or of the failure to reduce the difference between actual and poten-

tial achievement of an individual , as well as a whole group.

ticularly to the analysis of the rich northern states compared with

Galtung himself applied his concept of structural violence par-

of the Nestle company, which spent millions of US$ on an advertising

the poorer southern states. An example, probably well known is that

product. A direct consequence of the increased feeding with artifi-

campaign for artificial milk powder for babies in many states of

A few years ago Nestle stopped this advertising campaign and has, I

cial milk, however, was a considerable increase in child mortality

in these countries. The reason was the weakening immune system of

added risk of the frequently high bacterial contamination of the

the children which was no longer fortified by human milk, plus the


needs, selling its goods, earning million of U.S.$ but at the same

Thus, through its financial power, Nestle created a market for

itself, awakening needs in the consumers, then exploiting these

Recently a polish sociologist (Jan Jerschina, 1990) raised a

time subjecting the consumers, the children, to atrocious violence.

believe, sponsored a number of water well projects, as a compensa-

An essential characteristic of structural violence is that it is

tion, so to speak.

viduals but that whole population groups are affected.

not an act of violence between individuals and effecting only indi-

ple affected by it are not conscious of it. This lack of transpar-

A further characteristic of structural violence is that the peo-

ency, this inability to see structural violence when one is person-

tions of structural violence, wether in the form of the mentally ill

ally subjected to it is perhaps its most insidious characteristic.

„beautiful“ example for this. In a lecture at the University of Cra-

severely discriminated, because they get for the same work only half

cowia he told his audience of polish students that polish women are

the wage and, because of the prevailing paternalistic structures at

of deep conviction, but we do feel equal, we don’t feel discrimi-

home they have to work almost twice the hours men have to. After his

lecture the female students came up to him and told him with a tone

structures, group dynamic constellations, the distribution of power


In our clinical work we are confronted daily with the manifesta-

or for instance in our work in the F.R.G. the 2.5 million unemployed

wether in the form of child battering or of the almost 5 million

in our country whose human qualities are trodden on and neglected,

foreigners of whom many are not integrated and often live in isola-

experienced prohibition of identity under which the individual

tion on the margin of our society.

It is my purpose here to show a connection between the personally

lives, with his consequent mental suffering or even psychopathologi-

to enable them to buy good-quality seed. Thirdly, they lack an effi-

cal symptoms, and the structural violence identifiable in social

and again the corresponding destroyed or deficient individual per-

An example which, I think, vividly demonstrates structural vio-

sonality structure.

a land reform they were given their own land, the land which had

lence is that of the farm laborers of El Salvador. In the course of

are asking for permission to give the land back to their landlords

previously belonged to their masters, large landlords. Today they

and to have them as their masters again. What is the reason for

about how to farm the land effectively. Secondly they lack credits

this? Firstly they lack know-how. In many cases they know too little

factor has become part of the personality structure. On the one side

cient sales organization to enable them to sell their crops profit-

ably. It is therefore understandable that they should call in des-

virtual serfdom than they were living autonomously.

peration for their masters, because they were better off living in

This example already leads us to suspect that structural violence

ality structure of the individual. It is conceivable that other farm

must have had some sort of effect, so to say downfall on the person-

workers might have succeeded in building up an agricultural market-

Scientific theory formation, research and practice too are influ-

ing system of their own.

In the discussion between men and women we can study how this

it is a manifestation of structural violence when many women sit at

home, dependent on their husbands and only the men go to work but on

the other hand we also see that when they do go out, many women are

wether because they have had no qualified training or because they

at a loss because they also lack a large number of abilities –

are unable to assert themselves.

opportunities to women and if they are integrated in the decision

The quota allotting system by itself is no way out of this

dilemma, but only if other elements are added, giving learning

making process.

balance of power and to make change impossible.

I want to point out that it is a further characteristic of

structural violence that it always strives to preserve the current

enced by and imbued with structural violence. On the basis of

individual, as was postulated by Dollard and Miller (1939) or in

aggression theories I would like to demonstrate the influence of

structural violence on the formation of scientific theories.

If an aggression theory postulates that man is by nature, biolog-

ically destined to be aggressive and destructive and that nothing

small social groups are given any attention or analysis. Konrad

can change this, the only consequence can be that neither large nor

that Freud, with his biologically based drive theory, also remained

Lorenz’s theory is a good example of this. But it could also be said

within the current framework of structural violence. On the other

Germany was discussed by Ammon (1970) for example, possesses a con-

hand an aggression theory which looks for the causes of destructive

aggression in the relationship between the surrounding group and the

institutionalizes the impossibility of revealing the forces underly-

siderably greater potential for destabilization and making conscious

structures of structural violence.

lence when the personal needs and opportunities of the individual

Moreover, I see it as a further characteristic of structural vio-

But structural violence is reflected not only in aggression theo-

are disregarded and he is forced into the preformed framework of a

theory of whatever kind.

example, or between psychology and legal sciences, and more seri-

ries but also in the division of labour, current in the scientific

world today between psychology and the political sciences, for

gated. This so-called scientific division of labour

ously in the division between scientists and professional politi-

cians to whom the responsibility for life or death has been dele-

adapted, seemingly compliant patient. But this character can also be

ing the exercise of structural violence. Structural violence is not

only difficult to perceive when one is subjected to it, it is also


manifested in the inability to develop, perceive and differentiate

I see all conditions which encourage the isolation of the indi-

manifestations of structural violence.

vidual and whole groups and hinder their ability to enter into

lively contact with others and to undergo further development as

This implies also a direct relationship to group-psychotherapy,

the extent of structural violence.

e.g. the capacity to participate in groups.

The extend of not lived human potentialities at any particular

time and in any particular place thus bears direct relationship to

In this connection the Zurich psychoanalyst Paul Parin (1983)

Underlying this development is an attitude of the primary group

fittingly characterized the narrow-minded petty bourgeois, a charac-

ter we frequently find in group psychotherapy as the overly well

well found in the countries of former so called „real socialism“, as

I was told by Eastern European psychotherapist.

needs until they conform to what his social circumstances offer him.

The petty bourgeois is a person who suppresses and changes his

school he does not give them support to enable them to face the

It is typical for the petty bourgeois that when his children go to

he hands his children over to the teacher and the institution or the

restrictions and frustrations which school imposes on them. Instead

ideal they represent. Thus, when a child goes home anxious and

and the teacher are right and you must do as they say“. It is not

uncertain he cannot rely on his parents saying „we’ll support you“

but it is faced with the petty bourgeois attitude that „the school

are factors, prone to exert and increase structural violence.

the parents who decide what is good and what is bad, but the ideals

represented by the teachers.

towards the child which does not convey the message „You are good,

you are important whatever happens“ but instead that wether you are

good is doubtful and that it is not yet certain whether you will be

This petty bourgeois ego-structures, which most of us probably


have to a varying degree, is a reflection of structural violence

On the other hand, I do understand all conditions, which encour-

which prevents the growing of differentiated ego- and group-struc-


ing up against structural violence. Thus the spread of a western-

age differentiation of individuals and the differentiation of

group-structures (internal differentiation, as well as differenti-

ated relationships to a variety of other groups) as a factor, stand-

type mono-culture, over-bureaucracy with its dead institutions as

attain awareness of structural violence. The starting point for this

well as the trend to a „world-government“ composed of super-powers

When encountering structural violence we face challenges on two

different levels:

Firstly, there is the ability to perceive, where structural vio-

lence manifests itself, where structural violence is exercised and

from which power structures it emanates.

develop alternative structures of interpersonal relations and to

Secondly, there is the ability to combat structural violence, to

I therefore postulate that the ability to form groups and to form

develop and offer alternative group structures.

An example of this in our recent West-German history is the green

a network of human relationships is the starting point for combat-

ting structural violence.

feminist groups which, in the course of a long process of talking to

movement, which has grown from a number of small interest groups and

each other and getting to know each other, have joined together to

because the potential enemy is so strong. It is possible to be

form a large group or political party. In my opinion this represents

the interlinking of groups whose original objective was to at least

was a feeling of being personally affected, wether with regard to an

atomic power station, the destruction of nature by building a road,

civil rights or in the many other groups which feel personally

the deformation of cities, an initiative against the curtailment of

threatened by the insane arm race and build-up.

istic is that the feeling of the individual members of the group are

The characteristic feature of these groups is that personal feel-

ings are perceived, taken seriously and shared. A further character-

is new here is that the feelings are placed in a social context.

not split off, but are integrated in the group and used as the

starting point for new perceptions, investigations and actions. What

I would like to illustrate this with an example. It is possible

afraid of the risk of an accidental atomic war or a nuclear accident

to be afraid of the atomic bomb or of the arms race and nevertheless

permanently convince oneself that it is all only in our own interest

feelings of personal concern is a manifestation of structural vio-

on the territory of our republic – as was some time ago brought home

to all of us by a Pershing II accident near Heilbronn – and never-

threat by the enemy. Or it is possible in the framework of a group,

theless to split off this fear and perceive it in the guise of a

Only in the interaction with a group which is not existentially

a secure group-dynamic setting, for this fear to be perceived and to

lead to a course of actions.

feel and conceptualize the structural violence to which he is sub-

dependent on conformity with the existing power structures, can a

human level of perception develop which permits the individual to

the ability to stand up against it.


It seems to me that a feeling of personal concern is the most

important momentum for the perception of structural violence and for

I would like to postulate that a feeling of emotional concern can

From the point of human opportunities available to the individual

be a signal that one is subjected to structural violence and that on

the other hand the ridiculing, waving aside and disregarding of

lence. I would like to illustrate this hypothesis on the basis of

the treatment of death and birth. The expectation that with today’s

medicine death is merely an avoidable biological accident has led

our daily life. I see this as a manifestation of structural vio-

amongst other things to an ever increasing exclusion of death from

and express all possible feelings.

lence, however, tearing apart the fabric of human life and denying

people the opportunity to live life to the full and to experience

of life not only as an individual problem of dealing with fear or as

I see the exclusion of dying and death from the remaining context

a problem arising from destructive or deficient small group situa-

of the whole and where the individuals‘ feelings concerning dying

tion but as the reflection of the social situation of a large group

in which the individual is deformed to a cogwheel in the machinery

tural violence stemming from a mechanistic understanding of human

and death are regarded not as an integral part of life, but as an

obstacle to efficient work.

to experience and to express feelings and to share them with others,

the relegation and exclusion of the dying within the medical machin-

ery poses an enormous restriction on the life potential of individu-

In my opinion the way we deal with birth is similar to the way we

als and groups.

deal with death and dying. The medical Association of North Rhine

tality. These showed that most birth take place on weekdays between

Westphalia in 1985 published statistics on birth and neonatal mor-

10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and that neonatal mortality has increased by

hours of the staff is not mentioned. The increase in neonatal mor-

almost 80% within the last two years. That this is the case because

most births are artificially induced and have to fit in with working

plete isolation and taken out of the human context of birth. This is

tality officially is explained as a consequence of increasing car-

diac and respiratory problems and is thus seen as a symptom in com-

biological, scientistic medicine at its worst.

tion of a superficially seen military technocratic system robs us of

This appears to me to be a particularly blatant example of struc-

life and an absolutely inflexible hospital organization in which

births are programmed and even though the father is present at the

birth this is only a formality as the human context between the

mother and father and the surrounding group of midwife and doctor is

completely destroyed and the obstetric team is only a dead, inflexi-

the possibility of a creative human birth embedded in a group and a

ble, pseudo-group. I think that the neonatal mortality associated

with this is the direct manifestation of structural violence that


holistic life context has been destroyed and that this destruction

of life opportunities is in fact a manifestation of structural vio-

recently particularly from the East. This assumption is in my opin-

I think that unconscious attitudes can also be a manifestation of

structural violence, such as the unconscious and partly conscious

scious. This desirable and encouraged basic mistrust as the founda-

assumption that all evil comes from without, in our case until

ion based on a continuously fostered attitude. I think one could say

many opportunities of human encounter.

that this attitude lies on a continuum between conscious and uncon-

plary manifestation of structural violence as it helps to prevent

Max Scheler (1916) drew up and elucidated the criteria of the

militaristic mentality – that its aim is to prevent human coopera-

tion with the potential enemy. I think we have here not only an

tural violence, which is expressed most clearly in the concept and

individual militaristic mentality but the manifestation of struc-

stantly anticipates war in order to subdue its possibly manifest

practice of deterrence. This is a practice which, so to speak, con-


forward to getting to know people of foreign cultures, to take part

Would our defence not look very different if right from the cra-

dle, in kindergarten, in school, in the family, we learnt to look

tures, if we learnt to see the human needs of our „enemy neighbors“

in exchange programs, to live in families of foreign countries and

cultures and to work on joint projects with people of other cul-

of foreign nations and cultures, particularly members of so-called

as something from which we can learn and with which we can communi-


vant, bureaucracy dependent family who couldn’t even envision an in-

This unconscious hostile attitude with regard to meeting members

potential enemy nations, could not, in my opinion be a more exem-

any questioning of existing power structures. I would also like to

level in the framework of so-called arms control and balance of

point out that what happens psychologically at an international

the relationship of state institutions toward citizens in the sense

deterrence, takes place at a national level between citizens and in

What is repeated within the matrix of the group are not only fam-

of a psychological infrastructure, frequently mirrored in our psy-

chotherapeutic groups.

the larger social systems is repeated by the patient, who takes a

ily dynamics and psycho-dynamics but also social dynamics, that

means the social position the patients primary group did have within

has no self confidence in his ability and who stems from an underdog

particular position, role and attitude within the group.

I would like to illustrate this by the example of a patient who

family, who saw no chance in life to change their life-style. Or the

the quality of his relationship. He was brought up in a civil ser-

dependent patient who at the age of 26 or 28 is still daily fed by

his mother and isn’t even fully aware of the inappropriateness of

assumed persecutor inevitably leads to self-destruction as the sup-

dependent self-responsible life. Or, I think of the patient, who is

permanently clinging to some fellow patient or preferably to the

and attachment that shows him he is worth something. They reflect a

therapist to catch a glimpse of recognition and, of supposed love

frequently enmeshed in a permanent quest for consumer goods, but al-

primary group that was driven by the quest for public recognition,

The most painful to watch maybe are the patients that permanently

ways pursued vain, superficial values, lacking any deeper relation-

ship to their deeper identity needs.

that they are not wanted and that there is no place for them – they

repeat and demonstrate that they have no right to be on this earth,

represent frequently our most suffering psychiatric patients and

and of the assumption of wrong as the justification for further sur-

they reflect a deep rooted experience of their own families of being

not admitted to human society.

But in order not to fall pray to the mistake „all evil comes from

It is not hard to see that a system of mistrust and surveillance

veillance and restriction resembles paranoic illness. But we know

from the psychopathology of paranoia that the struggle against the

posed victim becomes the destructive persecutor. I should emphasize

here that I do not mean that we should have blind faith in every-

thing. I am talking here of the inability to judge adequately wether

trust is appropriate or caution because real dangers are present. It

ceptual capacities.

is necessary to develop a realistic sensitivity and realistic per-

Structural violence today is yielded on a global scale:

ships with feelings of suspicion, different from natural disasters

The constant nuclear threat, air pollution etc. nourish continu-

ously a sickening level of anxiety, poison interpersonal relation-

that in turn tend to unite mankind.

weakest members, the children. We thus can diagnose in our patients

These permanent man-made threats also give raise to destructive

social moods that in turn effect families and most certainly their

the effects of a cumulative traumatic social mood, that destroys the

reactions, depression and other psychopathological reactions as

joy of life and kills the hope for the future and leads to various

forms of depressive reactions, to a deeply rooted feeling of being

crippled attempts, to encounter these threats.

unable to change one’s fate, and last not least, to psychosomatic

from his position and called into being the“ Ground Zero“ movement

without“ it is important to look for the link between structural

violence at the level of large groups and at the individual level. I

reflected in individual personality structures and then in turn

have already postulated above that structural violence is also

itself takes effect and exercises structural violence.

as if through a sudden revelation, managed to withdraw from these

It is interesting in this context to look at examples of people

who were embedded in a setting of structural violence and who then,

generals who, interestingly, often at the time of their retirement

structures. I am thinking here of atomic physicists who built the

bomb and suddenly said „Stop! I’m not going on with this!“, or of

(1982), a nuclear engineer who had already acted as advisor to sev-

or shortly afterwards have dissociated themselves from the current

military strategy.

one day a girl-friend went into his room. At the sight of these pins

I am thinking here too of the example of the American R,Molander

eral US presidents and whose walls were covered with pins represent-

representing 200,000, 5000,000, or 1,000,000 dead she was utterly

ing the number of dead in atomic bombardments of Soviet towns until

injured personal integrity.

shocked and shaken, as to her these pins were real human beings.

This genuine concern and upset reached Molander and he retired

I must confess that for me my polish as well as Jewish friends

in the US.

gave me a great deal of the courage to encounter structural vio-

lence. Their example to go back to their country, though martial law

had been established and they could have comfortably stayed in

nation whose members had manslaughtered their family-members, this

West-Germany, but even more their courage to visit and encounter the

become very important to me.

courage to bear their feelings and not to be stuck in a stereotyped

view of other human beings touched a string in my mind and has

the place where it is perceived and where it is possible to communi-

In order to perceive structural violence it is necessary to have

a boundary between the area where structural violence operates and

cate about it.

upon him, helping him to value his emotional cues he senses, to re-

Giving trust and confronting the patient with his nihilism, help-

ing him to experience his low self-esteem as ego-alien, as imposed

sist ridicule and to increasingly acquire a feeling for his identi-

importance of feelings of shame as an indicator of a compromised and

ty-needs represent the first step towards restoring and freeing a

destroyed identity-development.

Because we must be aware of the fact that structural violence

A further step, I don’t want to discuss here in detail, is the

chance at the same time. The chance to become aware, make visible,

wants to keep the balance of power as it is, it wants to control the

needs and wishes of the individual and whole population groups, the

threat to the yielders of structural violence.

capacity to sense own needs, to live an own identity is a permanent

This brings up the question of the enmeshment of the therapist

is he the cogwheel of a health insurance system that fosters me-

with structural violence. This problem rises on two levels.

First, is he the tool, the toy of structural violent forces, e.g.

is a typical example as well as the purely mechanistic view or the

chanical health and adaptive functioning but prevents the identity

development of its members (the 20 year long psychosomatic patient

psychiatry, adapted as one of its tools to adapt the patient more

dominantly genetic view of somatic and psychic diseases).

Already Freud preview the danger of the so-called medicalization

of Psychoanalysis, that psychoanalytic therapy would be swallowed by

efficiently to existing powers structures with all its consequences

the group therapist, the transference represents a danger and a

of a complete compliancy with the prevailing suppression and the

reigning powers that strive to maintain them.

„Unconscious“ is being frozen and tamed. Thus the role ascribed to

We always should be aware of the fact that in social roles the

tion is typical of people, who successfully combat structural vio-

sensible the „frozen“ unconscious, the petrified structural violence

and at the other hand to further maintain and strengthen the pre-

cribed roles by our patient, but also are the object of transfer-

vailing system of structural violence. Because we are not only as-

ences, role-prescriptions, and role-seductions by institutions

the detachment from societal, institutional seduction and enmeshment

society, government, health-insurance systems and others.

This is exactly the point where the process of „social death“,

internalization of structural violence.

without loosing concern and without ceasing social-participation be-

comes the focal process.

the ability to place themselves outside the social arena and from

Second is the question of is own personality structure and his

As an example of personalities who are able to resist structural

violence I am thinking her of marginal figures in society who have

there are able to perceive structural violence, to put it into

ability to dissociate himself from his society, to gather a group

words, and to gather groups about them in order to combat it. I am

thinking here of Mao Tse Tung, for example, who although born of

handling the freedom given to them, destroy it and often turn

Chinese society and by no means rich in experience abroad, had the

around himself and to go on the long march to combat structural vio-

Freud and his social death, his detachment from social recogni-


lence in the individual and in themselves. Thus, Mao initiated a

large-scale campaign against illiteracy and each man in a marching

column during the great march wear a large Chinese character on his

back so that the man marching behind him could learn a new charac-

structural violence occur and where strategies for the perception


On the other hand I am thinking of places where areas free of

the numerous peace and ecology groups. Quite obviously the Solidar-

and combatting of structural violence can be developed, such as in

nosz movement belonged to this type of group. They form a boundary

lives and our environment is often possible for the first time and

against peacelessness and environmental destruction and create an

area where perception of our destructive way of dealing with our

where, in the name of elimination of structural violence, the struc-

where forces for change can grow.

No wonder that these groups are often ridiculed or even forbid-

den. But they also create an area in which discussion of the „I told

you so!“ effect is possible. I am thinking here of the examples,

denly emerges after a few month that these people are not capable of

turally non-violent and oppressed are given autonomy and sover-

eignty, as in the case of the farm-workers in El Salvador, as well

as many of those on social security and many women, where it sud-

The separation process from the psychotherapeutic group, from the

against it by completely neglecting the nice apartments given to

them, they prove incapable of bearing responsibility and exercising

care and judgment. Such examples are used again and again by the

along that they are not capable of it“. At the same time it is con-

wielders of structural violence to say „I told you so! I said all

tive personality structures of those concerned which are the product

scientiously ignored that this is the outcome of deficient-destruc-

of structural violence and that a change in which the victims of

structural violence can only succeed if it goes hand in hand with

structural violence are only formally liberated and given power,

capital or knowledge is doomed to failure as the liberation from

succeed in giving up their petrified roles and rigid positions in

the opportunity for a liberating compensatory ego-development.

The Martinique black psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, who worked in

Algeria argued already that the resolution of the colonial situation

becomes only possible, when both parties, oppressed and oppressor

culture as a brother-human culture, both cultures can learn from

favour of an interaction on a different level, e.g. getting to know

each other, to learn from each other etc.. Only if the rigid culture

of the oppressor does open up itself and experiences the oppressed

parts of the personality structure and of an internalized group-dy-

each other. To become aware of the interdependence of human cultures

becomes only possible if the colonial attitude has been truly aban-

therapist represents, at its best, this „solution“ of the colonial


situation where structural violence ceases to exist and both recog-

nize and respect each other as unique human organisms. However there

is a long way to that goal.

tutes in psychotherapy and group-analysis tend, themselves, to main-

It is no great secret that the majority of the training insti-

to help the therapist-to-be to bring to the open existing struc-

tain and perpetuate existing power-structures and are not very prone

to oppose them. (I only would like to mention here the West-German

tures of structural violence or even to profoundly question them and

system of the „adjunct title“ of psychotherapy to medical doctors

thus the status of a quasi civil-servant with all the financial

and its correspondent for psychologists. Its aim is to give the

psychotherapist-to-be access to the health insurance money-pot and

securities and administrative imprisonments respectively).

living in completely foreign cultures, and the psychotherapeutic

Experiences I found helpful in the process of becoming aware of

and working through internalized structures of structural violence

are encounters in culturally very heterogeneous groups, the longer

structive detachment that make it possible to become aware of own

training under a member of a foreign culture, who is not a member of

the prevailing power structure.

structural violence is to enter into or to create situations of con-

The art and the skill in challenging internalized structures of

work away, at the mercy of a sluggish and overpowered administrative

namic which unconsciously is externalized and restored in the here

and now again and again.

And here I mean very powerful and very destructive structures.

Jean Paul Sartre expressed it once very to the point: It is suffi-

culture and colonialism there and here) show us what we made of them

cient that our victims (by this he meant the victims of European

to get an idea what we made out of ourselves.

who is not merely satisfied to be a cogwheel of the existing power-

And thus I feel it the utmost task of any group-psychotherapist,

structure and a transmitter of structural violence, to continuously

that demand personal change, to what degree do I submit to an adap-

question himself and expose himself to situations that make possible

the question, to what degree do I repress and oppress experiences

superego which is unyielding to human needs and to fellow human

tive medico-therapeutic repairshop enterprise that merely adapts the

patient and alienates him even further from himself, and to what

requires relationships to other people, the security and protection

degree do I conduct scientific research under the control of a

beings as well.

Structural violence can only be perceived and combatted by indi-

viduals and groups, who are able to perceive and tolerate fear. This

lated and cut off, without the support of a surrounding group, they

of a constructive group with a positive basic mood.

I think that many of our politicians are neither corrupt or evil

makes it impossible to perceive, let alone to tolerate fear. Iso-

but that they live in a personal and political environment which

non-violence led Thoreau to the recognition that a citizen has the

apparatus, which often determines everything; so as to stand up to

competition they try to make a name for themselves with what are

often in reality insignificant details. They often have neither the

inner nor the interpersonal freedom to sense or discuss anything of

do not have the ability to create for themselves a group of criti-

an existential, essential or significant nature and sadly they often

cally supporting people.

positive image of man, is a challenge to all forms of structural

To combat structural violence we also need to combat the basic

mistrust which exists at the basis of our technocratic system. A

nal youth the opportunity to be honest.

violence. To give women the vote, to determine over their body, to

provide qualified and interesting or like Makarenko, to give crimi-

plines which helps to preserve structural violence. In the struggle

In order to combat structural violence we also need to combat the

scientific division of labour between universities and private

extent it is possible to combat structural violence at the level of

institutions and the division of labour between different disci-

against structural violence we can, therefore, say „the road is the

The consideration of structural violence leads me to ask to what


the large social group. I am thinking here of freedom fighters such

perceptible, visible, and open to change.

as Thoreau, Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

Thoreau was inspired by the writings and teachings of the Hindu

right and the duty to break laws which are against humanity.

religion, Ghandi by Thoreau and King by both. The philosophy of

Ghandi developed satyagraha, a powerful concept combining love

and strength, as the theoretical method which makes it possible to

unify and motivate structurally non-violent groups and to change

King was convinced that Ghandi’s method was the only moral and

violent structures.

possible way for an oppressed group of people to fight against

develop further an understanding of satyagraha as he saw it against

social injustice. With the concept of agape he himself tried to

his Christian background. For him Agape, understanding as the

loved community. Through agape he saw all human life as being in

redeeming good will open to all people, was the form of love in the

teachings of Christ with the help of which one could restore the

that there is a quantum leap in development. It is not necessary to

mutual relationship, all human beings as brothers, all humanity as a

single process of development.

in my opinion, that we should weave a net and establish relation-

I think that the importance of todays approach lies in the fact

avenge hate with hate in order to make the bitterness of this world

higher, more differentiated level. The message to be given today is,

even greater but to challenge the opponent at a developmentally

tional context. In international comparison the narrow-minded, petty

ships with many groups. What distinguishes us from Thoreau, Ghandi,

and even King is that today many problems can not be resolved at a

national level but can only be understood and changed in an interna-

Düsseldorf Teaching and Training Institut of Psychoanalysis

bourgeois group behavior at the international level often becomes

This view emphasizes the importance of such international insti-

tutions like the WHO, UNESCO, or the UN etc., that carry the poten-

tial of opening an international and transcultural space, thus

planting the seed for the perception of an invisible web of

Ammon, G.(1970): Gruppendynamik der Aggression. Kindler, München

structural violence. This applies also for international scientific


Dollard, I. et al. (1939): Frustration and Aggression. Yale University


Press, New Haven

Molander, R.(1982): Wie ich lernte die Bombe zu fürchten. Der Stern,

Fanon Frantz (19 ):

Galtung, J.(1975): Strukturelle Gewalt. Rowohlt, Reinbeck

Grossarth-Maticek, R.(1975): Revolution der Gestörten? Quelle und

Meyer, Heidelberg

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