Help us sharing our research, consultation and experiences

Donate Now

The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM22-PP4: Fleeing for the exit: Afghanistan - the story of a nation re-entering traumas of the past

Parallel Papers Session 1
Friday 1 July 10.15am-11.30 CEST
Paper Code: PP4
CE credits available

Fleeing for the exit: Afghanistan - the story of a nation re-entering traumas of the past and one family’s pursuit of a new future in the UK

Presenter: Rachel Ellison


From trauma:

The fall of Kabul. 8th August 2021. Afghanistan is once again under Taliban rule, after 20 years of reconstruction and the promotion of human and women’s rights.

Afghanistan proudly boasted women judges, women MPs, men who support girls and women’s and mobile phones, television and You Tube.

Then within hours, a shocking reversal. Burkas and veils, Islamic music instead of pop music, beards...bomb blasts, night raids on people’s homes, disappearances, the scramble to exit.

This is the story of an Afghan family, living in hiding who are trying to come to the UK

Towards new engagement, challenges and the future:

This paper explains and explores the trauma of individuals and of a nation. Feelings of the future ending. New trauma for a generation born into a free-er society. The return of trauma for earlier generations who have lived under Taliban rule before. We explore the search for a fantasised future of rescue, visas, safety and an education.

We consider the different organisations or perspectives involved from lawyers and national governments to ordinary people trying to help with clothing, refugee support, Whatsapp groups.

For some the Taliban’s arrival is the death of open society and democracy...for the Taliban, their control represents new positive engagement with the future, including their idealised version of an Islamic state.

One might consider the following psychological concepts:

Trauma. Splitting. Fantasy. Fear. Terror. PTSD. Depression. Isolation. Abandonnement. Despair. Memories of living under the last Taliban rule. Retraumatised individuals. Also, Freud’s cycle of repetition.

The seduction of Afghanistan by the West...a mystique and fantasied glamour of rippling books and almond trees...versus the brutality and dishonesty that can disillusion in the way the country is run or the way individuals behave.

The polarisation between the traumatised, disempowered and poor versus the helper ‘rescuer’ position of having choice, democracy, financial security and human rights.

My credibility in this space?

As a BBC news reporter, I was sent to Afghanistan after the fall of the previous Taliban regime, to deliver a human rights and women’s self-empowerment project. The project was part of an enormous investment by the West, to aid reconstruction and capacity-building in Afghanistan.

Biographic Summary: Rachel Ellison

Former BBC News Journalist and international project manager in Afghanistan. Awarded an MBE from the British Queen 'for the promotion of human rights and women's self-empowerment in Afghanistan'. Coaches leaders across more than 40 different cultures, with jobs in banking, retail, pharmaceuticals, law, logistics, government and NGOs. Awarded an Honorary PhD after the publication of her first book: Global Leadership & Coaching - flourishing under intense pressure at work [Routledge]. Awarded the Harold Bridger Prize by ISPSO. During the pandemic, Rachel coached medical staff on Covid wards, pro-bono coaching and set up a Food Bank.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this session:

  1. Participants will be able to critique and generate psychoanalytic interpretations in response to the story they hear.
  2. Participants will be able to apply techniques to generate creative ways of looking at this story and developing our understanding of what is going on on multiple levels.
  3. Participants will be able to identify psychoanalytic themes that are familiar to them but applied in a new context for them.