The story of Nadia Murad: a symbol of resilience, in a psychoanalytic key

The story of Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi activist and pacifist, who escaped the genocide of the Yazida people at the hands of ISIS, an extreme symbol of resilience, read in a psychoanalytic key.


Nadia Murad is a young Yazidi woman from Sinjar, northern Iraq, who today became famous because she had the courage to denounce the terrible genocide that her people have experienced since 2014, at the hands of ISIS, and all the brutal harassment and inhuman that he had to endure on his skin. The skin of a young 21-year-old girl, who in a few moments, finds herself uprooted from the quiet life of a student, from her dream of becoming a make-up artist, from everyday life in the fields, to help and support her family. Nadia after being imprisoned and sold as a sexual slave manages to escape and reach Baghdad, and from there to get to Germany, where finally her life can start again, but bringing the terror and pain of imprisonment to her heart and body, of having seen all the men of his village killed, of having seen all his companions raped and sold as slaves of petty and animalistic buyers. It brings with it the pain of the loss of a mother, her brothers, her granddaughter Kathrine, but also the regret of not being able to save them.

Despite this, Nadia today is fighting for human rights, she spoke in Geneva, telling the United Nations about the terrible massacre she witnessed, the life that many and many surviving Yazis could not recover, scattered around the world and without anyone who welcome them. Since that November 2015, numerous nations have decided to open their borders to Yazidi refugees, giving them refuge and support.

But what I often ask myself, after reading every minute of Nadia’s life told by her in her biography, is how she managed to get up. How can he have the strength to tell his inhuman story and to fight for a better world, made of integration and respect?

My answer is in the word resilience, a term that derives from the physical world and which refers to the ability of a material to undergo a certain force without breaking. It was then translated into the psychological world, indicating a person’s ability to face and overcome a traumatic event, a period of extreme difficulty, managing to reorganize his existence, in an active and dynamic way.

But where does resilience come from? What made Nadia Murad have it?

First of all, we could believe that Nadia’s strength and courage are derived from the internalization of a good “self object”, said in Kohutian terms, the internalization of objects that have satisfied the child’s need for specularity and idealization, which have allowed to develop talents and potential. These objects of which the Austrian psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut speaks in the 70s of the last century, are nothing more than the fruit of the relationships between parent and child that have allowed this latter to create an identity , self-esteem and the ability to establish relationships.

Surely, from the story of Nadia, we can see the mirroring role played by the parents and in particular by the mother Shami. She is the emblem of strength and courage for Nadia, since despite her husband’s poverty and abandonment, she tried in every way to ensure that her children were “satisfied and optimistic” (quote directly from the biography) with great dignity and spirit of sacrifice.

Nadia also tells in her biography the attentions received from her mother, their attunement, made of looks and smiles, which confirm a probable secure attachment with her: the attachment, introduced by the English psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s, not only allows receive the fundamental care for survival and growth, but it confers the ability to establish and maintain solid and healthy relationships, made of reciprocity, communication and trust; a good attachment is also that which, in moments of great crisis, allows the individual to remain alive and not to abandon himself to death, just as Nadia did when she was in the hands of her torturers and managed to have the strength to to escape.

The ability to cling to the life that Nadia has had follows the presence of a “good internal object”, in Kleinian terms. Melanie Klein, also an Austrian psychoanalyst, operating in the 1930s, speaks, in fact, of Good Breast and Bad Breast, in relation to the first trimester of the child’s life, in which the same, in a schizo-paranoid position, perceives the breast of the mother in an ambivalent way (good and bad at the same time), and cannot understand that they belong to the mother herself.

Only later, in what the psychoanalyst calls the “depressive phase” does the child understand the belonging to the mother of the good breast and the bad breast and feel guilty. This complex system allows the child to create a world view made up of object relationships and fantasies relegated to them.

Finally, it could be said that in Nadia Murad the principle of Eros, the vital one that drives love and pleasure, in all its forms including spiritual pleasure, is perhaps stronger than the deadly principle of Thanatos, described by Freud, and it allows millions of people, just like you, witness of genocide or massacres, to fight so that this does not happen again and to continue to trust in the good of man and man. Even believing in the goodness of a supreme God, guided by the principle of Good, only gives courage to the discouraged and strength to the defeated.