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Professor Oleksandr Filts: “Ukraine is becoming an enzyme, a catalyst for processes in Europe”

Interview with Professor Oleksandr Filts, President of the Ukrainian Umbrella Association of Psychotherapy

On the anniversary of Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine, journalists talked to Professor Oleksandr Filts, President of the Ukrainian Union of Psychotherapists. Read about the consolidation and solidarity of Ukrainians among themselves and with Europe, severing ties and the aggressor's influence, reviving culture, and Ukraine's mission in the interview.

Professor Alexander Filts, President of the Ukrainian Umbrella Association of Psychotherapy
Professor Alexander Filts, President of the Ukrainian Umbrella Association of Psychotherapy

Wartime leaves its mark on everything and everyone. How did it affect the Ukrainian Union of Psychotherapists: what has changed in its activities?

These are very substantive questions. First of all, I would like to say that there are certain specific, very important points that the war imposed on the psychotherapeutic community. And not only on it. So let me emphasize one of these important points: the war has broken down many inter-confessional and intergroup wedges. Every community, whether professional or general cultural, has its subgroups. But these subgroups immediately disappeared, were knocked out. The words "unity" or "togetherness" or "coexistence" became more than just an empty sound. These words and concepts such as "joint work" and "joint efforts" are often attributed to the realm of ideal ideas. In our case, it has become a real fact.

If we talk about the Ukrainian Union of Psychotherapists, I would like to remind you that our union is one of the oldest in Ukraine, having existed for 31 years. We have been there from the very beginning of the European Association of Psychotherapy, which was formally founded in 1992 in Budapest. We were present in its structure as one of the cornerstones. Accordingly, we are very much integrated into the European Association of Psychotherapy: our structure is built considering the rules and principles that coincide with the European Association, and all educational projects are synchronized. Our organization is quite large and stable. We cover the whole of Ukraine and have offices in all its regions.

That is why we set ourselves the goal of maintaining unity in the first place. Many of our colleagues have moved abroad. This unity became the central principle of our association's functioning as a non-therapeutic goal. We created a community that we called "Each of us is the face of Ukraine." Psychotherapists who left the country worked a lot with the refugee community not therapeutically, but in order to declare respect for the rules, for traditions, for functioning in every place they were in. It made an impression. We constantly reminded them to "respect local rules, local laws!"

To summarize, the war has affected our organization in such a way that the principle of unity and coexistence has become central. And it helped us preserve our professional identity and make new friends.

How do you see the mission of the Ukrainian Union of Psychotherapists? What do you plan for the future?

Everything depends on our country's progress towards Europe. Speaking about the mission, I emphasize the mission of Ukraine itself. At all levels of culture, from the everyday level to the most complex things, such as worldview, understanding of the world, philosophical principles, religious and social approaches, Ukraine is becoming an enzyme or a catalyst for processes in the world. First of all, in Europe. Catalyst or enzyme is not a simple word. By themselves, they may not be very organized or simple. But it is something that accelerates and directs other processes in the right direction. And I think that the series of joint Symposia with the European Association of Psychotherapists that we have planned and successfully held the first one is an enzymatic process. We have stirred up the European Association very intensively, forced it to take steps that were rarely taken before.

Because of the war, we proposed to expel the Russian organization from the European Association, but we did not succeed. Therefore, we decided to act in a different way, as a side effect, by proposing a symposium on ethical principles in the work of a psychotherapist. This issue has almost never been raised in psychotherapy in the manner in which we have.

So, our mission is that we will enzyme, change directions in Europe. In psychotherapy, this is already obvious

In the previous question, we used the phrase "wartime". But when it comes to the beginning of the war, people use two very distant dates - February 24, 2022 and 2014. Why do Ukrainians and representatives of other European countries often count the war from last year? How can this be explained in terms of psychology?

Why this is happening in Europe, I cannot say for sure. But let me joke to some extent: I am surprised that you said "the war with Russia began nine years ago." After all, the war began back in the days of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the seventeenth century.

Seriously, perhaps the answer to your question is the following observation. Europe, as a generalized geopolitical corporation, has had a very mixed, even consanguineous, elite since the formation of certain national blocs. This elite created a certain state framework. And the Russian elite was not really Russian to a large extent, but had long been closely intertwined with French and German aristocratic families. Perhaps this seems absurd and even strange. But as psychotherapists, we know that culture has a tremendous influence, even on bodily experiences. No matter how mystical it may seem, there is no mysticism in it: cultural processes influence physical processes and vice versa. Underestimation of the enormous cultural influence of Russia on Europe and Europe on Russia, this intertwining, is what holds Europe so close.

To this day, we say that information warfare, along with all the constructs that Russia throws into the space, is extremely dangerous. No less dangerous than physical warfare. Russia has very strong hopes for the cultural aspect and the connection that was discussed earlier, which is more difficult to break than the material one.

Information manipulation mutates like any virus and is quite successfully disguised as a desire to "be objective" and "hear different opinions". What is the reason for this?

We used to say that a person is guided by the principle of reality in his or her actions and activities. This statement is not true today. I believe that a person should be guided by the obvious, not reality. Because reality - physical and virtual - is so mixed up that it is impossible to tell where the boundaries are. But obviousness as the presence of a solid fact is still quite clear and understandable. So, oddly enough, I will repeat my advice: listen only to official information.

Crises, perhaps, always emphasize our problems like a spotlight. What problems of European society have been brought to the surface by the Russian-Ukrainian war?

The main crisis occurred in the breakdown of values, which stretches from the Middle Ages to the 20s of the twentieth century. The system of values has broken down and we may have to turn to the values of the pre-medieval period. That is, to the ancient ones. Europe as a carrier of culture has suffered the greatest crisis. But it will be the first to return to its ancient origins. We need to understand that truth is truth, good is good, and evil is evil. But the final phase of postmodernism has blurred these concepts. To return to these concepts, we need to return to the roots.

Thank you for your answers! They will be of interest to both the professional community and the general public.

And I, in turn, would like to thank all my colleagues from the Ukrainian Union of Psychotherapists who prepared a high-level joint symposium on ethics on February 24, and my colleagues from the European Association of Psychotherapists who attended the meeting and took a step of mutual respect.



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