Hélio Campos Mello, Parque de la Memoria - Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hélio Campos Mello, Parque de la Memoria - Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Below, we reproduce two texts extracted from the book Crossing the Silence, Testimony and Reparation (2015), published by Clínica do Testemunho do Therapeutic Projects Institute, in São Paulo, under the coordination of Dr. Moisés Rodrigues da Silva Júnior and Issa Fernando Sarraf Mercadante.


By Paulo Abram, president of the Amnesty Commission

Testimony Clinics Project is a new stage of the repair program of Amnesty Commission; seeks, through a Public Call, to select civil society projects to promote the implementation of support centers and psychological care for those affected by State violence referred to in Law n. 10.559/2002. The reflexes of State violence practiced during the period of repression are perpetuated in the victims' minds even over the years, and the lack of a public policy to repair these violations reinforces the State's refusal to recognize the mistakes made by its agents. , and contribute to a complete non-repair. Clinical care for victims of damage caused by violence by the Brazilian State is necessary in order to seek full reparation. A repair only in the financial and moral fields leaves a crack in the psychological field that needs to be studied and eradicated through a quality public policy. The State has an obligation to provide psychological support to citizens affected by serious human rights violations.

It is in this context that the Testimony Clinics Project of the Amnesty Commission arises, which aims to implement support and care centers for victims and witnesses, in which the assisted can exchange experiences with their peers, through listening carried out by a team. with specific knowledge, through appropriate methodology for these types of trauma arising from State violence.

[…] Thus, the Amnesty Commission expands and gives effect to the public policies of reparation of the Brazilian State, and allows society to know the past and extract lessons from it for the future, reiterating the premise that only by knowing the state will of the past we can avoid its repetition in the future, making political amnesty a path for critical reflection, for democratic deepening and for the recovery of public confidence of citizens in relation to state institutions. The Project invests in plural perspectives, selecting initiatives through public notice, guaranteeing equal possibility of access to all, and preventing a single world view from imposing itself as hegemonic over the others or a single methodology imposing itself in the epistemological field, in respect for free thought and the right to historical truth, memory and reparation, disseminating essential values ​​for a plural State that respects human rights.


Team of the Testimony Clinic of the Instituto Projetos Terapeuticos, with final writing by Rodrigo Blum

The year 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the coup in Brazil and the 40th of the systematization of the doctrine of national security, a true “architecture of exception” designed by the civil-military dictatorship.

The state of exception in Brazil 'destroyed books and documents, invaded university campuses, prohibited the reading of works and authors considered anti-fascist, socialist, communist, among others. He censored texts, books, song lyrics, plays and created the role of censor in newsrooms and communication vehicles; it legitimized whistleblowing, spying on neighbors, wiretapping and created a climate of suspicion, discomfort and permanent surveillance. Mainly, it instituted the death penalty by firing squad and banishment from Brazilian soil. It did not legally institute two tragic figures that, if legalized, would explicitly put the country against the Geneva Conventions: the authorization for torture and the forced disappearance of captured opponents.2.

Half a century after the fateful military coup of 1964, the traumatic effects of this terrible period in our history are beginning to be brought to light.

[...] Up to the present day we keep, through the generations, the marks of the devastating effects resulting from the traumatic violence exercised by the power of the Latin American dictatorships that, between the 60s and 80s of the 14th century, supported by the discourse of the doctrine of national security, instituted state terrorism as a policy of action. An unquestionable, implacable institutional power, with a logic of operating at random and subject to total arbitrariness, supported by an institutional structure that coordinated the implementation of a policy of disorientation XNUMX and terror.

According to Giorgio Agamben (2004) it is a form of exercise of power from which the concepts of subjective right and legal protection no longer make sense. What does one do with this terror that haunts? Is it possible to stop repeating the trauma? How to approach the horror experiences that, sometimes, are only known by the marks left on the parents and that cross the generations?

1This text aims at the same time to present the work carried out by the team of Clinicas do Testemunho - SP, as well as to introduce the theme worked by several texts contained in this book. In this sense, we will find here a composition between theory and clinic, as well as the conceptual production of the various authors

2Mary Help of Christians of AC Arantes. Torture: testimonies of an all-too-human crime. São Paulo: Casa do Psicólogo, 2013, p. 129.


By Moisés Rodrigues da Silva Junior*

What exactly constitutes torture? The ancestral techniques of the grand inquisitor Torquemada? The pau-de-arara, the electric shock devices? In the imagination of many people these are the first scenes that occur when we talk about torture.

For the vast majority, these are the only scenes and, for this very reason, they end up closing their eyes or ears to a series of other more subtle but equally cruel ways of tormenting the other. The mock executions, witnessing the torture of loved ones, threats of rape, handling of genitals and isolation appeared linked to at least as much anguish as that caused by physical methods.

It is not just physical and visible abuse that must be taken into account. Psychological manipulation, humiliation, sensory deprivation and forced postures cause as much damage, stress and anguish as physical torture.

In Brazil, since the Imperial Constitution of 1824, a declaration against torture and other inhumane treatment has been signed: “From now on, whippings, torture, branding with a hot iron, and all other cruel punishments have been abolished”. Even so, nothing is presented in our republican constitutions about the practice of torture (Constitutions of 1891, 1934, 1937, 1946 and 1967), except for a mention in the 1967 Constitution regarding “respect for the physical and moral integrity of the detainee and the prisoner”. ”.

[…] Torture, due to its brutal character determined by deliberate human action, which aims to annul people, terrorize them, and which, due to its collective and political dimension, makes use of particular human characteristics, and cannot be considered a “ excess” produced by an isolated sadist. It is, rather, a political institution of the state, producing subjectivity not only in its direct victims, but also in their relatives, descendants and by irradiation in the social fabric as a whole.

The extreme experience that torture produces always marks and transforms the fate of the tortured, who presents himself as the incarnate witness of a wound that concerns everyone. His wounded body offers itself as a symbol, as a flag on which what was hit is inscribed and what Robert Antelme (2013) calls “a feeling of belonging to the human species”.

Thus, the climate of generalized terror and the institutionalization of torture translate, in subjectivity, as the loss of the social support necessary for its functioning. As Eric Erikson describes: “(…) the self continues to exist, even though it has suffered damage and even permanent changes; the you continues to exist, even if distant, and it can be difficult to relate to it; but the we ceases to exist.” (p. 73)

Situations of great violence and social silencing directly strike the basic fabrics of (social) life constituted by the bonds that mutually link people, causing a loss of trust in the social environment, in the family, in the community, in government structures, in the more general logic in that we live The matrix of the identificatory constellation, the basis of the feeling of belonging to humanity and of one's own identity, is deeply shaken, altering its functioning.

Despite not having a single symptomatological picture, nor a univocal syndrome, the psychological sequelae of torture are serious and permanent, with a tendency to worsen over the years, and more. According to Léo Eitinger (1995), the list of damages is extensive:

*the traumatic experience produces transgenerational sequelae;

*the rate of psychoses is five times higher than in populations that did not suffer from them;

*the suicide rate is 16 to 23% higher in societies where torture has taken place, social insertion is very difficult, family breakdowns are frequent;

*social integration is very difficult, family breakdowns are frequent;

*the work capacity is greatly reduced, sometimes even impossible;

*in addition to the initial trauma, the aggravating effects produced by subsequent retraumatization must be taken into account;

*some symptoms of sequelae appear soon after apparently asymptomatic long periods (20, 30, 40 years after the act);

*physical illnesses, hospitalizations, surgical interventions, etc. are more serious and frequent in societies that have suffered acts of torture.

Thinking about these conditions that torture imposes on society, we direct the focus of our work to the psychological consequences of those involved in acts of torture and a possible clinical approach to these situations.


According to Gilles Deleuze (1988), the issues that psychoanalysis is faced with are inevitably political. They always deal with “how much” and “how” desire can be produced and expressed in the face of injunctions of subjection. Responding clinically to traumas of a different nature to childhood sexual traumas challenges the clinician to develop concepts useful to the situation, in which the traumatic experience is determined by a state policy with a first and explicit objective of making people speak, followed by a search for social silencing.

Nicolas Abraham & Maria Torok (1995), committed to the idea of ​​a psychoanalysis with human features and attentive to the acceptance of the human, in all its suffering, said that if someone asked them to summarize the whole of the Ferenczian theme in a single word, this would be catastrophe and its synonyms: traumas, accidents, affections, pathos.

For Sándor Ferenczi (1931), the immediate reaction to trauma is a “psychic and physical agony that causes such incomprehensible and unbearable pain” (p. 79) that the subject needs to distance himself from himself, living in a state of suspension. Ferenczi's (1934) descriptions of psychic commotion refer to terror, catastrophe, death. The displeasure caused by excess cannot be overcome, the subject being faced with maximum vulnerability and impotence, leaving only “(…) self-destruction, which, as a factor that frees from anguish, will be preferred to silent suffering.” (p. 111)


Ferenczi (1931) postulates the reality of trauma. What is fundamental here is not the notion of reality, but, mainly, what can be understood as traumatic. A catastrophe is not necessarily traumatic; it can become traumatic if this other element is added to the disaster, capable of undermining the basic trust in oneself, in the other, in life. “The worst thing is really the denial, the affirmation that nothing happened, that there was no suffering (…) this is, above all, what makes the trauma pathogenic.” (p. 79)

By denial, we mean the non-recognition and perceptive and affective non-validation of the violence suffered. It is a discredit of perception, suffering and the very condition of the subject of the one who has experienced the trauma. Therefore, what is denied is not what happened, but the subject. This model does not privilege characters, but relationships. Relations of power, of devaluation, of disrespect, in short, political relations with the involvement of affections such as vulnerability, humiliation and shame, whose implications are necessarily political.


Considering recognition as the opposite of denial implies saying that traumatic effects can occur when someone is not recognized in their condition. A neutral position in this regard is not possible: denial, as a non-validation of a subject's perceptions and affects, can be understood as a refused recognition. Along these lines, we can say that recognition is, in the first place, recognition of the vulnerability of a subject.

For Ferenczi (1932) the subject is vulnerable in the relationship with the other, which also implies the recognition of their own vulnerability. Thus, the possibility of a horizontally constituted community, a “community of destiny” is inaugurated, based on the precariousness of its members. In the words of Ecléa Bosi (1995): “The community of destiny refers to the fact that a group of people can come together, without previous certainties, to discuss or build their own destiny.” (p. 34)

[…] Ferenczi's thought points us to a possibility of a bond that, instead of being constituted around authority and the illusion of guarantees, is sustained on the same “community of destiny”. The extent to which a traumatized subject is welcomed, the extent to which his complaint about an injustice suffered is admitted, the extent to which his need for reparation is recognized: all this configures a need that must extend to the field of culture, law, and of politics. The great teaching of these times in which we live has been that the social bond is anchored in the very foundation of politics as the art of living together.


ABRAHAM, N. & TOROK, M. The shell and the core. Sao Paulo: Listen. 1995

ANTELME, R. The human species. Sao Paulo: Record, 2013

DELEUZE, G. Difference and repetition. Rio de Janeiro: Grail, 1988.

EITINGER, L. Prison in a concentration camp and psychic traumatization. In: AZPIROZ, MRA (Org.) Repression and oblivion: psychological and social effects of political violence in the decades since. Montevideo: Roca Viva, 1995.

ERIKSON, E. Trauma and community. In: ORTEGA, F. (Org.) Trauma, culture and history: interdisciplinary reflections for the new millennium. Bogotá: National University of Colombia, 2011.


(1922). Psychoanalysis and social policy. In: Complete works. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1992.

(1931). Analysis of children with adults. Op. cit., v. IV

(1932). Clinical diary. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1990

*Moisés Rodrigues da Silva Júnior, physician, psychoanalyst, institutional analyst. Member of the Department of Psychoanalysis at Instituto Sedes Sapientia and Professor of the Psychoanalysis Course at the same institute. Coordinator of the Therapeutic Projects Testimony Clinic (2013-2016).

Leave a comment

Please write a comment
Please write your name