By Marni Pilafian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
EXETER, N.H. — An Armenian psychologist did not have to look far to discover the effects of the Armenian Genocide on survivors’ families. He looked instead at his own childhood.Growing up in Methuen, Mass., he was among the second generation of Armenian-American grandchildren born of survivors of the Genocide. Dr. Jack Danielian remembers this episode:
“An 8-year-old boy hears a terrifying wail emanating from a female visitor in another room having coffee with the boy’s parents and grandparents. The wail is followed by prolonged sobbing, which then is followed by an equally prolonged silence. The woman is a victim- survivor of the Armenian Genocide and a participant in the Death March, arriving in this country a shell of her former self. She is thoroughly trapped in the dangerous and potentially lethal world between terror and nothingness, despite seemingly involved in an innocuous social situation.
Without awareness, the boy is also trapped between hearing and not-hearing, between knowing and not-knowing. Despite belonging to a close-knit family, the 8-year-old does not enter the coffee room to seek explanation or reassurance from his family. And neither the boy nor his parents ever bring up the experience again.”
Working for more than 30 years in private practice in New York and New Hampshire as well as teaching at universities, Danielian has spent years coming to terms with the hidden anxiety of victims of genocide. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Harvard University, PhD in psychology from Columbia University and taught psychology for four years, becoming an associate professor.While still in New York, he undertook postdoctoral psychoanalytic training at the American Institute for Psychoanalysis, of the Karen Horney Psychoanalytic Institute and Center, and was certified in 1975. After retirement from private practice in 2001, Danielian was appointed the dean of that same institute.
I interviewed Danielian to highlight the significance of his research in two of his groundbreaking articles, “Hidden Anxiety,” in 2007, and his most recent work, “A Century of Silence: Terror and the Armenian Genocide,” published in September by the American Journal of Psychoanalysis. His work impacts the feelings and experiences of many Armenian families who are the survivors and offspring of the Armenian Genocide.