Robert Jay Lifton is a nonegenarian psychiatrist, author, and psychohistorian. In his long life, he has studied and written about the psychological causes and effects of wars and political violence. In addition to his theory of thought reform, he was an early proponent of psychohistorical techniques, and he was instrumental in the inclusion of Post traumatic Stress Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. He coined the term, psychic numbing. In 1953, he began interviewing US servicemen who had been prisoners of war during the Korean War, as well as others who had been in Chinese prisons after 1951. He published THOUGHT REFORM AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF TOTALISM: A STUDY OF BRAINWASHING IN CHINA. Among his other books are DEATH IN LIFE: SURVIVORS OF HIROSHIMA; HOME FROM THE WAR: VIETNAM VETERANS – NEITHER VICTIMS NOR EXECUTIONERS; and THE NAZI DOCTORS: MEDICAL KILLING AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GENOCIDE.
His latest book is LOSING REALITY: ON CULTS, CULTISM AND THE MINDSET OF POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS ZEALOTRY. We spoke with Dr. Lifton on October 19, 2020.