Original Research

Psalm 137: Perspectives on the (neuro-) psychology of loss

Hennie Viviers
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 31, No 1 | a397 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v31i1.397 | © 2010 Hennie Viviers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 May 2010 | Published: 29 October 2010

About the author(s)

Hennie Viviers, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


The neuro-psychological imperative first implies the formation of neural networks through exposure to the external environment, both physically and ideologically, giving us our ‘selves’. It in turn implies the projection of this internal world onto the outer to achieve neuro-environmental consonance. Situations like bereavement, immigration or exile break down this consonance and are accompanied by strong negative emotions. When viewing Psalm 137 through the lens of the neuro-psychological imperative, its intense experience of the loss of land (and ‘self’) becomes transparent as this psalm vividly recalls the devastating experience of the Babylonian exile. The shocking end of the psalm, detailing the desire for the brutal annihilation of enemy infants, expresses the understandable ideological drive of the exiles to, ironically, retrieve their lost ‘selves.’ Although understandable as an upholding of the established internal world, the manner in which this is to be achieved is not to be emulated by modern civilised societies.


bereavement; exile; neuro-psychological imperative; neural networks; Psalm 137


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