I’m reminded of Gareth Morgan’s concept of a “psychic prison” when I think of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The idea is that in organisations, the neuroses, idiosyncrasies and psychoses of the founders and leaders get ossified in the culture and structures of the organisation. An observant watcher can see the signs everywhere, from how confidential information is handled, how dissidents are punished, how people are promoted and even the seemingly little things like the organisation of coffee breaks, all-hands meetings and nights out.

I think the same goes with countries: particularly ones with psychopathic leaders.

Russia right now is an extension of his diseased mind. A place where traitors are everywhere. Where enemies are seeking to invade. Where collapse and defeat is around every corner.

Russia is trapped in a psychic prison: not necessarily of Putin’s making, but one he fortified while in power. It’s a sick mental state that’s getting more paranoid and aggressive by the day.

My partner has seen Russian people she interacted with before the war turn into mouthpieces of the very worst of Putin’s ravings. She is involved in a very niche community on Facebook, but I expect that similar sentiments have been uttered in all sorts of different communities. Russians are trapped in their leader’s mental breakdown and parroting his fears and prejudices. It’s a sort of Stockholm syndrome.

Normal people with a relatively healthy attitude towards others don’t think like this.

It’s not just Russia, of course. Many German people had similar attitudes before and during World War II, as did many Japanese. You can see the same sentiments today in America, Poland, Hungary, China and Brazil. The paranoia of the leader infects the thinking of the populace.

But such breakdowns can also dissipate quickly. Germany and Japan quickly accepted radically different norms after their defeat in World War II, and many Eastern European countries quickly cast off their communist norms after 1989.

The end of this terrible debacle has to address this dreadful mode of thinking, otherwise it will persist beyond Putin. Russia has to have a stake in the future of the region. It should not be casted from the international community, lest we want a recurrence in an even more malignant form some years down the road.

But these sentiments are not for now. Right now, Putin has to be defeated or contained. He can’t be reasoned with or appeased. It’s after Putin that Russia needs positive engagement. A way has to be found to allow our Russian fellow travellers to bury their resentments and work for better days.