Over Trauma, presentation in Amsterdam
- On February 16, 2015
1. Past. Psychoanalysts are also ordinary human beings and are vulnerable from the external world traumas. On the last century, three the most devastating wars in human history took place.
Wars in Europe. (Vaata pildid PowerPoint osast, Look pictures from Power Point part) (Absence of phallus refers not only to the woman’s sexual equipment but also to death.)
Two of them, First and Second World War were partly on territory of Europe. Most of us in this room are touched by war indirectly, through wordless communication with our parents and older relatives named as transgenerational transmission of trauma.
East and West part of Europe had a shared different destiny after the war. By my understanding mourning and recovery in Western Europe obviously began after the war was ended. Because of the changed political situation, people in Eastern Europe didn’t have chance for recovery and mourning in their social life.
Occupation. (Phallus has no counterpart but its absence.)
War trauma got additional trauma from soviet terror and lost freedom by living under Soviet occupation and annexation in Baltic States and in Bulgaria under the auspices (aegis) of Soviet Union.
Great Stalin – symbol of nation’s friendship. (The subject (who is) supposed to know.)
Mourning and recovery in Eastern Europe was mainly possible only in families and secretly. How to mourn your father, when he died as solder of German army or mother as partisan fighting against soviets in occupied country?
Living in Soviet society. (Zero is a blank that makes the lack (absence) visible.)
Even losses accepted by the Soviet state were not mourned because of state constructed social trauma demands politically correct way of mourning. Alexander Etkind professor of Russian literature and cultural history at the University of Cambridge named his book about mourning theories in the context of Soviet terror correctly as: “Warped mourning: stories of the undead in the land of the unburied.”
Memorial to victims of political repression in St. Petersburg. (Art makes absence visible.)
Etkind (2013) is referring in the book’s title to Freud, “When the dead are not properly mourned, they turned into undead and cause trouble for living” (p.17).
2. Present. How I as psychoanalyst, who has experienced social trauma, will understand patients’ experiences and traumas?
Trauma is waiting for psychoanalyst. (Knock, knock, who is behind the door?)
How I will be able to share with you my experiences around the trauma happened in past but still present today in my mind?
Beloved Stalin – happiness of nations. (The subject (who is) supposed to know. Lacan)
The most popular Russian journalist Oleg Kashin said that Stalin was “The third person sleeping in every one of our beds. (Etkind, 2013, p.11)
Dreams came true. (Demands for presence or absence are demand for love.)
Does this world of knowledge exist or has disappeared or dissociated from feelings and body?
The red flags of socialism. (Death came true.)
Words are hard to find for explaining myself; pain and sorrow with feelings of helplessness and archaic pleasure about being helpless, might take over the observing mind.
Meeting with unknown. (Both men and women desire from the other that which they lack, and this essential lack is phallus.)
And maybe analytic third will not appear. The state of “Waiting Godot” will dominate and “wounded healer” appears.
Wounded healer. (The unbearable lightness of being.)
All those questions and thoughts may appear if we thing about concepts of “empathic strain” and “vicarious traumatization”. Those two concepts are closely related to psychoanalytic work with traumatized patients, and include the dangers for helping professionals arising from side of traumatized patients. Common knowledge is that psychoanalyst who experienced trauma will be able to understand traumatized patient psychic world in more complex way. At the same time being open to the patient, might damage the psychoanalyst, especially when he/she had also been traumatized in past.
Taking ideology with pleasure. (Sometimes “phallus” is simply penis.)
By my experiences sharing thoughts about trauma like doing this presentation brings kind of situation –K (minus knowledge) by Bion ideas about α-function and reverse β-function or the uncanny by Freud, something that has undergone repression and then returned from it. Talking to you will much more about hiding by talking and not saying by saying word.
Observing ego. (Zero is in the minds of observers.)
At the same time on the unconscious level the unspeakable will be felt. This kind of situation of resistance for painful memories, feelings and thoughts or by Bion “nameless dread” i.e. a state of mind that is not thinkable (Hinshelwood, 1999) might evoke intense feeling of discomfort for listeners.
3. Empathic strain (pressure, burden). In book edited by Wilson and Lindy (1994) concept of empathic strain is described as following.
Empathic strain. (Phallus unites. For both men and women the phallus establishes the absence on which desire is based.)
In trauma work “the trauma story” is explored in a “safe-holding” environment, and empathy is pivotal for the recovery process in where trauma is placed in newer meaning system. Clinician capacity for genuine empathy is in utmost importance. Important aspect of trauma work is also identification with traumatized patient; projection oneself into internal world of patient. Therapist own involvement will be seen through countertransference, which might rupture empathy.
Therapist own involvement. (Godot never came.)
Extreme countertransference feelings might cause empathic strain and determine affective reactions in the therapist. Haven given up on language therapists may stay “prisoners of affect” as Kristeva phrases (1989, p.14).
Empathy, identification and countertransference are interrelated processes and the relation between empathy and countertransference depends on counter identification as well as identifications with patient affects. “…the analyst both identifies with the patient and the same time pulls back from that identification to view patient’s conflict with objectivity.” (p.8, Wilson & Lindy, 1994). Counter identification is also part of countertransference and if it operates imperfectly it can make empathy to diminish or to vanish altogether.
Empathy will vanish. (Sometimes phallus is plainly and absolutely the erect penis.)
Four distinct modes of empathic strain have been described by Wilson & Lindy (p.15), when emphatic link is destroyed or therapeutic role is lost
(Empathic withdrawal, (We can only desire that which we lack, and in the act of love each one gives to the other that what he does not possess.) and when therapist is drown (drawn into) in patient internal world or somatically and physiologically (bodily) impaired.
4. Vicarious (substituting, back up) traumatization (VT) is described by Doctor and Shiromoto (2009) as a form of PTSD that may develop in helping professions working with traumatized individuals as a result of directly empathizing and identifying with the issues and stressors impacting their patients.
Vicarious traumatization. (The man wants to find the phallus in the woman to overcome his fear of losing it.)
East European psychoanalyst will be closely in touch with VT because we all are experienced war trauma and trauma from life in totalitarian society and are traumatized some less some more.
Usual day in Soviet life. (The woman longs to receive from the man the phallus which she lacks.)
We can compare vicarious traumatization with infection, which attacks therapist suddenly. VT is similar with countertransference, but differs by influence changing the therapist life significantly for worse.
Making therapist life worse. (Sinking into see of autoerotism.)
Vicarious traumatization has red flags for trauma workers (for example substance abuse and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness) and specific characteristics (for example denying clients trauma) (p.309)
5. Some ending words about future. Trauma destroys the present life of the individual, by demanding the victim to live continuously in past. Making peace with past traumatic experiences with help of psychoanalysis or/and art, literature, poetry and music helps restore continuity in time and allows to be in the present with memories of the past and fantasies about the future, maintaining its own mental integrity. It is like growing out from latency by making connections between childhood and adulthood in the life cycle.
Gary Moore Northern Irish musician,
Over the hills and far away. (Happy moment of united couple.)
has the song “Over the hills and far away” about holding personal secret in prize of imprisonment, with words in it:
Over the hills and far away,
for ten long years he’ll count the days.
Over the mountains and the seas,
a prisoner’s life for him there’ll be.
Over the hills and far away,
he swears he will return one day.
As sure as the river reach the seas,
back in his arms is where she’ll be.
What has this song to do with topic of presentation, I do not know exactly, but it seems to me important to share some of the words from song about men who is suffering and had the hope.
This is good place to stop and end the presentation with happy end as I thought earlier, but later I understood that doing so I will be presenting one of the characteristics of vicarious traumatization – denying trauma.
I will end with words from Etkind (2013) about phenomenon characterising results of Soviet terror – the misrecognition of close people returning from gulag.
“In an uncanny way, scenes of misrecognition of a father by his son, of a son by his mother, of brother by brother, illuminate the extent of the Soviet state’s radical intervention into the most private aspects of family and kinship. The closest of relatives did not recognize each other because the state effectively transformed one or both of them. With the collapse gulag and later, the USSR, the story of the misrecognition of the returned became trope for the tragedy of “repressions” and the futility of “rehabilitation.” Strikingly, the interminable mourning for those who did not return but were not known to be dead transformed the longing of love into its opposite, the horror of the uncanny.” (p.59).
Thank you for your attention.
Countertransference with treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress. (1994) Eds. Wilson, J.P. and Lindy, J.D. N.Y.: Guilford Press.
Doctor, R.M., Shiromoto, F.N. (2009) The encyclopedia of trauma and traumatic stress disorders. Facts On Life Inc.
Etchegoyen, R.H. (2005) The fundamentals of psychoanalytic technique. London: Karnac Books.
Hinshelwood, R.D. (1999) Countertransference and the therapeutic relationship. Resent Kleinian developments in technique. http://www.dspp.com/papers/hinshelwood.htm
Gary Moore – Lyrics:
Etkind, A. (2013) Warped mourning: stories of the undead in the land of the unburied. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Kristeva, J. (1989) Black sun: Depression and melancholia. N.Y.: Columbia University Press.
Different thoughts are collected, written down and linked by Ants Parktal 30.09.2013
 This paper was presented at Scientific Meeting of the Dutch Psychoanalytic Societies Friday 11 October 2013.