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Laub, D. (1998). The Empty Circle: Children of Survivors and the Limits of Reconstruction. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(2):507-529.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(2):507-529

The Empty Circle: Children of Survivors and the Limits of Reconstruction

Dori Laub

The empty circle symbolizes the absence of representation, the rupture of the self, and the erasure of memory that together constitute the core legacy of massive psychic trauma. A brief case vignette and a more extensive fragment of an analysis are used to illustrate how the unassimilable empty core of trauma may perpetuate itself in the lives of adult children of Holocaust survivors, exerting a dominating force over their identities, memories, fantasies, and transference feelings. Developmental conflict models are often insufficient in explaining these powerful phenomena. The analyst's underlying acknowledgment and acceptance of the realness of an “absence” at the core of the trauma (and the sustaining bond this forges) may provide a counterforce to the rupture of the trauma, and may create a space for patients to come to an awareness of the origin of their particular life themes in the traumatic experience of the parents.

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