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Eshel, O. (2016). The “Voice” of Breakdown: On Facing the Unbearable Traumatic Experience in Psychoanalytic Work. Contemp. Psychoanal., 52(1):76-110.

(2016). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 52(1):76-110

The “Voice” of Breakdown: On Facing the Unbearable Traumatic Experience in Psychoanalytic Work Related Papers

Ofra Eshel, Psy.D.

This article weaves together three major contributions to the theory of trauma and repetition compulsion: Freud's (1920/1955b) reformulation in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” of his metapsychological theory regarding the notion of trauma and the compulsion to repeat traumatic experiences and traumatic dreams; Cathy Caruth's (1996) elaboration, based on a dramatic story in Freud's article, of “the voice that cries out, a voice that is released through the double wound”; and Winnicott's (1963/1986, 1965/1989a) unique ideas about the early unthinkable breakdown that has not yet been experienced and has to be relived and experienced in analysis.

The author explores the clinical implications of the intricate relation between knowing and not-knowing in facing trauma, which is simultaneously demanding and inaccessible, massively dissociated, and thus never and forever there. In particular, she relates to the profound difficulty of hearing the “voice” of breakdown that cries out from the belated “double wounding,” the critical importance of experiencing the unexperienced with the analyst; and the immensity of the terror and hope that is at the heart of reaching to the original unbearable traumatization in psychoanalytic work. Three detailed clinical illustrations from psychoanalytic writings and an autobiographical essay by Virginia Woolf are presented.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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