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Gardner, F. (1993). Mastery and Guilt. Free Associations, 4(1):63-78.

(1993). Free Associations, 4(1):63-78

Child Sexual Abuse

Mastery and Guilt

Fiona Gardner

This paper is an exploration of a therapeutic process potentially available to adult survivors of child sexual abuse. The process is one of achieving an inner mastery based on the eventual assimilation of a relationship that was once uncontrollable. The reduction and conversion from one form of mastery to another is made possible partly through an analysis of guilt.

The paper first examines the relationship of mastery domination between the abuser and the abused. This relationship is overwhelming and leaves no space. The suggestion is that in order for the mastery domination to change to an inner experience of mastery assimilation, aspects of guilt have to be acknowledged and analysed. It is proposed that it is through the dynamic of the therapeutic relationship that this transformative process can occur.

Mastery Domination

The experience of child sexual abuse involves the submission of the abused to the abuser, and the achievement of mastery by the abuser. This is the psychodynamic residue in the adult survivor that is brought to the therapy. The therapy is partly about inverting the dynamic so the abused seeks inner mastery over the abuser.

The needs of the abused child are invalidated in both fantasy and actuality.

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