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Pines, D. (1986). Working with Women Survivors of the Holocaust: Affective Experiences in Transference and Countertransference. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:295-307.

(1986). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67:295-307

Working with Women Survivors of the Holocaust: Affective Experiences in Transference and Countertransference

Dinora Pines

For young women who had survived the concentration camps, the longing to become pregnant and the wish to bring a new life into a world no longer dominated by sadism and psychic death were overwhelming. Babies for these women were an important concrete manifestation of the restoration of normality from a psychotic world and the re-establishment of family life that had been destroyed. Infertility, painful as it is for most women, was almost unbearable for these since the next generation also concretely replaced those who had been killed and enabled the survivors to avoid the recognition of loss and of mourning.

Hopelessness and psychic surrender to an unbearable situation was counteracted by the hope of giving birth to a healthy child and, in mothering it, recovering some of the normal pleasures of life that the mother herself had been robbed of. Unconsciously, pregnancy afforded these young women two aspects of emotional identification: with the omnipotent, life-giving pre-oedipal mother they had lost, based on a biological foundation, and also with the foetus as if it represented herself as a baby and as a child (Pines, 1982).

Yet one of the tasks of mothering is also to facilitate the child's healthy drive towards separation and individuation. Adolescence, an important stage in the life cycle when the healthy child must finally separate from his parents, take responsibility for his own body and his sexuality and often physically leave the parents' home to pursue his own life, is an equally important stage of the life cycle for the parents.

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