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Bokanowski, T. (2005). Variations on the concept of traumatism: Traumatism, traumatic, trauma. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(2):251-265.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(2):251-265

Variations on the concept of traumatism: Traumatism, traumatic, trauma

Thierry Bokanowski

In this paper, the author outlines Freud's fundamental hypotheses concerning the concept of traumatism, then goes on to differentiate three notions (French being a particularly apposite language for such a venture): ‘traumatism’, ‘traumatic’ (in a substantive sense) and ‘trauma’. These three terms correspond to the three turning points in Freud's theory with respect to the concept of traumatism(1895-97, 1920, 1938). The author evokes also the developments that are due to Ferenczi, particularly in his later writings (1928-33), where he defined and discussed the question of ‘trauma’ in contemporary clinical practice; the author goes on to explore the different variations on this theme as regards mental functioning. He then defines, from a metapsychological point of view, the differences between ‘traumatisms’ that have been ‘worked over by secondary processes’, organised and governed by the pleasure-unpleasure principle (‘traumatism’) and ‘early’ or ‘primary traumatisms’, which interfere with the process of binding the instinctual drives (‘trauma’); states of mind influenced by a traumatic imprint (‘traumatic’) are looked upon as belonging to both categories of the above mentioned traumatisms. The author illustrates his hypotheses with a clinical example.

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