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Gullestad, S.E. (2005). Who is ‘who’ in dissociation? A plea for psychodynamics in a time of trauma. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):639-656.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):639-656

Who is ‘who’ in dissociation? A plea for psychodynamics in a time of trauma

Siri Erika Gullestad

Contemporary theories of dissociation and trauma for the most part have evolved outside of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic writings have also been regarded as being in opposition to trauma-based notions of human psychopathology. The specific psychoanalytic contribution—the emphasis on unconscious conflict and meaning—is for the most part excluded from the discourse on dissociation, often resulting in a ‘mechanic’ conceptualisation of trauma. In this paper, based on clinical material, the author argues in favour of including conflict, unconscious intention and personal meaning in understanding the kind of dissociation we see in cases of multiple personality pathology. Textual analysis of letters written to the analyst illustrates how events of abuse are defensively elaborated. The author demonstrates that patterns of affect regulation and dominant object-relational strategies can be captured through analysis of the discourse structure. She focuses on how an organised character pattern, revealed mainly through narrative style and the analyst's countertransference, serves protective purposes as well as wish-fulfilment. She argues that dissociation in the form of multiple personalities may imply an active, strategic agent.

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