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Auerhahn, N.C. Laub, D. (1984). Annihilation and Restoration: Post-Traumatic Memory as Pathway and Obstacle to Recovery. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:327-344.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:327-344

Annihilation and Restoration: Post-Traumatic Memory as Pathway and Obstacle to Recovery

Nanette C. Auerhahn and Dori Laub

In the following paper, we discuss and illustrate the vicissitudes of the psychological legacy of war and genocide, specifically of the Holocaust survivor's attempts to combate his trauma by revived good memories and past human ties (either recollected or created anew) toward defensive, reparative, and restorative purposes. We also explore themes of loss and annihilation as they reverberate in the survivor as he repeatedly strives to express, repair, and erase those feelings. The motifs of destruction and restitution, each with its own set of imagery, counterbalance and work to neutralize one another in the survivor, who can neither free himself of the impression of traumatization nor remain immersed in its depths; instead he endlessly attempts to work through its effects and implications. The manner in which these themes organize aspects of the intrapsychic and interpersonal life of the survivor will be emphasized in our clinical material, with an attempt to highlight the ubiquitous tensions and polarities inherent in these conflicting trends.

Our focus is twofold—on memory, i.e. history, first as consolation, second as burden. Regarding the first: historicity imparts a sense of integrity to man. The process of individuation is inherently historical in that it involves appropriating the givens in our life and allowing for a reciprocal interrelatedness between past, present, and future (Loewald, 1978). Growth necessitates coming to terms with the present by understanding its beginnings.

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