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Wangh, M. (1994). Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Thoughts about the Transmission of Conscious and Unconscious Knowledge to the Generation Born after the Shoah. Yolanda Gampel. Pp. 43-50.. Psychoanal Q., 63:609-610.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Thoughts about the Transmission of Conscious and Unconscious Knowledge to the Generation Born after the Shoah. Yolanda Gampel. Pp. 43-50.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:609-610

Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Thoughts about the Transmission of Conscious and Unconscious Knowledge to the Generation Born after the Shoah. Yolanda Gampel. Pp. 43-50.

Martin Wangh

Gampel grapples with the precise theme set by the conference: much of the damage to the children of survivors occurs because of the survivors' very attempts to cope with their trauma. In the first place stands silence. In their efforts against recall, survivors use repression, negation, and denial. These very methods of defense become the source of pathological effects in the offspring.

Silence keeps the survivor in a chronic state of mourning, which in turn causes damage to the psyche of offspring. The child is deprived of parents capable of joy, capable of worrying in a normal way, or of allowing the child a degree of natural, explorative curiosity. These basic elements of parenthood are always overshadowed by expectations of disaster, which cause an overload of fear in the child, who grows up with the unspoken world of parents who transmit the trauma without transmitting its memory. In an attempt to get hold of the "absent" parent, the child is driven to enter the parents' "unspoken-of world," to "recollect" what he or she has not

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known. In order to enter the parents' traumatic constellation, the child may create disjointed, fragmentary contents in the face of an emotional void.

Suffering is perpetuated; it prevents survivors from breaking the tie with those they have lost. The end of mourning would make their death become real. To replace the idealized dead becomes an assignment for offspring, whose rebellion and desire to be recognized on their own ground create a painful conflict. Can a mother who lives in suspended mourning accept and modify her death anxieties, which she is inclined to project upon her child? And will her inability to deal with her child's normal death anxiety condemn the child to live in nameless fear?

By replacing the lost dead in order to satisfy the parents, the child enables the parents to persevere in their splitting and to postpone the accomplishment of mourning. (Judith Kestenberg calls this process "transposition.") The child eventually has two choices: a) to remain the trustee of the past for the parents, or (b) to "contain" the parents' excessive anxiety in the process of separating from them, thus becoming the parents' protective parent.

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Article Citation

Wangh, M. (1994). Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992. Psychoanal. Q., 63:609-610

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