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Frankel, J. (2002). Identification and “Traumatic Aloneness” Reply to Commentaries by Berman and Bonomi. Psychoanal. Dial., 12(1):159-170.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(1):159-170

Identification and “Traumatic Aloneness” Reply to Commentaries by Berman and Bonomi Related Papers

Jay Frankel, Ph.D.

To anchor my response to three issues raised by Berman and Bonomi, I rely on Ferenczi's concept of “traumatic aloneness.” First, I agree with both discussants that identification often has constructive and life-creating effects, but I suggest that it may generally arise in response to (sometimes hidden) anxiety, specifically about separation or aloneness. Second, I examine what Ferenczi termed introjection of the guilt feelings of the adulttrauma victims frequently feel that they are “bad”—and explore this complex feeling both as an effort to preserve others as good objects and as a way to protect oneself from a frightening aggressor. Finally, I consider the idea that trauma leads to partial psychic death. While I think it is clinically dangerous to assume that trauma can cause the actual, permanent destruction of part of the personality—this assumption can lead to unwarranted therapeutic pessimism—trauma certainly often carries the subjective experience of partial death or dying. The therapeutic effort to undo dissociations and achieve authenticity and intimacy can be thought of as rediscovering one's aliveness through the process of sharing it with someone.

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