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Kane, B.S. (2005). Transforming Trauma Into Tragedy: Oedipus/Israel and the Psychoanalyst as Messenger. Psychoanal. Rev., 92(6):929-956.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Review, 92(6):929-956

Transforming Trauma Into Tragedy: Oedipus/Israel and the Psychoanalyst as Messenger

Barbara S. Kane, LCSW

Fortunately, psychoanalysis is evolving in its ability to bring together the experience of catastrophically damaged individuals with the larger social and historical contexts they inhabit. I say “fortunately” because it may now be the case that integrating these two foci—the individual subject of trauma and his or her community, both past and present—into one dynamic field is the most urgent work in this traumatic time. In what follows, I suggest some specific ways of widening our psychoanalytic lens to include the historical, social, and political dimensions of experience in order to enhance our ability to resolve traumatic stalemates. As we are coming to see, what is useful in the psychoanalytic setting may be relevant in a political analysis as well. The individual, the personal, profoundly affects the political, and vice versa—for the dynamics of both are organized by similar structures of (un)consciousness.

The individual will be represented here by the case of a woman who embodies a dissociated and, in reality, hidden trauma, which occurred generations earlier. A seemingly unanalyzable treatment impasse was resolved only when the historical basis for it became inescapable knowledge. Her frozen trauma states were, remarkably, transformed into warmer, and more comprehensible, tragic ones.

This (Jewish) patient's trauma was clearly but a small manifestation of the impact of millennia of catastrophe visited on those of Jewish descent.

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