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McDougall, J. (1986). Chapter 9: Parent Loss. The Reconstruction of Trauma: Its Significance in Clinical Work, 135-151.

McDougall, J. (1986). Chapter 9: Parent Loss. The Reconstruction of Trauma: Its Significance in Clinical Work , 135-151

Chapter 9: Parent Loss Book Information Previous Up Next

Joyce McDougall, DED

With regard to psychic trauma it is worth considering the question: What makes an event traumatic? Most analysts have observed in the course of their therapeutic work that an event which has been deeply traumatic for one individual may appear to have left another unscathed. That is to say, when two individuals have had an experience with traumatic potential, in one of them this quality may be confirmed by its lasting pathological effects, while in the other the event may be compensated for and dealt with creatively.

What makes the difference? Clearly the event alone is not sufficient explanation. Take, for example, what might be called the universal traumata…the discovery of the existence of otherness, sexual differences, and death…that make up the human condition. We all must learn to accommodate to these conflict-laden realities as best we can: the loss of fusional oneness along with the illusion of being able to control another's thoughts and actions; the realization of our inescapable monosexuality entailing renunciation of the illusory possession of the power and sexual attributes of both parents; the fact of aging, and finally, the inevitability of death. Most of us manage to make unstable adjustments to these traumatic discoveries and impossible wishes, but there is little doubt that in our unconscious fantasies we are all omnipotent, bisexual, eternally

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