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Nguyen, L. (2007). The Question of Survival: The Death of Desire and the Weight of Life. Am. J. Psychoanal., 67(1):53-67.

(2007). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 67(1):53-67

The Question of Survival: The Death of Desire and the Weight of Life

Leanh Nguyen, Ph.D.

This article aims to document the psychic injuries of torture. Psychic deadness, erasure of intersubjectivity, refusal of meaning-making, perversion of agency, and an inability to bear desire constitute the core features of the post-traumatic landscape of torture. The existential challenges in traumatized lives is examined, and questions are also raised about the ethics and unconscious defensive functions of the term “survival.” Clinical materials with various torture patients are reported to explore the process of working through the losses and paradoxes of trauma. The role of unmourned loss and the defense of fetishizing the trauma are highlighted as the motivating force and the problem in the current preoccupation with trauma in modern Western culture.

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