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Sossin, K.M. (2007). Nonmentalizing States in Early-Childhood Survivors of the Holocaust: Developmental Considerations regarding Treatment of Child Survivors of Genocidal Atrocities. Am. J. Psychoanal., 67(1):68-81.

(2007). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 67(1):68-81

Nonmentalizing States in Early-Childhood Survivors of the Holocaust: Developmental Considerations regarding Treatment of Child Survivors of Genocidal Atrocities

K. Mark Sossin, Ph.D.

This paper attempts to coalesce considerations of attachment processes, trauma, mentalization, and nonverbal behavior to underscore some of the developmental and therapeutic challenges demonstrated by older-adult child survivors of the Holocaust, and by implication, other child victims of similar genocidal and traumatic events. Young child survivors experienced not only their own traumatic exposure to violence, harm, and loss, but also the stress-transmission of the adult caregivers who raised them in the years that followed. For some, the horrendous losses, combined with impediments to organizing relationships, and to experiences of predictable and trusted continuities, negatively impact the development of the reflective function, and of interpretive skills basic to successful implicit relatedness and explicit exchanges. “Neutral flow” of bodily tension and shape often signals the freezing accompanying nonmentalizing states. Misalignments in individual personality structure and discordances in interpersonal exchange underscore the need to address fundamental building blocks of relatedness and mentalization in the therapeutic process.

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