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Raphael-Leff, J. (2013). Psychic “Geodes”—The Presence of Absence: 18th Enid Balint Memorial Lecture 2013. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 3(2):137-155.

(2013). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 3(2):137-155


Psychic “Geodes”—The Presence of Absence: 18th Enid Balint Memorial Lecture 2013

Joan Raphael-Leff, Ph.D.

A reproductive disaster affects all members of the family. When it occurs while a young child is preoccupied with issues of gender, genesis, generation, and generativity, it constitutes a double crisis too great to negotiate alone. The toddler's disillusionment with parental power is counterbalanced by omnipotent fantasy and guilt for doing away with an unwanted rival.

Mourning grants death the respect it deserves, providing a narrative that integrates absence into ongoing life in a meaningful way. But if a child is not helped, the unmourned trauma disrupts the momentous task of acquiring “generative identity”, affecting reproductive choices in adulthood with repetitive acts of sacrifice or procreative reparation.

It is proposed that when carers disavow their own loss, the child internalises an encapsulated version of their unconscious communication of “nothingness” coupled with excruciating self-blame. This “psychic geode” remains hived off as a presence of absence, but when “cracked open” by subsequent events, the original confusion spills out, unmodified by time's passage.

A couple is presented, whose respective trust in natural generative processes was eroded in childhood when imaginary scenarios manifested in reality, before causality and fantasy could be disentangled.

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