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Wanlass, J. (2013). The Intergenerational and Cultural Transmission of Trauma in Chinese Couple Relationships. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 3(2):214-228.

(2013). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 3(2):214-228

The Intergenerational and Cultural Transmission of Trauma in Chinese Couple Relationships

Janine Wanlass, Ph.D.

The complexity of psychoanalytic couple therapy is magnified in a climate where intergenerational and cultural trauma abounds. A five session clinical consultation with a couple residing in Beijing, China provides a vivid illustration of the dynamic interplay between individual family histories characterised by loss and separation and a traumatic cultural climate marked by repeated foreign invasion, oppressive government policies, and politically imposed familial separations. The author contends that the juxtaposition of these familial and cultural traumas, combined with a time of rapid economic and social change in China, may partially account for the heightened sensitivity toward separation experienced within Chinese families and frequently expressed in the unconscious couple fit. Additionally, the author discusses challenges for American clinicians training couple therapists in China, such as the impact of translation, the mutually held historical suspicion and antagonism between the two nations, and the rapidly changing social norms within China itself.

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