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Cohen, E. (2014). Getting into mud together: Trauma, despair and mutual regression. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 23(1):37-43.

(2014). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 23(1):37-43

Getting into mud together: Trauma, despair and mutual regression

Etty Cohen

Many relational analysts believe that hope and despair make up a dynamic dialectic underlying all human development, and therapeutic change is created in the space between them. Twelve years have passed since I presented the case of Dana at the International Sẚpndor Ferenczi Conference in Israel. Since that time, there have been more International Ferenczi's conferences. In the intervening years, I began to rethink Dana's case from a different perspective. Simultaneously, I was trying to make new sense of the then-described “temporary” emotional upheaval I had thought I left behind. In this process of reflection, I realized not only that I was as resistant as Dana to surrendering to my despair, but also that this resistance on my part led to an impasse and might have closed some possibilities for Dana in dealing with severe trauma. This newly found emotional awareness has helped to transform my work with subsequent trauma patients. Through “getting into mud,” to use my patient Gary's words, I was no longer afraid of regressing to a place where despair ruled the day. In this way, my patient and I discovered that genuine hope could be sustained.

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