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Sacerdoti, G. Semi, A.A. (1989). Trauma as a Shibboleth in Psychoanalysis?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 70:95-103.

(1989). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 70:95-103

Trauma as a Shibboleth in Psychoanalysis?

G. Sacerdoti and A. A. Semi


The authors consider that the subject of trauma is a good example of how metapsychological constructs (in this case, in particular, the economic or quantitative point of view) originated as essential working hypotheses necessitated by clinical observation. These conceptualizations may help us to understand what finds expression in processes that are sensed as affects (als Affekte der Empfindung bemerkbar werden) either by the patient or by the analyst. In the case of trauma (in analysis), an object–relations approach is not only compatible (Balint) with metapsychology but seems to be

positively implicit in a correct interpretation of the latter.

Two clinical vignettes are given as evidence for this assumption. They illustrate an irruption of stimuli through the protective shield (Reizschutz) of the analytic field, initiated by the patient and the analyst respectively.

For the purpose of grasping and working through such situations—thus helping the patient to fill the gap (Ablösung) between the quota of affect (Affektbetrag) and the idea (Vorstellung)—it is very useful for the analyst to refer to the concept of trauma, either in the narrow or in the broad sense proposed by Freud. For this reason, the authors believe that the concept of trauma is a shibboleth of psychoanalysis.

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