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Adler, H. (1995). Recall And Repetition Of A Severe Childhood Trauma. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:927-943.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:927-943

Recall And Repetition Of A Severe Childhood Trauma

Hildegard Adler

This study focuses on a patient who at the age of 3 survived the extended suicide of her parents. The account concentrates on the way in which this woman repeated the experiences of her trauma in the highly emotional therapy process (initially infrequent), and then how she recalled them at different stages and with variations, and it shows the decisive involvement of the analyst in this activity, in parallel processes of defence and reconstruction. The distinction needs to be drawn between the reproduction of the trauma, the form in which the extreme trauma is indelibly tattooed on the memory, and actual recalling. This is to be regarded as a method of analytical understanding, general in its applicability, as an evolving retrospective imposition of sense, by means of which the previously valid construction of knowledge is revised in accordance with the central relationship in the present. What the patient recalled as trauma events in evolving perspectives revealed itself as an overpowering prefiguration (attainable a posteriori) of the vicissitudes of transference. With regard to extreme trauma in childhood, this study develops the following hypotheses: (1) the overwhelming, shattering blow of an external event is met by an equally strong, archaic defence, even in the historical situation itself, as an escape from the unbearable, unspeakable pain; (2) the Janus face of the victim/perpetrator introject is manifest in the masochistic character-structure; (3) these splits can be attenuated in the course of a person's life, with the appropriate help, although they cannot be fully integrated.

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