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Dahl, G. (2010). The Two Time Vectors of Nachträglichkeit in the Development of Ego Organization: Significance of the Concept for the Symbolization of Nameless Traumas and Anxieties. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 91(4):727-744.

(2010). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 91(4):727-744

The Two Time Vectors of Nachträglichkeit in the Development of Ego Organization: Significance of the Concept for the Symbolization of Nameless Traumas and Anxieties Language Translation

Gerhard Dahl

(Final version accepted 28 January 2009)

The author describes Freud's conception of Nachträglichkeit as an active process that bridges the gap between past affective vicissitudes and the cognitive present by way of meaning. Symbolization is thereby subsequently [nachträglich] conferred on early traumatic events, which thus become susceptible to omnipotent control. The two time vectors of Nachträglichkeit are discussed: the first is a causal process operating in the forward direction of time against the background of a factual reality, while the second is a backward movement that permits an understanding of unconscious scenes and phantasies taking place at primary-process level. This twofold temporal motion was observed and described by Freud early on. However, its significance often remained hidden prior to his study of Moses. It was mostly overlooked in English and French translations, thus giving rise to a one-sided understanding of the concept in the various psychoanalytic cultures, as either deferred action or après-coup. Freud's Moses study addresses both temporal aspects of Nachträglichkeit, seeking not only to reconstruct a past event on a causal, deterministic basis, but also to understand the subjective truth of that event in the transference along the retrograde time line. The decisive criterion for the conceptual and clinical separation of the two time vectors is the development of ego organization and the capacity for symbolization. The two vectors should not be separated on the factual level, as both aspects of Nachträglichkeit are essential to the understanding of unconscious processes, combining as they do in a relationship of circular complementarity.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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