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Willemsen, H. (2014). Early Trauma and Affect: The Importance of the Body for the Development of the Capacity to Symbolize. J. Anal. Psychol., 59(5):695-712.

(2014). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 59(5):695-712

Early Trauma and Affect: The Importance of the Body for the Development of the Capacity to Symbolize

Hessel Willemsen, DClinPsych

In this paper I aim to outline the importance of working clinically with affect when treating severely traumatized patients who have a limited capacity to symbolize. These patients, who suffer the loss of maternal care early in life, require the analyst to be closely attuned to the patient's distress through use of the countertransference and with significantly less attention paid to the transference. It is questionable whether we can speak of transference when there is limited capacity to form internal representations. The analyst's relationship with the patient is not necessarily used to make interpretations but, instead, the analyst's reverie functions therapeutically to develop awareness and containment of affect, first in the analyst's mind and, later, in the patient's, so that, in time, a relationship between the patient's mind and the body, as the first object, is made. In contrast to general object-relations theories, in which the first object is considered to be the breast or the mother, Ferrari (2004) proposes that the body is the first object in the emerging mind. Once a relationship between mind and body is established, symbolization becomes possible following the formation of internal representations of affective states in the mind, where previously there were few. Using Ferrari's body-mind model, two clinical case vignettes underline the need to use the countertransference with patients who suffered chronic developmental trauma in early childhood.

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