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Brown, L.J. (2005). The Cognitive Effects of Trauma: Reversal of Alpha Function and the Formation of a Beta Screen. Psychoanal Q., 74(2):397-420.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 74(2):397-420

The Cognitive Effects of Trauma: Reversal of Alpha Function and the Formation of a Beta Screen

Lawrence J. Brown, Ph.D.

Following a brief review of Freud's writings on trauma, the author discusses relevant theories of Bion, and in particular the concepts of the alpha function and the beta screen. A clinical example is presented in which the patient's relatively recent trauma in adulthood had become fused with prior related experiences, leading to a propensity for repeated enactments in analysis and a failure to learn from experience. Drawing on the analyst's alpha function, the patient was gradually able to use mentalization to transform her rigidly structured traumatic organization. The author highlights the roles of dreams/dream associations and of screen memories in the patient's analysis.

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