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Bromberg, P.M. (2003). One Need Not Be a House to Be Haunted: On Enactment, Dissociation, and the Dread of “Not-Me”—A Case Study. Psychoanal. Dial., 13(5):689-709.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 13(5):689-709

One Need Not Be a House to Be Haunted: On Enactment, Dissociation, and the Dread of “Not-Me”—A Case Study

Philip M. Bromberg, Ph.D.

This paper examines psychic trauma as experience so shockingly strange that it exceeds the threshold for cognitive processing and begins to flood the mind with unintegratable affect that threatens to disorganize the internal template on which one's experience of self-coherence, self-cohesiveness, and self-continuity depends. A detailed clinical vignette illustrates how the unprocessed “not-me” experience held by a dissociated self-state as an affective memory without an autobiographical memory of its traumatic origin “haunts” the self. It remains a ghostly horror even in an otherwise successful psychoanalysis unless a new perceptual reality is created between patient and analyst that alters the narrative structure maintaining the dissociation as though the past were still a present danger. The analyst's making optimal use of dissociative processes in an intersubjective and interpersonal context enables the patient more readily to self-regulate affect in those areas of implicit memory where trauma has left its mark; the dissociated ghosts of “not-me” are thus persuaded, little-by-little, to cease their haunting and participate more and more actively and openly as self-reflective, self-expressive parts of “me.”

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