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Durban, J. (2020). On Some Unconscious Factors in Children’s Near-Death Experience: A Discussion of “Going to Where the World Ends: When the Bodies of Children Speak Who is Listening?”. Psychoanal. Dial., 30(2):180-186.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 30(2):180-186

On Some Unconscious Factors in Children’s Near-Death Experience: A Discussion of “Going to Where the World Ends: When the Bodies of Children Speak Who is Listening?”

Joshua Durban, M.A.

This discussion examines some unconscious characteristics of children who choose to retreat, when facing social violence, abuse, illnesses and early developmental impairments, into a near-death defensive organization. This “near-death retreat” is governed by an omnipotent “death-object” with whom a pact is made, in unconscious phantasy, so as to avoid the pain of an unbearable internal and external reality at the price of mental paralysis. Children who opt for this special retreat are very often hyper-sensitive, hyper-permeable and hyper-vulnerable. As such, they are prone to flooding by archaic anxieties-of-being often found in autistic conditions, and to an internal sense of nowhere-ness. They are “pipe children” into whom the un-mentalized anxieties of their care-givers infiltrate in an osmotic, incontrollable way. Their internal objects are often confusing, comprising of a bewildering mixture of perpetrator and victim, impervious and dangerous. Clinical material taken from a psychoanalytic treatment of a refugee girl will demonstrate these characteristics.

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