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Shulman, M.E. (2014). Who is the Hero in the Life of the Traumatized Patient? Reflections on Bodansky’s Work with Mrs. E. Psychoanal. Inq., 34(3):234-239.

(2014). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 34(3):234-239

Who is the Hero in the Life of the Traumatized Patient? Reflections on Bodansky’s Work with Mrs. E

Michael E. Shulman, Ph.D.

The vexed question of how to explain analytic success with traumatized patients like Bodansky’s Mrs. E is considered from a perspective on psychoanalytic history and the specific theory-buttressed assumptions and practices of earlier generations of analysts that led them to conclude that traumatized patients couldn’t be helped via psychoanalytic work. I then consider Mrs. E’s life with an organizing question, Who is its hero?, applying perspectives from Charles Dickens and from Fraiberg and colleagues’ work, and use these perspectives to question the theory-based assumption that Mrs. E must have somewhere had a good object experience to have a life. These perspectives allow contemplation of a saving forceful agency at Mrs. E’s core (perhaps one experienced by her as “animal”) that seems essential to understanding her successes in living. The success of her treatment in assisting her with building a life suggests that her analyst’s helping her with mirroring and, even more important, with mentalizing, contribute importantly to her life improvement. Some potential limitations of his approach to her are also implied in his account; in particular, his limited work with her intimate desires and feelings, both libidinal and aggressive.

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