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Trumbull, D.W. (1997). Hurtful Presences. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(6):905-924.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(6):905-924

Hurtful Presences

Dianne W. Trumbull

My patients come to me haunted. They complain of dark moods, unbidden thoughts, or disturbing behaviors. In our talks together many of them recognize in their own torment the felt presences of familiar others. My patients soon discover that they unknowingly summon familiar hurtful company in critical times.

The invasion by hurtful presences has been documented since Abraham (1911) and Freud (1917) discovered the internal dialogues of melancholics. In further listening Freud heard the conversation of the superego, realizing that each of us perpetuates accusing presences of valued others. Today psychoanalysts agree that an individual may experience the internalized Other in senses of his own perceptions, motivations, or behaviors. Decades of careful observation have tracked processes and utilities of internalization, broadly dissecting the term into incorporations, introjects, and identifications (Shafer, 1968). I will, however, put these distinctions aside as I am interested only in introjects, as they retain a sense of Otherness, that is, they are internalizations which are experienced as felt presences of others. I use the term presence as it indicates relationship between two beings, a sense of being with. More specifically, I will use the word to convey a sense that one is being addressed by an influential Other while alone or when in interaction with other individuals

My focus is limited; I will explore only destructive presences, using clinical data to illustrate the experiences of five individuals who were invaded by familiar hurtful company.

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