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Hewitt, M.A. (2004). “To Never Wholly Die,” To Never Fully Live: Death and Rebirth in the Emergence of Self in the Therapeutic Process. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(4):517-541.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(4):517-541

“To Never Wholly Die,” To Never Fully Live: Death and Rebirth in the Emergence of Self in the Therapeutic Process

Marsha Aileen Hewitt, Ph.D., BA(Hons), M.A.

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present,

All time is unredeemable.

—T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

In describing the dissociative process, Philip Bromberg (2001b) quotes a passage from the poem “Autotomy” by Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska, where the holothurian, a sea creature that splits itself into parts when attacked by a predator, regenerates itself from its dispersed fragments that have escaped being devoured. Szymborska writes: “In danger the holothurian splits itself in two/it offers one self to be devoured by the world/ and in its second self escapes…To die as much as necessary …to grow again from a salvaged remnant” (p. 897). From my experience in working with dissociated patients who have suffered serious trauma, I can think of no more powerful metaphor to describe the experience of shedding parts of the self so that some remnant may survive. “To die as much as necessary….” It is the most terrifying form of what R.D. Laing (1965) describes as “ontological insecurity.”

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