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Feirstein, F. (2009). The Man in the BMW: Manifest Content, Metaphor, and Trauma. Psychoanal. Rev., 96(1):113-128.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Review, 96(1):113-128

The Man in the BMW: Manifest Content, Metaphor, and Trauma

Frederick Feirstein

In the past several years there have been many books written describing trauma but not much said about psychoanalytic cure. When people like Henry Krystal and van der Kolk write about treating trauma, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they circumvent psychoanalytic thinking and talk about body work such as deep message and yoga. Though very useful in the short run with helping anxiety and disassociation, these methods, like hydrotherapy before psychoanalysis was invented, are not enduring-because of the repetition compulsion.

In this paper I aim to show that psychoanalysts can develop an effective long-term treatment of trauma by focusing on the manifest content of dreams, one key metaphor that forms them, and only one or two associations. The key metaphor always comes as a cliché in the first session and seems to be an incredibly economic way that people have storing the memory and affect of a series of traumas in their brain. I have shown before how working with the key metaphor can organize treatment as it seems to have organized the traumatized part of the psyche (Feirstein, 2006). Now I would like to show how by focusing intently on the manifest content of dreams (in this case, six of them) and one or two associations, all embodying the key metaphor, another way of doing treatment can take place.

I illustrate my thesis by using the dreams of “The Man in the BMW.”

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