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Stolorow, R.D. (2015). A Phenomenological-Contextual, Existential, and Ethical Perspective on Emotional Trauma. Psychoanal. Rev., 102(1):123-138.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Review, 102(1):123-138

A Phenomenological-Contextual, Existential, and Ethical Perspective on Emotional Trauma

Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D.

After a brief overview of the author's phenomenological-contextualist psychoanalytic perspective, the paper traces the evolution of the author's conception of emotional trauma over the course of three decades, as it developed in concert with his efforts to grasp his own traumatized states and his studies of existential philosophy. The author illuminates two of trauma's essential features: (1) its context-embeddedness—painful or frightening affect becomes traumatic when it cannot find a context of emotional understanding in which it can be held and integrated, and (2) its existential significance—emotional trauma shatters our illusions of safety and plunges us into an authentic Being-toward-death, wherein we must face up to our finitude and the finitude of all those we love. The paper also describes the impact of trauma on the phenomenology of time and the sense of alienation from others that accompanies traumatic temporality. The author contends that the proper therapeutic comportment toward trauma is a form of emotional dwelling. He concludes with a discussion of the implications of all these formulations for the development of an ethics of finitude.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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