Which horse do you ride? Trauma from a relational perspective. Discussion of Prince's "The self in pain: the paradox of memory. The paradox of testimony".

NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Chair, Specialization in Trauma and Disaster Studies, NYU, NY, USA.
The American Journal of Psychoanalysis 12/2009; 69(4):298-303; discussion 311-3. DOI: 10.1057/ajp.2009.21
Source: PubMed


Discussing Dr. Robert Prince's clinical case example, the author presents a relational psychoanalytic perspective on working with the traumatized patient. She considers the presentation of his work with a Holocaust survivor from a relational perspective with particular attention to the dyadic interaction, the intersubjectivity and co-creations of patient and analyst, and finally, addresses the role of the "witness" in psychoanalytic work. The idea of the witness has particular currency in contemporary psychoanalytic thinking. The author briefly examines the dimensions of the "witness" from a relational point of view. Consideration is also given to the necessary distinction between adult onset and childhood onset trauma and the repercussions of each for the analytic couple.

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    ABSTRACT: Dissociation leaves a psychic void and a lingering sense of psychic absence. How do 2 people bond while they are both suffering from dissociation? The author explores the notion of a dissociative bond that occurs in the aftermath of trauma-a bond that holds at its core an understanding and shared detachment from the self. Such a bond is confined to unspoken terms that are established in the relational unconscious. The author proposes understanding the dissociative bond as a transitional space that may not lead to full integration of dissociated knowledge yet offers some healing. This is exemplified by R. Prince's (2009 ) clinical case study. A relational perspective is adopted, focusing on the intersubjective aspects of a dyadic relationship. In the dissociative bond, recognition of the need to experience mutual dissociation can accommodate a psychic state that yearns for relationship when the psyche cannot fully confront past wounds. Such a bond speaks to the need to reestablish a sense of human relatedness and connection when both parties in the relationship suffer from disconnection. This bond is bound to a silence that becomes both a means of protection against the horror of traumatic memory and a way to convey unspoken gestures toward the other.
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