There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
-Zora Neale Hurston
Friday, April 7, 2017
Do We Find Or Lose Ourselves in the Negative?
Jade McGleughlin, LICSW
The experience of deeply traumatized patients is rarely amenable to simple representation. Often we come to learn their stories through various enactments that bring into being aspects of their trauma that have previously been unsymbolized. The recognition of certain trauma however is marked less by the trauma and its symbolic representation than by a gap trauma creates – “a breach in the mind’s experience of time, self, and the world” (Caruth, 1996, p. 4). This breach, often experienced as a state of non-being, may be central to certain kinds of early trauma because “the space of unconsciousness is what paradoxically, preserves the trauma” (Caruth, 1996 p. 62). The breach in the mind is what comes to characterize our subjective experience. Our most familiar impulse is to understand, name, and represent trauma in language, which is an inherently creative act. Yet the impulse to close the gap of traumatic experience may be violating, a terrible erasure and misrecognition of patients who live the breach, whose present absence is a testimony to the gaps of their subjectivity.
Using the photographs of Francesca Woodman, who killed herself at 22, my patient and I immerse ourselves in a group of haunting images that Woodman created before she suicided. Those images, which visually represent states of nonbeing, become a metaphor for my patient and I to create a new medium to communicate about the sequellae of her traumatic past without the reductive stamp of language.
Caruth, C. (1996). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore, Maryland and London, England: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
JADE MCGLEUGHLIN, LICSW
President, Supervisor, Faculty, Board Member, Supervising Analyst, The Massachusetts Institute For Psychoanalysis. Assistant Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues and Contributing Editor, Studies in Gender and Sexuality. Author, numerous articles in Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Studies in Gender and Sexuality and book chapters. She presents nationally and internationally. She has a private practice in Cambridge, MA, treating children and adults, and doing consultations on difficult therapies.
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