The mythification of memory: Freud, Lacan and Sebald’s Austerlitz

This paper explores the theme of memory and the process of remembering, linked to the inception of psychoanalysis and Freud’s work with his first hysterical patients which taught him that remembering, or rather, reminiscing, forms a crucial part of every analysis. Remembering is imprecise and is therefore of immense significance. What doesn’t fit into the narrative of life is “trauma.” It is what could not be assimilated by the subject and thus it is separated from “memory” (Braunstein, 2010, p. 6). In developing this, I will assess Freud’s early work with female hysterics and his work on technique, as well as Lacan’s elaborations of Freud’s technique in his work in the fifties which instrumentalise the importance of “dialectic” in supporting the analysand’s speech and remembering. What is essential is the “reconstruction” of the past and not simply reproducing it. W.G. Sebald’s compelling novel Austerlitz (2001) serves as a complimentary text in assessing the subjective significance of memory and remembering.

Talking about trauma: could I, would I, should I?

In this article, we discuss the current clinical guideline in trauma treatment which proscribes putting traumatic events into words. Via Lacan’s registers of the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, we consider an alternative understanding of trauma in which subjective processes and the relationship between subject and Other are crucial in understanding the inability to process traumatic events. When, in that relationship, a dissatisfactory representational framework has been installed, therapy should focus on finding stabilization in a safe and supportive environment. In a case illustration, we elaborate on the situation in which the existing representational framework fails and how therapy encompasses a search towards another position in relation to the Other. We conclude that speech functions as an instrument, rather than as the finality of the cure.

Identity on the Run: Psychoanalysis as “a possible Profession” in an unbearable Situation

To speak of fleeing presupposes an active choice: the subject driven by a survival instinct to make strategic use of its defence mechanisms. But what of the case where flight is une carte forcée driven by real danger forcing the subject faced with death to choose life? An already fragile refugee, the author argues, then faces a poor reception by Western society upon arrival. The pressure uncertain legal status can shatter the identity of a refugee waiting to receive permanent recognition. The external threat which forced the subject to flee his/her own country can be magnified by the threats to which he is exposed on arrival. On a phenomenological level, the effect of the fragmentation of the immigrant’s identity is similar clinically in symptoms to a trauma patient. A clinical illustration of a psychotherapy with a Chechen patient supports this hypothesis. In this context psychotherapy concerns making connections between inside and outside, between the inner and outer world, between one’s own country and Western society. The objective is to safeguard the existence of the subject: in reality as well as in a fantasmatic construction.

A Foreign Land to come Home to: On Migration and Psychoanalysis

This paper examines what psychoanalysis can say about migration, and what it means for psychotherapeutic work with migrants and refugees. Topics addressed include trauma, mourning, depression, melancholia and identity formation. The refugee or migrant faces not only traumatic events and loss experiences from their home country and during flight, but also unexpected phenomena in the country of arrival. Desubjectivization, the decoupling of a language and its effect, given the fact that the unconscious is structured like language, mourning work and the risk of melancholy, the interruption of the Name-of-the-Father, being mirrored and the effect on one’s identity. The migrant is challenged to process trauma and to incorporate it into the framework of life. He must perform mourning work, build a new (shared) Symbolic, and achieve social and psychological integrity. In an analysis, there is the opportunity to be heard, to hear yourself speak, instead of being under scrutiny, to face things, convey movement, to break, and to regain one’s own subjectivity.

The Transmission of Trauma

Arising from the work of Fonagy and others, the question of the transmission of the effects of trauma is examined, particularly in the context of holocaust trauma and the survivors. Possible mechanisms are explored and the place of Freud’s notion of deferred action is discussed and the mode of its possible operation in this context. It is suggested that this notion offers a more specifically psychoanalytic and more adequate approach to exploring what is operative here. Transmission is considered as a possible case of nachtraglichkeit, which might offer a better account of the phenomena being explored. The implications of the above for the particular trauma that is the reality of death are alluded to and it is suggested that the trauma is commonly dealt with through the mechanism of deferred action.

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