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Am J Psychother. 1999 Summer;53(3):392-402.

The "adualistic" representation of trauma: on malignant internalization.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital, Australia.


This paper suggests that traumatic memories are represented in a way that is qualitatively different from nontraumatic memories. The argument depends upon a concept of self, derived from Hughlings Jackson and William James, which is double, involving not only mental life but reflection upon it. Trauma is seen as causing an uncoupling, or dedoubling, of consciousness. The traumatic diminishment of the subject-object distinction in psychic life has several main effects. First, there is a change in the form of consciousness to a state which is focussed on the present and on immediate stimuli. Secondly, the memory system in which the traumatic events are recorded is nonepisodic, lacking the reflective component. In this way, it is unconscious. Thirdly, the traumatized-traumatizer dyad is represented not as two persons in relation but more nearly as a fused monad. This representation is not integrated into the system of self as the stream of consciousness but remains relatively sequestered. This sequestration is "unstable," determining rapidly oscillating, and opposite, forms of relatedness, termed "reversals." Finally, in an "uncoupled" state, the interpretation of the "meaning" of the traumatic event is impaired. Its construction is determined by affect.

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