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Navigating Ambivalent States of Bodymind: Working with Intergenerationally Transmitted Holocaust Trauma in Couple Therapy

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The author suggests that the impact of intergenerationally transmitted Holocaust trauma can imbue a couple's struggle to achieve a reliable and containing co-created couple relationship with a particular quality. This quality has to do with content as well as structure, both of which affect the couple therapy. Couples can present as being gripped by an equivocal borderline predicament; a negative third that is infused with ambivalent, toxic, and reactive dynamics. These necessarily become active in the therapy, include negative enactments and put the therapy and the therapeutic relationship under extreme existential pressure. The author describes working with these dynamics by using her understanding of Jung's notion of deeply unconscious embodied structures and processes, psychoid experience, as well as Jung's concepts of dissociation and related complexes. She proposes that understanding and metabolising the psychoid nature of deeply destructive communications contained in enactments around the therapeutic frame and in embodied countertransference communications can support a slow spiral movement towards mourning and symbolisation. Aspects of trauma can become de-intensified, structural changes can occur, and couples can be enabled to experience moments of a co-created couple relationship, experiencing their relationship as a positive third, as a counter to the grip of the negative third.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2016

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  • Couple and Family Psychoanalysis aim is to promote the theory and practice of working with couple and family relationships from a psychoanalytic perspective. It seeks to provide a forum for disseminating current ideas and research and for developing clinical practice.
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