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Shall the Twain Meet? Metaphor, Dissociation, and Cooccurrence

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Even when trauma can be remembered, the memory does not infuse the present with vitality or emotionality, as other memories do. To become a vital part of experience, trauma must be linked with other current experiences. Such links are metaphorical, in the sense meant by Lakoff and Johnson (1999). In metaphor, the meaning of a memory is carried over or transferred to a present experience. When such transfer takes place, trauma can be reflected on, because it can now be seen against the background of another experience. Transfer is made possible by cooccurrence, or the simultaneous presence in one's mind of a memory and a present experience. Such cooccurrences are potential metaphors; they can be actualized or refused. Modell (2003) tells us that this kind of refusal, common among trauma sufferers, prevents traumatic experience from becoming part of “emotional categories.” I refer to the unconscious refusal to tap the potential of cooccurrence—the unconscious refusal to create metaphor—as dissociation. This view of dissociation, and its breaching, is illustrated by a clinical vignette.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: William Alanson White Institute,

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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