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Terror Within and Without

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As clinicians we want to further our understanding of work with adult clients who have experienced massive and cumulative psychic trauma to which there is no possible adaptive response strategy. This monograph of the 2008 John Bowlby Memorial Conference brings together papers by leading contributors to the field of attachment and trauma that explore the means by which individuals struggle to cope with exposure to war zones, both large scale conflicts and societal breakdown, and the domestic war zones where adults and children experience violence and sexual abuse. These papers seek to further our understanding of the intergenerational transmission of experiences of trauma, as in the examples of the Holocaust and slavery. In times where talk of terror is everywhere, psychotherapists offer a clinical perspective on terror which may translate to the world at large. Papers by Professor Arietta Slade, Shoshi Asheri, Dr. Joseph Schwartz, Adah Sachs, Dick Blackwell and Judith Erskine explore topics such as: experiences of terror states in the consulting room; the multiple survival strategies engaged by people struggling to cope with exposure to relational and environmental war zones; the intergenerational transmission of trauma and terror within an historical and cultural framework; the connection between therapists' own experiences of terror and those of their clients; how therapists may appropriately adapt their approach to include those who have been seen as 'unanalysable'; how the non-verbal aspects of a terrorised person's experience can be safely and effectively worked with therapeutically and the implications for the therapeutic frame and technique; and how we might more adequately provide support and legitimacy within the profession for work 'on the edge'.

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Chapter One - Attachment Theory and the John Bowlby Memorial Lecture 2008: a short history

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Bernice Laschinger

This year we mark the fifteenth anniversary of the first John Bowlby Memorial Lecture given by Colin Murray-Parkes on the theme of mourning and loss. That was a fitting recognition of Bowlby's great contribution to the understanding of human grief and sadness, while his clinical observations of separation and loss laid down the foundations of attachment theory.

In the years which have followed, attachment theory, in the words of Cassidy and Shaver (2008, xi), has produced “one of the broadest, most profound and most creative lines of research in 20th-century (and now 21st-century) psychology”. Nevertheless, given the hostility of the psychoanalytic establishment to Bowlby's ideas, it has only been in the last two decades, during which there have been dramatic advances in the congruent disciplines of infancy research and relational psychoanalysis, that the clinical relevance of attachment theory has been unquestionably established.

Indeed, it has been the development of its clinical applications, in tandem with its evolving convergence with psychoanalysis and trauma theory, that has been central to our practice at The Bowlby Centre. Looking back, our very early links with Bowlby's work were forged by one of our founders, John Southgate, who had clinical supervision with John Bowlby. Bowlby's understanding of the nature of human relatedness became primary in our theoretical framework and practice. It contributed directly to our emergence as an attachment-based psychoanalytic centre in 1992.

 

Chapter Two - A White Boy goes to Mississippi

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Joseph Schwartz

1. The terror without

At Berkeley in the ’50s, where the left wing faculty had been purged in the mess around the loyalty oath, we students campaigned for fair housing against University of California housing officer, Ruth Donnelly, and lost. The Free Speech Movement was to come later. So were radical black representatives Ron Dellums and his successor, Barbara Lee (Democrat, Oakland). Lee was the only member of Congress, following 9/11, to vote against the war in Iraq.

The 1957 Montgomery bus boycott led by Rosa Parks was electrifying. So was the 1960 Greensboro lunch counter sit-in.

In 1961 we heard that Bob Moses had gone to McComb, Mississippi to work on voter registration. Sharp intake of breath. Community organising in Mississippi? Saul Alinsky had done it successfully in Back-of-the-Yards, Chicago. But Mississippi? DeeDee Skinner and I looked at each other: “Jesus Christ. That's brave”.

The lynching of black people in America was a fact of life. DeeDee and I were “red diaper babies” (children of communist party members or sympathisers). We knew about it. The frame-up and execution of Willie McGee in 1951, the lynchings of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 in Money, Mississippi and twenty-three-year-old Mack Parker in 1959 in Poplarville were just recent examples that had received national attention. In 1930, the fourteen-year-old James Cameron narrowly escaped being lynched along with two nineteen year olds, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. He later described it:

 

Chapter Three - Intergenerational Transmission of Massive Trauma: The Holocaust

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Adah Sachs

My baby was born ill and lacerated
And tiny as the palm of my hand.
And when he cried, grandpa told me to nurse him,
my little baby,
only his lips weren't sick.
My little baby was born ill and wounded:
I've always known, something
is sick
inside me, someone
dead.

—Anon., poem by a second-generation Holocaust survivor, 1985

Ruben, fifty-four, is a famous chef and a “wild character”. He is obese, a heavy smoker, and a reckless driver. Despite his high earnings, he is often in debt. He is twice divorced.

Gabriel, aged fifty-five, still lives with his parents. He is single, and has a very promiscuous lifestyle “on principle” (to use his own words).

Daphna, fifty-two, is an unusually beautiful woman. She is a consultant at a teaching hospital, specialising in HIV and AIDS. She is a single mum.

David, a bright man of fifty-five, is chronically unsuccessful at his work. He is single.

Lea and Josh, forty-eight, are married and have three children. They both suffer from depression, and largely depend on the help of their ageing parents to support their family.

 

Chapter Four - The Place of Fear in Attachment Theory and Psychoanalysis: The Fifteenth John Bowlby Memorial Lecture

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Arietta Slade

Introduction

Today I will be talking about fear and its place in attachment theory and psychoanalysis. In the hierarchy of human motivations, Bowlby placed particular emphasis on attachment because it is essential to our physical and psychological survival. And he privileged fear of loss and danger because these elemental reactions drive and organise the activation and deactivation of the attachment system, regulate physical and psychological proximity seeking and contact maintenance, and shape the organisation of mental life.

At the time that Bowlby began formulating his theory of human attachment, psychoanalysis placed virtually no emphasis on the role of fear and the search for safety in the development of personality and psychopathology. This had much to do, of course, with Freud's particular interest in internal reality, and his relative lack of interest in relationships. Bowlby, by contrast, was greatly interested in actual experience, and believed that attending to the dynamics of fear and its regulation within the context of actual attachment relationships would fundamentally change psychoanalysis (1969, 1973, 1980, 1988). For Bowlby, an emphasis on fear and the search for safety offered a crucial corrective to the theories of motivation, development, and psychopathology that prevailed in psychoanalysis at the time. For many years, however, this corrective fell on deaf ears within the analytic community, which actively rejected Bowlby and his ideas for several decades.

 

Chapter Five - States of Terror and Terrorist States: Oppression and Liberation in Political and Therapeutic Contexts

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Dick Blackwell

“If only it were all so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good from evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy a piece of their own heart.”1

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1974, p. 168)

“In psychoanalysis nothing is true except the exaggerations.”2

Theodor Adorno (1951, no. 29)

This chapter is based on my work with survivors of political oppression, most of whom have been refugees to the UK, mainly from what are commonly referred to as “third world” countries. It also draws on the observations about the contemporary social contexts in which we currently live, and on a range of individual and institutional responses to these contexts. I am concerned here not only with terrorised clients but with the ways in which we can ourselves individually and collectively become terrorised and can furthermore become terrorising.

 

Chapter Six - Stepping into the Void of Dissociation: a Therapist and a Client in Search of a Meeting Place

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Shoshi Asheri

The premise of this chapter is that when a client enters the therapy room bringing with them their traumatic experience, in whatever disorganised or dissociated, physiological and/or psychological manifestations, they inevitably enter into a relationship with a part of the therapist that would rather remain dissociated than feel the unbearable feelings that an engagement with such trauma can evoke, particularly if the therapist carries a related trauma of his or her own. If we accept this premise, an important and intriguing question arises: how do we negotiate a therapeutic meeting in the face of the unconscious pact between a therapist and a client to remain dissociated?

In order to explore this question I will relate a clinical experience in which my client's dissociated domestic trauma entered into a relationship with my dissociated political and personal trauma. What could have been a potentially re-traumatising re-enactment between two people longing to be met, but remaining lost to each other in the void of their respective dissociations, became the key to a profound, mutually therapeutic, meeting.

 

Appendix I - Reading List

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Books

Allen, J., Als, H., Lewis, J. & Litwack, L. F. (2008). Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms.

Bergmann, M. V. (1982). Thoughts on superego pathology of survivors and their children. In: M. S. Bergmann & M. Jucovy (Eds.), Generations of the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Bizos, G. (1998). No One to Blame? In Pursuit of Justice in South Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: David Philip/Mayibuye.

Blackwell, D. (2005). Counselling and Psychotherapy with Refugees. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Bloom, S. (1997). Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies. London: Routledge.

Breger, L. (2000). Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision. Chichester: Wiley.

Bromberg, P. M. (2001). Standing in the Spaces: Essays on Clinical Process, Trauma and Dissociation. New York: Analytic Press.

Busch, F. (Ed.) (2008). Mentalization: Theoretical Considerations, Research Findings, and Clinical Implications. New York: Analytic Press.

Cameron, J. (1994). A Time of Terror. Baltimore: Black Classics Press.

 

Appendix II - Introduction to the Bowlby Centre

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Promoting attachment and inclusion

Since 1976 The Bowlby Centre (formerly known as CAPP) has developed as an organisation committed to the practice of attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapy. The Bowlby Centre is a dynamic, rapidly developing charity which aims both to train attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapists and to deliver a psychotherapy service to those who are most marginalised and frequently excluded from long term psychotherapy.

We provide a four year part-time psychotherapy training accredited by the UKCP and operate a psychotherapy referral service for the public including the low cost Blues Project. The Bowlby Centre has a wealth of experience in the fields of attachment and loss and particular expertise in working with trauma and abuse. As part of our ongoing commitment to anti-discriminatory practice we offer a consultation service to the public and private sectors and are engaged in outreach and special projects working with care leavers, women experiencing violence and abuse, offenders and ex-offenders, people struggling with addiction to drugs, alcohol, eating difficulties or self-harm, and to individuals and groups in a wide variety of mental health settings.

 

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