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CHAPTER THREE: Sibling ghosts

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“An innumerable variety of cases can be thought of in which we should say that someone has pains in another person’s body … or in any empty spot.

(Wittgenstein, 1933–1934, p. 50)

Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Albee seemed to share a common view that it is the hidden and unspoken traumas of loss, violence, and death that inscribe themselves upon the psyche of subsequent generations. In this chapter, the repercussions that a sibling death might have upon the whole family, including any surviving siblings, is explored. In particular, if the loss of a sibling is hidden or never adequately mourned and remembered, its voice can be heard in future generations. Psychoanalytic theory since Freud has neglected the possibility that their presence might be felt across several generations and might be demanding to be acknowledged. Loewald put this idea particularly well when he wrote,

Those who know ghosts tell us that they long to be released from their ghost life and laid to rest as ancestors. As ancestors they live forth in the present generations, while as ghosts they are compelled to haunt the present generation with their shadow life. [Loewald, 1980, p. 249]

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CHAPTER SIX: The trauma of war

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“Yet once I discovered this unexplained suicide [of my great grandmother], I came to see it as a symbol that spoke for three generations of my family”

(Holroyd, 2010, p. 323)

In the previous chapters, it has been argued that to know of the ancestral past may be an important part in unlocking a repetitive and destructive pattern of behaviour. Orestes was caught up in three generations of violent revenge. Oedipus was blighted by the deceptions that accompanied his unwanted birth. In the clinical cases of Martha, Muriel, and Nicholas, they all carried an ancestral history that was painfully discovered. The work that has been done since the 1960s on the legacy of the Second World War, and, in particular, the help that has been given to the survivors of the Holocaust and their children, shows most clearly the way traumatic experience rebounds on the second and third generation.

The work of several analysts, mostly working in the USA, in the late 1970s and in the 1980s with survivors of the Holocaust made it more possible to think about the way in which traumatic experiences of parents can be transmitted to their children (Bergman & Jucovy, 1982; Kestenberg & Kestenberg, 1982; Krystal, 1978; Niederland, 1968a). In the collection of essays that were brought together in Generations of the Holocaust (Bergman & Jucovy, 1982), there was general agreement that there had been a collective “wall of silence” from analysts, psychiatrists, doctors, and the general population about the aftermath of the Second World War, and, in particular, there had been a denial of the effect of the Holocaust on survivors and their children (Bergman & Jucovy, 1982, p. 33). It had needed twenty years after the ending of the war before the helping professions began to be aware that there had been a neglect of this historical fact. For instance, patients were returning to therapy after an earlier analysis that had ignored the Holocaust as a meaningful event in the inner world. The failure to think about the psychological effects of the Holocaust was partly to do with what was called a “latency period”, which was defined as the time it took for analysts to face and find a language to express the horror of what had happened (Kestenberg, 1975; Kestenberg & Kestenberg, 1982). It could be said that to call this period of silence a necessary “latency period” was being too generous towards the psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and psychoanalysts who had greeted the survivors of the Holocaust. Some felt that there had been a conspiracy of silence due to the countertransference reactions of rage and guilt in the professionals (Danielli, 1984). This divided response to the silence that greeted the returning survivors is echoed in the differing reactions of survivors themselves. Some survivors felt that they needed time to process their experiences within themselves before they could speak, and their therapists recognized that in talking too soon there was a danger that they would be retraumatized further. For instance, Buergenthal, writing his memoirs Lucky Child in 2010, said he could only write of his experiences sixty years after his survival in Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, and the ghetto of Kiele, for, he maintained that

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Chapter Two - Freud and Siblings

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CHAPTER TWO

Freud and siblings

“As a rule there is only one person an English girl hates more than she hates her eldest sister; and that's her mother”

Shaw, 1903

“As a rule there is only one person an English girl hates more than she hates her mother; and that's her elder sister”

Freud, 1916–1917, p. 205

Freud's misquotation from Shaw, was highlighted by Penelope Farmer (2000) in her anthology on sisters, and it serves as a nice illustration of Freud's “Freudian slip” (p. 190) in his thinking about siblings. He did not much care for them, his own or those of anyone else, and there are only passing references to them in his theoretical work, (1900a, 1905d, 1910a, 1914f, 1916–1917, 1931b), and no reference to them in his intellectual autobiography (1935a) despite the fact that he had five sisters and one brother. One result of Freud's comparative neglect of the place of siblings in emotional development, has been that there is almost no mention of siblings in psychoanalytic theory or practice and it is assumed that siblings play little part in people's health or mental distress, with the exception of Mitchell (2000).

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CHAPTER FIVE: The nurse

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“If the woman disappeared so suddenly, I said to myself, some impression of the event must have been left inside me. Where was it now?”

(Masson, 1985, p. 222)

In the previous four chapters, there have been some shadowy figures whose representation can be found in our inner world. These figures, such as grandparents, dead siblings, or abandoning parents can haunt later generations if they have been left in unmourned and unmarked graves. In my clinical work, a fuller and more detailed investigation into earlier family relationships has seemed to unburden the psyche of some who have been holding an unacknowledged family trauma. But, in filling in some of their fractured narratives, there is one “uninvited guest” who has been neglected: the wet nurse, the nurse, or nanny. She has been present in the history of child-rearing for the last 3000 years (Fildes, 1988), yet she is a scarcely mentioned figure in most accounts of psychological development. In this chapter, the emotional effect that wet nurses, nurses and nannies have upon children is explored and a question is raised about their absence from psychoanalytic theory and practice. Though the nurse or nanny is a figure who occurs within the family of the privileged, the wet nurse is a more ubiquitous figure upon whose breast the rich, the orphaned, and the poor have relied, and it is her legacy that can be heard in the voice of the nurse.

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Chapter Three - Freud's Early Years

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CHAPTER THREE

Freud's early years

Freud's father Jakob was forty when, in 1855, he married Freud's mother, Amalia Nathansohn, who was only twenty. Jakob brought with him two sons, Emanuel and Philipp, from an earlier marriage. Emanuel, in his early twenties, was himself married with a son, John, this same John who became Freud's “inseparable companion” (Freud, 1900a). Philipp would have been nineteen or twenty-one (Jones, 1953; Raphael-Leff, 1990). Emanuel and Philipp probably lived next door to Jakob and Amalia. Indeed “the half-brother Emanuel's family lived so near and was so intimate that the two families might be regarded as one” (Jones, 1953, p. 6).

In May 1856 Freud was born. His grandfather, Jakob's father, had just died, (Raphael-Leff, 1990, p. 324), and his parents were squashed into “a single rented room in a modest house…(in) Freiberg” (Gay, 1988, p. 7). The circumstances surrounding Freud's early years were to prove most complicated and quite unpropitious. It is not clear, from either Jones or Gay, whether the family continued to live in this “single rented room” until they left Freiberg in 1859, but equally there is no evidence that they moved before leaving Freiberg (Anzieu, 1986). It is my suspicion, as I shall argue in the next chapter, that indeed they did remain in that one room for the first three years of Freud's life, and that this experience was fundamental to Freud's analytic theories, as well as his treatment of the Wolfman.

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