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Fig 2.23 – Traumatized Self

Text: Page 95

Atwood and Stolorow made a shift to phenomenological psychoanalysis, the belief that relational psychoanalysis needed a radical contextualization of virtually all aspects of psychological life, starting with painful or frightening affect, especially trauma. Since all humans experienced emotional pain, the baby could be traumatized during childhood when caretakers were not in attunement with the emotional pain of the child. Living in an authentic intersubjective world necessitated the need for the caretaker to dwell in emotional pain with the child while at the same time providing an “emotional home” for the pain to be held.

In the final analysis a binary psychology created an emotionally traumatized self with impending feelings of annihilation and unendurable emotions that needed deadening dissociative defenses. When these painful and traumatic feelings were intersubjectively met by the “angels” of human responsiveness and understanding, by phenomenological contextualism, a transformation occurred. The traumatized individual experienced feelings of aliveness and vitality through the emotional attunement and authenticity of relationship. Relational psychoanalysis changed the psychoanalytic symbol of the Stolorow “demon shadow” of a binary self, a pre-determined and separate unconscious, to the “angel” of a self that developed from relational, intersubjective, and internalized self-objects.

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