Reestablishing the Internal "Thou" in "Testimony of Trauma"
Click here to see a podcast of the lecture.
Free and open to the public.
At the very core of the extreme traumatic experience (for example, genocide or childhood sexual abuse) is the obliteration of the internalized, empathic communicative dyad. Just as the executioner does not heed the pleas for life and relentlessly proceeds with the execution, the internal “Thou,” the addressee with whom inner dialogue takes place – a prerequisite to symbolization and to internal world representation – ceases to exist. Without that internal dialogue, psychic representation of the traumatic experience cannot exist and narrative cannot be formed to relate it to another. Therefore, to a large extent, the witness “does not know” what she knows of her experience of extremity. It is only through the testimonial process, in the company of an intimate, totally present listener, that the lost internal “Thou” can begin to be reestablished and the process of internal dialogue, symbolization, and narrative formation can resume. A memory is thus created that can be both related and forgotten. The (video) testimonial intervention described here has a therapeutic effect by both creating a remembered past and freeing up the emotional space for present living. Trauma discourse is replete with failed attempts at narrativization of trauma, ranging from momentary lapses, through dissociative states, to total muteness. Examples of such “crises of witnessing” will be given.
Dr. Dori Laub, himself a child survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, is a practicing psychoanalyst, working primarily with victims of trauma and their children. He is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and co-founder of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies. He is the author of many articles on psychic trauma and co-author, with Shoshana Felman, of Testimony - Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History.
You might also be interested in the seminar Knowing and Not Knowing - Forms of Traumatic Memory with Dori Laub on 5/10 at 10am.
This event is free and open to the public. It is part of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Project Series at the Portland Center for Public Humanities. Co-sponsored by the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center.
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