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Number 9: Winter 2013

Trauma and the Ghost Dance of Psychoanalytic Practice

Brid Greally

As feminism struggles with the quagmire of victimhood, psychoanalysis is criticised for what Oliver has called ‘false witness’ when the effects of trauma are understood in terms of internal object relations or as inherent structure. This has often resulted in political resistance being ignored or when it is mentioned it is pathologised. ¬† Whilst contagion makes clinical work possible and provides some access to the possibility of shared meaning, a sole focus on empathy can lead to over identification which can result in vicarious traumatisation or narcissistic distancing. Oliver and Khanna highlight the importance of an acknowledgement of injustice and the importance of access to questioning and resignification so that there can be access to the creation of shared meanings and a shared world.

I believe that a psychoanalysis informed by feminism, Trauma Studies and post-colonial scholarship can provide an important contribution to understanding the clinical impasses in remembering, repeating and working through which are generated by trauma. It highlights how we are already implicated in our own suffering in a singular and idiosyncratic manner and holds open the possibility of loosening the grip of shame and debilitating guilt. Feminism, Trauma Studies and post colonialism remind us of the importance of not reducing the effects of trauma to either the internal or the structural and help to envisage a psychoanalytic practice which is able to listen to the subject position of the client and their struggle with a sense of agency.