The influence of extreme traumatization on body, mind and social relations

Int J Psychoanal. 2007 Dec;88(Pt 6):1527-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-8315.2007.tb00758.x.


Extreme traumatization affects the individual's relation to others in several social and psychological ways. The post-traumatic experiences are characterized by helplessness, insecurity, anxiety, loss of basic trust, and fragmentation of perspectives on one's own life. Special considerations should be given to the destruction of the ability to regulate negative emotions (extreme fear, distress, anguish, anger, rage, shame) in relation to others and activate internal good and empathic object relations. Destruction of the capacity for symbolization of traumatic experience may threaten the mind with chaotic states against which the 'I' tries to defend itself and find a balanced psychic mise-en-scene. The authors emphasize three dimensions that the analyst should observe in his understanding of the traumatized mind and its conflicts. The proposed dimensions are called the body-other dimension, the subject-group dimension, and the subject-discourse dimension. All three dimensions have specific structural characteristics that are expressed in the analytic relation. Extreme trauma causes disturbances in each of these dimensions. The authors present clinical material from a traumatized refugee to illustrate the analytic work.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Culture
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Helplessness, Learned
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mind-Body Relations, Metaphysical*
  • Object Attachment
  • Psychoanalytic Theory*
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy*
  • Refugees / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Symbolism
  • Torture / psychology
  • Transference, Psychology
  • Violence / psychology