Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Marcus West - Participation Mystique and Trauma

"It is for this reason that the process of analysis with patients who have experienced early trauma is, on the deepest level, essentially one in which the analyst, through the process of participation mystique, slowly comes to experience an equivalent to the patient’s early trauma through the patient’s re-enactment of that trauma upon them.183 The analyst can then, and only then, ‘speak from experience’ and properly contain and help the patient to recognize the impact of the trauma and how this manifests in their fundamental, implicit ways of being with others. This is perhaps what Bion means by the patient communicating their uncontained beta elements to the analyst. This dis-identification from the patient is not, therefore, a simple matter.

Invaluable in this, is the historical, traumatic dimension, the recognition of which has allowed a subtle but profound shift in my analytic attitude. I have come to understand that the way a patient experiences me in the present relates very much to the way that past experiences became installed as their ‘ways of being with others’ at an implicit, procedural level. Furthermore, that every day, moment-by-moment interactions are laden with meaning through association with past experience and past traumas. This has allowed me to see that these experiences are at the same time about me and not about me - which is implicitly facilitates dis-identification - and to recognize and understand what they are about.

The analyst’s ‘accompanying, following, witnessing, and bearing with the patient’s experiences’ means, for me, being able to stay with the patient’s experiences as they actually are and were. The process of analysis (which I contrast in exactly this respect with ‘therapy’) is the slow development, between patient and analyst, of their individual and joint ability to achieve this and to resist the patient’s natural, inevitable and understandable pressure to move away from experiences which were previously unbearable." (pp. 65-66)

Excerpt from Marcus West (2014). Trauma, Participation Mystique, Projective Identification and Trauma, in Mark Winborn (Ed.), Shared Realities: Participation Mystique and Beyond, Fisher King Press.

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