In the seminar we will develop and focus on these central points and issues:
1: The difference between real trauma (as in Ferenczi) and fantasied trauma (as in Freud's development). In fact we owe to Ferenczi, as a result of his disagreements with Freud, an understanding of trauma as a real event or series of events impacting the psyche of the subject. This contrasts with a view of trauma rooted mostly in fantasmatic and intrapsychic elements (see Freud's revision of the "seduction theory"). This has led contemporary clinicians and thinkers to reconsider the historicization and reconstruction of traumatic events on both an individual and a collective scale (Grubrich-Simitis, Bohleber, Mucci).
2: As a consequence of point 1, the recognition and real empathic appreciation of the dynamics of interpersonal real (both precocious maltreatment and abuse, and massive social trauma, such as war or genocide) undergone by the "victim" led Ferenczi to an understanding of two major outcomes: a, what he calls the "fragmentation" of the psyche of the subject, what nowadays we describe psychologically and neuroscientifically as "dissociation", b, the process of what he terms, the "identification with the aggressor", which means taking in not only the aggressiveness of the perpetrator (a fundamental tool in the repetition of violence) but also the split-off sense of guilt the aggressor embodies without awareness. The psychodynamics of the identification with the aggressor both individually and in group dynamics has been described as a basic reason for destructiveness against the self and also for the perpetration of violence against groups identified as enemies in a paranoid/perverse attitude (see, with different approaches, Frankel, Volkan, Kernberg).
3: Point 1 and 2 lead in turn to an understanding of the psychotherapeutic practice as a kind of testimonial activity based on an empathic attitude or what Ferenczi calls a benevolent and helpful therapist, in contrast to Freud's rather unsympathetic attitude. In fact since the identification with both victim and persecutor in the subject who has undergone interpersonal trauma might lead to an intergenerational transmission of violence, with mechanisms of both revictimization and aggressive repetitions, it is only through the work with the traumatized individual in a totally empathic way and a restorative, reparative kind of practice that the "victim" can achieve empowerment and, crucially, reconnect to a collectivity. Against the end of civilization, against aggressiveness and dehumanization, we want to posit empathy, resilience, humanization, working through of mourning and loss, the strength of art and beauty and the rejuvenating power of "forgiveness", as the giving up, after deep therapeutic work, of the identifications any traumatized being has inside with both victim and persecutor.
Clara Mucci is Full Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Chieti (Italy). She previously served as Full Professor of English Literature and Shakespearean Drama. A psychoanalytic psychotherapist for the SIPP, (Italian Society of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy), in private practice in Milan and Pescara, she is the author of several monographs on English Literature, Shakespeare and Literary theory (Liminal Personae, 1995; Tempeste, 1998; Il teatro delle streghe, 2001; A memoria di donna, 2004; I corpi di Elisabetta. Sessualita' potere e poetica della Cultura al tempo di Shakespeare, 2009) and on trauma and the Holocaust (Il dolore estremo, 2008; Beyond Individual and collective Trauma. Psychoanalytic Treatment, Intergenerational Transmission and the Dynamics of Forgiveness, 2013; Trauma e perdono, 2014).