One of the things we study at Riggs is the intergenerational transmission of trauma and the weight of history in producing various symptoms. Of course, as psychoanalysts we traffic in attempting to study the unconscious, so much of what is transmitted between generations does not necessarily happen in language but in signs that emerge in the silences. These signs are registered by some unconsciously or incoherently and may lead the recipient on an errand to retrieve the lost history in order to restore the “social link” to the history of a place, person, family member, national story has been lost. My colleague Francoise Davoine, PhD, a psychoanalyst in Paris refers to this as “the cut-out history” which often follows some sort of social catastrophe.
Mine 21 is a great example of this. Kelsey doesn’t know the story until she becomes a young adult, yet the story has been in the home, her caregivers, and the atmosphere of the community her entire life. The best people in psychoanalytic thinking about these phenomena are:
1. Francoise Davoine and Jean Max Gaudellier. Their book “History Beyond Trauma” is a Lacanian (thus difficult to read) text about trauma and the unconscious. The subtitle of the book includes a quote from Wittgenstein’s closing words of the Tractatus: “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one cannot stay silent.” This quote suggests that what is unspeakable comes out in various symptoms—usually somatic. This was also the basis of Freud’s 1895 version of hysteria—the repressed may also be the unspeakable, and the result is a symptom in the body expressed as a conversion disorder (limb paralysis, hysterical blindness, or other less dramatic symptoms).
2. Vamik Volkan writes a lot about traumatized communities and societies. Almost everytime he has a thought he seems to write a book! I recommend his 1981 book Linking Objects and Linking Phenomena.
3. I also recommend a paper by Maurice Apprey (a Dean of Students at UVa and a psychoanalyst). This article is rather difficult but has some gems of thinking in it. It was in Free Associations in 2014 and is titled ” A Pluperfect Errand.”
I hope these resources provide some avenue for exploration.
Letter from Jane Tillman to me, January 27, 2020