Paulina Reyes and Alejandro Reyes: Internal Homelessness, the Aftermath of Traumatic Experiences.
A study the state of mind of young people on the aftermath of severely traumatic experiences, either experienced directly by them or passed on trans-generationally

In this paper we look at how or in what way people may feel that traumatic events have taken away their sense of identity, of belonging and of safety. We explore how this manifests itself in the clinical material, dreams and unconscious phantasies.
"Internal Homelessness" would be a mental state characterised by a feeling that one's inner world has been destroyed by a traumatic experience, leaving the person to search for an external container or entity to carry its fragments.

We look at how or why traumatised persons attach themselves, either in thought or reality, to a class (Matte Blanco, 1975 and 1988) or group, e.g. refugee, torture victim; and whether this class identity would provide relief by replacing their lost internal sense of safety and belonging. On the other hand class identity could serve to perpetuate the dilution of the self and the feelings attached to the trauma.
Class (Matte Blanco, 1978) identity and class formation would be protective mechanisms that act as containers in the sense of keeping fragments of the self organised and recognisable under the formal, objective attributes of the class.
We also study other possible uses of class identity in their thinking: as a way of cushioning the impact of their negative feelings on themselves and important people in their lives, including the therapist. I would look for its use in the therapy as a means to regulate the distance from the therapist, and the therapist's interpretations. (The study relies on I. Matte Blanco's concept of classification and class formation (1975 and 1988) as a primary cognitive function of the unconscious mind.)

The individual searches for a class or category, e.g. Latin-American refugees group, as if following a fragment represented by the class, in a vain attempt to find containment, which the class cannot perform, as it only has a containing but not a processing function. The person looks for a collective idiom in the class or group, especially when the traumatic event still feels too close in time. The group may outwardly seem to provide a containing function where a private feeling of uprooting is compensated by a public belonging, but it may also facilitate forgetting due to the anaesthetic quality of special groups.

A class is defined by a characteristic a number of people have in common, e.g. Tortured Latin-American women or Lockerbie group for relatives or victims of mid-air accidents. The person in its search for relief losses his or her individual characteristics and specific history, while the lost object is unique to the loser.

The state of mind of internal homelessness will be illustrated with clinical material from the therapeutic work we have undertaken for several years with a young refugee Latin-American woman, who survived torture through the defensive device of complex sadomasochistic phantasies. We will also describe how this woman, after having had a child, could be helped to become more vigilant so as not to project her trauma unto him.

A further clinical example will be provided by Paulina Reyes from the psychotherapy with a young woman daughter of refugees whose father had been tortured. It will serve to look at inter generational trauma as well.

Mrs Paulina Reyes, BSc Hons, MACP Dr. Alejandro Reyes M.D.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist
8 Cornwall Grove London W4 2LB
Tel +00 20 - 8994 7529 Fax 00 20 8742 0120


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last modified: 2003-01-20