This book relates the psychoanalytic journey of a man in his thirties, a grandson of a high-level SS officer, whose case illustrates how individuals can sometimes suffer greatly or cause the suffering of other innocent persons, simply because they are descendants of perpetrators. In it, technical considerations in treating such an individual, including countertransference issues and concepts related to transgenerational transmissions—for example, identification, depositing, dissociation, encapsulation, and remembering through actions—are explored.
The man had a repeating daydream of carrying a big egg under his arm. The imagined egg, representing his encapsulated dissociated state, contained the mental representation of his Nazi grandfather and his grandfather’s victims, along with images of most tragic historical events. He attempted to turn his grandfather’s image from a life-taker to a life-giver and wished to own the older man’s grandiose specialness, while fearing the loss of his own life. These opposite aims created unnamed “catastrophes”. This book describes his psychoanalytic process from beginning to end and how he slowly cracked open his metaphorical egg, facing and naming the “catastrophes,” and eventually taming them.
"This book is an absolute gem! Vamik Volkan has distilled his many decades of wisdom into this absolutely riveting study of the treatment of the grandson of a high-ranking participant in the Nazi killing machine. In his role as supervisor, Professor Volkan demonstrates the essential importance of creating a larger holding environment to enable the analyst to grow with the patient, and how he also serves as a container of the analyst’s intolerable affects. He narrates the process with clarity, precision and deep understanding. The complexities of intergenerational transmission of trauma and disavowed family secrets are viewed as encapsulations of dissociated memories and affects, which have an insidious, pathogenic influence on character formation. This book is a must for clinicians at all levels and for anyone else interested in the study of the continuing, multigenerational effects of genocidal persecution."
- Ira Brenner, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry , Jefferson Medical College, Pennsylvania
"Societal trauma and its silent effects cannot be ignored. These traumas, unconsciously transmitted from generation to generation, often obstruct real understanding of events in any international setting – be it in therapeutic group systems, in the international political arena or in global business teams. As an international leadership development coach for major global companies, I witness this every day. I am grateful for the insights Dr Volkan gives us while telling the story of an analysand who had to deal with the Nazi legacy of his ancestors. We can and should use Dr Volkan’s findings also in the international business world."
- Christina von Wackerbarth, Ms Sc, Global Executive Coach at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France and Fellow of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
"This fascinating book shows the impact of transgenerational transmission of a murderous history on the character structure of a grandson of a Nazi perpetrator. The book includes a detailed account of a progression from the interpretation of fragmentary, defensive re-enactments to an awareness of the reality of the trauma, thus allowing a separate, better integrated self to be born. The important insights revealed in the book and its clear theoretical conceptualizations can inform us not only in the realm of this particular group of patients, but of all those whose lives are touched by the reality of war, violence and trauma."
- Ilany Kogan, Training Analyst, Israel Psychoanalytic Society
Table of Contents:
About the Author
1) The impact of the Third Reich: The end of “silence” in psychoanalysis
2) Victor: A man who lived in two different worlds
3) A look at narcissism, splitting, depositing, dissociation, and encapsulation
4) The “Firefighter”
5) A dead old man whose heart kept beating
6) The T4 euthanasia programme
7) Locked-up letters
8) Let there be oxygen
9) Legal redress and the psychology of remembering through actions
10) Photography, maggots, and jumping over a barbed wire fence
11) Searching for and finding a new life
12) Another look at identification, depositing, and transgenerational transmission
About the Author:
Vamik D. Volkan is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, an Emeritus Training and Supervising Analyst at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute and the Senior Erik Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He was the Medical Director of the University of Virginia's Blue Ridge Hospital and director of the University of Virginia's Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction. He was a past president of the International Society of Political Psychology, the Virginia Psychoanalytic Society, the Turkish-American Neuropsychiatric Association, and the American College of Psychoanalysts. He is also the author or co-author of forty books and the editor or co-editor of ten more. He has served on the editorial boards of sixteen professional journals including the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and has published more than four hundred scientific papers or book chapters.