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Trauma And Hysteria Within Freud And Lacan

The Letter, Issue 14, Autumn 1998, Pages 87 - 105


Paul Verhaeghe

I want to start this paper with a question: why is it proving necessary to reopen the dossier on trauma in general and Freud's vision on it in particular? An obvious answer is that today we are confronted much more with this pathology than we used to be, and not only in Belgium, for that matter. The signifier of 'posttraumatic stress disorder' is virtually everywhere. Of course, it is very difficult to prove or disprove the hypothesis that traumatic experiences are actually more frequent than they used to be. Anyhow, it is obvious that the recent hype concerning 'recovered memory therapy’ has endorsed the whole question. In itself, this discussion is already a retake, albeit in a changed form, of the discussion around Masson, who in the early eighties tried to prove how wrong Freud was in matters of trauma.[1] Such hypes have even received a name on their own, it is called 'Freud bashing'. The most interesting question from a clinical point of view is why a number of people think it necessary to bash daddy Freud, or, at the other end, think it necessary to justify daddy Freud. But this would lead us into a discussion of the oedipal complex, which is not on the agenda today ...

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