Early Relational Trauma and the ‘Traumatised Baby’ A morning workshop with Marcus West London, 6 February 2020 (Thursday) 10:00am - 1:00pm
This seminar will explore some of the consequences of profound early relational trauma, where the infant’s basic needs to attach and to express their desires and distress have been unbearable or unacceptable to the caregiver. The ‘traumatised baby’ then becomes central to therapy and is co-constructed in the therapy relationship in a very powerful way. The seminar will explore some of the patterns of relating that follow and can typically lead to states of retraumatisation, profound regression (that Balint described as ‘malignant’), therapeutic impasse, and often the breakdown of therapy. It will explore how and why states of collapse, hopelessness, despair, envy, idealisation, shame, rage, destructiveness and suicidality, as well as sadistic and masochistic ways of relating, follow from these early experiences. We will consider how working with these states involves understanding and addressing the fundamentals of relating, as they manifest in the therapy relationship, and as they apply to both client and therapist. Using case examples, the seminar will explore how such early trauma triggers the primitive mammalian defences of fight, flight, freeze and collapse, related to Porges’ Polyvagal theory, as well as distortions to what the neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp calls the RAGE, FEAR, SEEKING and PANIC/GRIEF systems (plus the later-developing CARE, LUST and PLAY systems). This is particularly the case where, as in the situations we will discuss, the person to whom the infant would naturally turn to for comfort is also the source of threat, allowing disorganised attachment patterns to develop - with the person turning away from relationship whilst trying to co-opt the other through other relational means - withdrawal, control, avoidance and/or evacuation. The talk therefore explores both the psyche’s reactions and adaptations to the particular trauma(s) and the psyche’s intrinsic defences against narcissistic wounding. A particular focus will be on the period when, as Anne Alvarez describes in working with people with autism, what were once imperative defences are no longer necessary in the same way and simply become (unhelpful) ways of relating. At this point they can be challenged and new ways of relating begin to be developed. This is frequently keyed in by the analyst’s growing awareness of their own primitive, narcissistic, murderous-evacuative impulses which, if recognised, sensitively handled, and constructively utilised, can lead to growth and change (rather than causing an impasse or breakdown of the therapy relationship). About the speaker Marcus West is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Society of Analytical Psychology and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Analytical Psychology. He is also a trained EMDR practitioner. His recent book, Into the Darkest Places - Early Relational Trauma and Borderline States of Mind, was published by Karnac in 2016. He is also the author of: Feeling, Being and the Sense of Self: A new perspective on identity, affect and narcissistic disorders (2007), and Understanding Dreams in Clinical Practice (2011). He was joint winner of the Michael Fordham Prize in 2004, has written several papers, contributed chapters to books, and taught and lectured widely in UK and abroad. Currently, Marcus works at his private practice in Sussex.
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