Psychoanalysis Unit


Traumatic Neurosis

Lionel Bailly

For over a century psychoanalysts have been challenged by the clinical differences between Traumatic Neurosis and other neuroses. My research explores the link between neurosis and traumatic neurosis. Both start with an overwhelming moment of revelation, but it is the representability of the experience that seems to determine the clinical outcome. Traumatic Neurosis is caused by an external event. The interpretation of this event is the source of a piece of knowledge that has the power to disable a theory that partly defined the subject. There is no signifier to symbolize it, and the individual cannot give it meaning. In contrast, neuroses are caused by an internal event; they are the result of conscious or unconscious fantasy. A signifier represents the psychic experience, which can be repressed, denied, etc; these defence mechanisms protect the psyche from trauma, but lead to the creation of neurotic symptoms. This model clarifies what aspect of an event is traumatic for a person and explains the specificity of the individual's response to trauma. The therapeutic implications are that the treatment of Traumatic Neurosis is affected by the absence of signifiers to represent the subjective event, and transference itself is influenced by the subject's experience of temporary breakdown.