The Partial Cure Problem (revisited)

I am bringing this February 2016 post forward in preparation for exploring in a future post the dynamics associated with dueling partial cures. It is as if we marry with the belief the beloved will be able to bring out our best, and then, each can’t help but resist at all costs.

In his essay on working with trauma in analysis, Donald Kalsched touches on the importance of recognizing the partial cure problem: “However we visualize it, the self care system accomplishes a partial cure of trauma, enough so that life continues, despite dissociation and its effects in limiting a person’s full potential. When people come for psychoanalysis they often don’t know that this partial cure is in place, nor do they expect that their identities, informed for many years by ‘interpretation’ from the self care system, will have to be ‘deconstructed’ in the course of therapy.” (my italics)

In reality, most people will not be afforded the option of analysis. Still, we all will struggle with the price of psyche’s solution enabling us to survive unbearable trauma: until we are able to rewire the disconnect we will be unable to truly be vulnerable again. This opening to re-connection process necessitates a level of conscious remembering and suffering through the original wound(s).

The partial cure is very useful place to start in framing up the problem:

  1. Consider the core defense system constructed to bring us through and into adult life is informed by interpretations from psyche’s self care system;
  2. This defense is the mechanism by which we maintain the original(s) split;
  3. This split, or what we can think of as a core disconnect, is the evidence of continued existence of trauma contained in encapsulated episodic memories;
  4. These encapsulated episodic memories – by definition hidden from conscious view – inform/contaminate our emotional responses to here and now moments in the emergence of the blur;
  5. By design, to the degree they are well encapsulated, we cannot directly access the original wound;
  6. If we think in terms of image and affect, the scene of the original wound, as an overwhelming emotional experience, swallowed whole, is the episodic memory in need of effective encapsulation.
  7. Perhaps psyche’s encapsulation function has its equivalency in nature in the oyster’s ability to create a (see) pearl: “A natural pearl begins its life inside an oyster’s shell when an intruder, such as a grain of sand or bit of floating food, slips in between one of the two shells of the oyster … and the protective layer that covers the … organs, called the mantle. In order to protect itself from irritation, the oyster will quickly begin covering the uninvited visitor with layers of nacre — the mineral substance that fashions the mollusk’s shells. Layer upon layer of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, coat the grain of sand until the iridescent gem is formed.”
  8. In this respect, the partial cure could be imaged as a complex set of defenses which, layer upon layer over time, serve to maintain the disconnect with the help of the encapsulation. What this means is we can function, in spite of the fact the intruding/invasive irritant is still present.
  9. The inability to remember significant traumatic experiences suggests to me the partial cure facilitated disconnect is still being employed to protect us from the historically overwhelming original wound(s).
  10. Until we can find a way to reconnect, it is as if one’s most sensitive, loving, vulnerable little kid, in essence the human embodiment of the divine child, remains lost, kidnapped, somehow locked out of the present moment.
Explore posts in the same categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Uncategorized

One Comment on “The Partial Cure Problem (revisited)”


  1. […] the idea the most repetitive and challenging intimate partner conflicts can best be understood as dueling partial cures, Freud’s discussion of dreams and compromise formations popped into my head in the middle of […]


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