Source: Jung on the Trauma, Abreaction, and the Dissociation of the Psyche

“… the trauma is either a single, definite, violent impact, or a complex of ideas and emotions which may be likened to a psychic wound. Everything that touches this complex, however slightly, excites a vehement reaction, a regular emotional explosion. Hence one could easily represent the trauma as a complex with a high emotional charge, and because this enormously affective charge seems at first sight to be the pathological cause of the disturbance, one can accordingly postulate a therapy whose aim is the complete release of this charge. Such a view is both simple and logical, and it is in apparent agreement with the fact that abreaction – i.e., the dramatic rehearsal of the traumatic moment, it’s emotional recapitulation in the waking or in the hypnotic state – often has a therapeutic effect. We all know that a man has a compelling need to recount a vivid experience again and again until it has lost its affective value. As the proverb says, “What filleth the heart goeth out by the mouth.” The unbosoming gradually depotentiates the affectivity of the traumatic experience until it no longer has a disturbing influence.”

(We recognize, Jung on McDougall, however that) “… the essential factor is the dissociation of the psyche and not the existence of a highly charged affect and, consequently, that the main therapeutic problem is not abreaction but how to integrate the dissociation. . . .that a traumatic complex brings about dissociation of the psyche. The complex is not under the control of the will and for this reason it possesses the quality of psychic autonomy. . . .it pounces on him like an enemy or a wild animal. . . Abreaction then is an attempt to reintegrate the autonomous complex, to incorporate it gradually into the conscious mind as an accepted content, by living the traumatic situation over again, once or repeatedly.” (pp. 130-132, CW16)

Comment: The very important teaching in the middle of Jung’s observations is captured in: “… the essential factor is the dissociation of the psyche and not the existence of a highly charged affect and, consequently, that the main therapeutic problem is not abreaction but how to integrate the dissociation. . .” The challenge then is in how one creates the container which will support ego consciousness, witnessing consciousness, in reconnecting with the dissociated aspects of the original wounding. This represents bridging the split. It is not enough to  discharge the suffering through possession, as the possession  disallows conscious awareness. Recognizing the presence of the blur implies one has developed some capacity for witnessing consciousness, and begins to approximate the conditions necessary to integrate the dissociation. Eyes wide open?

2 Comments on “Source: Jung on the Trauma, Abreaction, and the Dissociation of the Psyche”


  1. […] order to access our wounds directly for purposes of healing the split one must both suffer and bear witness to an immersion into the original affects. As Donald Kalsched has observed, for this to occur, a […]


  2. […] the experience it’s grief  is what allows the split to be healed. Jung’s discussion of abreaction as insufficient still holds […]


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