Steven Stern (2019), Traumatic Sequelae of Identification with Parental Negation

Julie Gerhardt, PhD, Co-presenter Alison Cabell, MFT

Friday Dec 20, 6:45 PM–9:00 PM

logoThe issue which Steven Stern takes up in his theoretically well-argued and clinically rich essay is the claim that while both identification with the aggressor and dissociation have been identified by Ferenczi as “two principles of mental functioning” which are outcome sequelae of early trauma, there has been less focus on identification as a generative explanatory concept in organizing subjectivity. The specific form of identification Stern describes is that of “parental negation” which takes the form of the child’s identification with/internalization of the other’s negating/disabling experience. The patient (and patient as child) becomes identified with the negating other and in that sense the system is “airless” and becomes a toxic intrapsychic configuration which leads to a range of difficulties. This identificatory bondage constitutes a form of relational connection but masks a profound sense of aloneness stemming from the original lack of recognition by the parent — and later the internalized other. To work with this pathological internal configuration, Stern argues that the analyst as `old negating object’ becoming the `new recognizing object’ or even the trope of empathic recognition doesn’t go far enough as patients have to be simultaneously engaged within the analytic field. While Stern doesn’t offer specific principles of therapeutic intervention, according to him just having the model of the airless world in mind is helpful. In Sterns’ words, “the understanding that their (patients’) toxic ways of experiencing themselves in relation to others are simultaneously “of the self”’ and “not of the self” in the sense of being introjections of alien construals and treatment of the self by reality-defining parental others helps explain and fosters greater compassion toward their often demoralizing sense of stuckness — imprisonment in both their own minds and the intersubjective knots of their relational worlds”. If you find yourself lumbering through the article, begin with Shaw’s review of Stern. To situate the article theoretically read Adrienne Harris’ review.

December 20th, 2019 6:45 PM
Private residence
Palo Alto, CA
United States
Event Fee(s)
Admission $ 15.00