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Title: Libido and the destruction of the psychic reality : a Freudian account of traumatic neurosis in child survivors of Nazi persecution
Author: Huppert, Daru
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis delineates and presents a new explanation of the ‘survivor syndrome’, the most severe form of the traumatic condition. Clinical material regarding this condition has yet to receive an adequate theoretical interpretation, a situation that this study attempts to redress on the basis of my interviews with child survivors of the Nazi persecution of minorities, conducted at Esra, a psychiatric clinic in Vienna. Freud’s theory has been almost wholly neglected in studies of this pathology, and I argue that, when brought to bear in depth, it can provide an incisive account that illuminates the most disturbing features of trauma. In the first part of my investigation, the focus is therefore upon Freud’s analysis of the traumatic neurosis. I develop and extend Freud’s theory of the drives in relation to the central features of the survivor syndrome: anxiety, depression and guilt. Having provided a general account of the condition, my investigation then examines five case histories of child survivors in detail. I conclude by demonstrating how the findings of the thesis helps us to explain the way in which traumatised groups are treated within society, and how this changes our conception of their survival. Unlike most clinical studies in this field, my thesis emphasises the impact of trauma on the sufferers’ unconscious and fundamental impulses, thereby highlighting what is most acute in their experience. Yet my analysis also shows that there can be a disruption of unconscious processes in the severe traumatic condition, in which drive impulses are even more relentless than has been previously assumed. In this way, my study demonstrates that Freud’s theory can grasp even the agonising quality of the survivor syndrome, yet also how this obliges us to rethink our conception of the pivotal structures and forces operating within the psyche.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available