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Title: The role of the unconscious in reactions to disfigurement
Author: Frances , Jane
ISNI:       0000 0003 8332 6745
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2015
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People who have disfiguring conditions, injuries, illnesses or marks cannot access the 'civil inattention' which is widely accorded to most people in public places. Instead they are subject to reactions from others which include staring, curiosity, inappropriate solicitousness, admiration, presumptuous offers of advice, avoidance, hostility and abuse. In school, children who 'look different' are twice as likely to be bullied as their peers whose appearance falls within a normal range, and they find it much harder to make friends - particularly if their class mates have been given 'a talk' about the condition or injury that affects the way they look. The subjects of this project are the people responding to disfigurement. This project explores social and individual unconscious material and process which may lie behind other people's reactions to disfigurement. Concerning individual responses, a hypothesis is developed which links the subject's reactions to the disfigured object to the re-mobilisation of disfigured internal part-objects that were damaged in normal aggressive infant phantasy. This remobilisation of unconscious material is accompanied by a crucial few moments of confusion, anxiety, linked to fear of or concern for the subject's own loved object damaged in their own long-ago infant phantasy, and, in this sense, not a direct response to the stranger before them now whose appearance is unusual. To test this hypothesis a methodology is developed which uses contrasted preliminary activities to evoke different kinds of phantasy material within different subjects, before exposing them briefly to a damaged object, and then ascertaining their reactions. The experimental data reveals a significant relationship between the preliminary activities and the subjects' reactions to the disfigured objects, and also indicates an important role for conceptions of disfigurement rooted in the social unconscious.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available