by Catalina Hetel
The family’s history and the links between her member are always describing a living story, who has a frame only in the real context of the concrete, well known events, but also into the strange frame of life and death, unknown, build by people who once existed or by the one’s never born, even they are more alive than the others. Missing persons, gone without ever coming back and without any news about their lives or deaths, aborted brothers, suicidal, they are living in the family’s history without a real, concrete or clear existence, they are characters appearing and creating strong links within a family, they are the untold, the unspeakable.
Sometimes, the patient only fells the anxiety, the heavy bargain of a history full of ghosts. The ghost is many times recovered through the trangenerational transmission of a psychic material, enable to be transformed or elaborated. The ghost is a family’s history witness, a necessary one in the labor of discovering the links. She can be a parent, or a grandfather whereof we have information, or a brother or a relative whereof we don’t have any information, because the family feared. This is the untold, they exist, but they can’t be spoken. The ghost is alive and she demands the right to be remembered, but the family denies and refuses to speak about her, to offer a shape, an identity that could make possible the mourning labor. The lost remains impossible to mourn, a necessary need transmitted from generation to generation.
Nicolas Abraham, a French psychoanalyst born in Hungary (1919-1975) approached this subject saying that “the ghost is a metapsychology reality…but what really haunt us is not the death people, but the holes traced by others secrets.” Trained in the Freudian theory, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok developed the “transgenerational haunting” theory. This phenomena takes place when repressed secrets are transgenerational transmitted from a generation to the next one, the information being cryptic, unelaborated from the point of view of the trauma.
The ghost is an invention of the livings with the purpose to materialize the hole produced inside us when we hide a part of the beloved object life. What haunt us is not the death people, but the hole produced inside us by others secrets. The patient can get through a crisis resulting from this hole, without the possibility of inscription in time, space or self. He cannot define and frame the trauma in a real time or in a real history.
The so called « haunting » comes from the real person who suffer a trauma and it passes from one generation to another like an unconscious formation that we’ve never been aware, from the parent unconscious to the child unconscious. The returning ghost gave birth to “a life for the one’s buried inside others. «Abraham talks about the psychoanalytic theory of incorporation, unelaborated mourning making that the loved object to be incorporated inside the one who suffer the lost, and “a secret tomb” inside the patient psyche.
Reconstructed from the memories, words, scenes and feelings, the lost object is buried inside a tomb like a person with full rights. The “crypt” implies real or supposed trauma that failed to be introjected. Therefore is created a fantasy world, unconscious, and a world with a hidden and isolated existence…
The ghost returning is motivated by the existence of the “tick relations” that survived after the beloved person death. Those relations are preoccupied by the loyalty and betrayal. As opposed to morality, who guides our behavior with other people, the ethics guide our tick, private relations. With the returning of the ghost we learn our obligation to the deceased relative. One of the duty of the living is to remember the dead, to keep them in memory, to mourn them properly, a “memory politics, a generation heritance” as a responsibility to remember the ancestors. If they are not commemorate, they will be back to collect unpaid debts.
We have in mind the history of Hamlet, whose father returns to Elsinore to communicate his son about his unnatural death, by his brother hand and to advert Hamlet…”goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…remember me”, as a family obligation.
The inner world and the internal theater
Every one of us, we have an inner world, an inner theatre inhabited by persons from our life, in a fantasy setting. Alive or not, our inner characters remain live, in fore or back ground, depending on the moment or on the events. Pichon Riviere talked of an internal group « unconscious mental life is the result of an interaction between the internal objects (internal group) and continuous dialectic interrelations with external objects.” The internal group is the dramatic scene of unconscious fantasy appearing from the internalized, fantasied rapports from the real group representations.
Psychodrama as a therapeutic method aim to materialize on a real scene what happens in our internal theater. Sometimes, the scene is becoming here and now, other times is a well-known scene, but seen for the very first time from outside, represented in a concrete reality. The living inner world catches a real frame, losing the strange and incomprehensible character. Becoming a concrete world, we can operate modifications, we can change things.
Born in semi reality, at the border between real and imaginary, psychodrama give an impression of “really doing” in a therapeutic play. We can feel so real this imaginary world that we keep the sensation of having heard an encouraging message of a beloved person or having sad a very important thing to a persona front of we could not express ourselves before. And all of that by keeping a safe alternance of the actor and observer ego. Because even we are in a play, part of our ego remains well anchored in reality, he knows that he’s assisting and playing a game and he can always guarantee, aside the therapist, the returning to the concrete reality.
This characters, important or not, good or bad, resourceful or fearful, live together in a common frame, tied by paradox links which many times we are not conscious. Their living presence in the psychodrama frame can reveled us how much good can be mixed with evil, fear with joy or guilt with happiness. Many times, not the characters themselves are to be feared, but the link, the internal construction generation by evil, good, fear, guilt, desire or resignation. This link can be expressed by transition in a real plan, here and now, with the help of physical consistent objects, with a space setting and a scene disposal. Once the thing appears into sight we can make changes. Maybe we want to leave guilt behind the scene and clear out the courage from the shadow. Maybe fear will not stay aside some characters, refusing this way a great deal of power. This original game, once broth in reality is easier to be contained, it becomes possible. The change is not sudden but it is not such a long and impossible trip.
The central element is the scene proposed and played by the patient. The scene is an invitation to figure the fantasies, an equivalent of free association regarding the chosen scene and the way to play it. Whether is a real scene, a dream or an imaginary one, what is important is that the scene protect the defenses and in the same time, with the play, mobilize the fantasies. Psychodrama hold on the objective of the psychoanalysis, but induce more flexible functioning with defenses and counter investments less compelling, permitting the subject contact with the unconscious productions who becomes less uncomfortably, permitting the ego to enforce. The patient confronts his own fantasy productions and he can recognize as their author.
Daniel Widlocher, Alain Braconnier, Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, Individual psychoanalytical psychodrama, Ph. Jeammet
J.L. Moreno, Writings on Psychodrama, Group Method, and Spontaneity
Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Shell and the Kernell
Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx