Notes for a discussion on the clinic of trauma : 9th May 2018 (London) : Julia Evans

by Julia Evans on May 9, 2018

The following is a discussion paper given to the Earl’s Court Clinical Group  (Bruno de Florence, Greg Hynds, Julia EvansOwen Hewitson)  on the 9th May 2018.

I begin from the premise that trauma has at least two forms.  I was alerted to this by Paul Melia who presented to a cartel of New Lacanian School on Sigmund Freud’s  1920 paper ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ [SE XVIII p1-64 : Available as published on Richard G. Klein’s site here] on 20th April 2018 the following quotes : from Section 4 [pfl p299] of James Strachey’s translation :

On the basis of impressions derived from our psycho-analytic experience, we assume that all excitatory processes that occur in the other systems leave permanent traces behind in them which form the foundation of memory. Such memory-traces, then, have nothing to do with the fact of becoming conscious; indeed they are often most powerful and most enduring when the process which left them behind was one which never entered consciousness. [SE XVIII p24-25]

…. We have learnt that unconscious mental processes are in themselves ‘timeless’. This means in the first place that they are not ordered temporally, that time does not change them in any way and that the idea of time cannot be applied to them. These are negative characteristics which can only be clearly understood if a comparison is made with conscious mental processes. On the other hand, our abstract idea of time seems to be wholly derived from the method of working of the system Pcpt.-Cs. and to correspond to a perception on its own part of that method of working. This mode of functioning may perhaps constitute another way of providing a shield against stimuli. [SE XVIII p28 ]

So there are two level of processes, conscious & unconscious, though they are connected.

In addition, I have been what I politely call ‘snagging’ the translation of Seminar IV : 19th December 1956. [See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here for details]

Draft translation : para 13 to 15 : This relation [ a’ → a ] concerns the imaginary relation, the subject’s relation – qua more or less discordant, broken down, exposed to splitting – to a unifying image which is that of the small other, which is a narcissistic image. It is quite essentially on this line that the imaginary relation [ a’ → a ] is established.

Para 14 : ‘Likewise, it is on the line [ A → S ], which is not one, since it is necessary to establish it, that this relation to the Other occurs – which is not simply the Other which is there, which is literally the place of speech; so long as there is, already structured in the speaking relation, this beyond, this Other beyond even this other which you apprehend imaginarily, this supposed Other which is the subject as such, the subject in which your speech is constituted, because it can, as speech, not only receive and perceive speech, but respond to it – it is on this line that all that is of the order of transference, strictly speaking, is established, the imaginary playing precisely the role of filter, of obstacle, even.

Of course, in every neurosis, the subject already has his own adjustments, one might say: this adjustment in relation to the image, indeed, serves a purpose; hearing and, at the same time, not hearing what can be heard in the place of speech, this serves a purpose.’

So there are two axes in place : an imaginary axis and a symbolic one.

Let us suppose that there is an initial trauma of a relationship to a unifying image and secondarily the possibility of trauma when the relation to the Other which is the subject in which your speech is structured.

Two examples which have attracted my attention :

From  here : Survivors tell IICSA hearing of child abuse by Church of England clerics by Hattie Williams on 6th  March 2018, Church Times

First example : female abused from the age of 9 by a cleric : The abuse and subsequent events affected her education and her ability to form relationships with others as an adult, the witness said. “I became very withdrawn and moody; I didn’t want to engage with anyone; I didn’t trust anyone; I was very much on my own; so I stopped taking an interest in my education. I think I am intelligent enough that I could have gone on and gone to college.”

Second example : “By that time, the abuse was routine and very serious,” Mr J. said. “Towards the end of it, I went along with it just to get it over it. . . That leaves you with a huge sense of shame and guilt. . . I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I was a normal heterosexual male. . . Yet I was having to sleep with a fat vicar on a regular basis. And that messes your head up.” … Mr J. described how repeated abuse had affected his own relationships. “It is almost as if my body has a memory of what happened to me. . . You are never free. It is a stain on your soul.”

I suspect these two examples show the two different levels of trauma. The first example may have resulted in the relation to a unifying image being disrupted and the second in how he is able to place himself with others. These different levels are not separate and they are not developmental. How they are related is a question.

My next example is a reaction to the Holocaust, as experienced by a German Jew.

From : My family after the Holocaust: ‘The urge to draw a line under the past is strong’. : Our grandparents lived through the horror of the war. So why do we want to reclaim our German nationality? By Kate Figes on Saturday 10th March 2018 06.00 GMT in the Guardian. : See here

Genocide doesn’t just traumatise those who live through it – such epic persecution tumbles down through the generations, distorting “normal” family life and corrupting love. As a child I knew only the vaguest outline. I never knew the details of what my mother’s family had lived through, because it was never talked about and I knew not to ask. They never bought German food or wine, and Germany was the last place on Earth they would have wanted to return to. I recently discovered that, during the second world war, my grandfather worked with the Allies as an interpreter for German prisoners of war. He was advised to change his name from Unger to something less “Jewish” in case he should be captured, but he refused and went all the way back to Berlin as the war ended


I cannot imagine how it must have felt to return to the rubble of the city of his birth after everything he had been through. But silence was the only response for Jewish refugees who had survived the war. There weren’t the words adequately to express their anguish, and it was far too painful to revisit. They needed to cut off that past just to be able to move on and make the most of their luck. 

So what is my interest in this?

Partly my father, who served in bombers during the war, always refused to talk of his time flying. It was unspeakable and he also refused to buy anything German – cars, anything.  In his 70s, he researched and published his childhood memories [i]which included several unmentionable events, my grandparents never married, they were so destitute working on a highly mortgaged farm in the 1930s, they got flung into a Workhouse, and so on. And this memory was recoverable in the way bombing raids, three times in Germany, once in Czech Republic and twice in Norway, was not.

So what is the relation of an experience which can be described as traumatic in adulthood or in childhood. Kate Figes’ grandfather was able to retain who he was, a Jew, and return to a war ravaged Berlin. My father had to invent a new persona in order, with 3 years worth of formal education, to pass the exams for the RAF and share a mess with public school educated men. The workhouse experience came in handy.

I have found Trauma in Reverse : 27th April 2002 (New York) : Éric Laurent (See here) essential when thinking of how to treat trauma. Treatments are based in two levels:

1) The level of the symptom which is the subject’s response to the traumatic real. Treatment is to give meaning where there is none.

2) There is symbolic in the real, it is the bath of language in which the child is caught. In this sense, it is language that is real or at least language as meaningless parasite of the living. We don’t learn the rules that compose the Other of the social bond for us. The meaning of the rules invents itself from a primordial point, without meaning, that is the “attachment” to the Other.

After a trauma, one must reinvent an Other that no longer exists, and invent a new path that plots itself by the path of the senselessness of the fantasy and the symptom. “One learns no more to live after trauma than one learns the rules of language.”

It seems there may be some commonalities between the cases : the failure or refusal to speak and/or place yourself in the world. The gap between the imposition or stamp and making do with it, is not there. There is a feeling of blankness or a refusal to talk about it.

So in these examples, there can be seen to be a failure to grasp what has happened and put a symptom for making do in place. The two victims of child sexual abuse and experience of war paralyses, they cannot speak. So there is a failure for this experience to relate to the field of the other. My father examined history book to find out what happened and he and Figes’s grandfather cut off from their war experiences. The two victims of clerical abuse could not.

A further aspect to be examined : in The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan  (See here) Lacan introduces the notion of a torus. (See p85 of Anthony Wilden’s translation [ii]) He is also commenting on ‘what is primordial to the birth of symbols’. So in moving out of ‘death’ to a ‘mortal meaning’, a structure is manifested where the centre is exterior to language. I speculate that if this centre exterior to language, has had a trauma attached to it in addition to the traumatic imposition of language, then it will be difficult to move out of death into a mortal meaning. So working with this level of trauma where it is not difficult to move into mortal meaning is very different to encouraging a new meaning into place. Discuss.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London



[i]See Farmhouse Aches  Workhouse Pains by Gerald Green (Horton) Publisher:  Book Guild Ltd, 25 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2LU

[ii]p85 of Anthony Wilden’s translation :

A further aspect to be examined : in The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan : See here :

Therefore, when we wish to attain in the subject what was before the serial articulations of the Word, and what is primordial to the birth of symbols, we find it in death, from which his existence takes on all the meaning it has. It is in effect as a desire for death that he affirms himself for others; if he identifies himself with the other, it is by fixing him solidly in the metamorphosis of his essential image, and no being is ever evoked by him except among the shadows of death.

To say that this mortal meaning reveals in the Word a center exterior to Language is more than a metaphor and manifests a structure. This structure is different from the spatialization of the circumference or of the sphere in which some people like to schematize the limits of the living being and his environment:[Footnote 188 : p155 of Anthony Wilden : Further detail here : Leenhardt, for example, employs this spatial representation in his Do kamo’ to represent the native’s existence as a locus of relationships with others. (Maurice Leenhardt, ‘Do Kamo : La personne et le mythe dans le monde mélanésien’, Paris, Gallimard, 1947)] it corresponds rather to the relational Group which symbolic logic designates topologically as an annulus.

If I wished to give an intuitive representation of it, it seems that, rather than have recourse to the surface aspect of a zone, I should call on the three-dimensional form of a torus, insofar as its peripheral exteriority and its central exteriority constitute only one single region. [Footnote : JL : Premises of topology which I have been putting into practice over the past five years ( 1966). ]

This schema satisfactorily expresses the endless circularity of the dialectical process which is produced when the subject brings his solitude to realization, be it in the vital ambiguity of immediate desire or in the full assumption of his being-for-death.

Further texts

Trauma here

Of the clinic : here

From LW working groups : here

Use of power here

Some Lacanian History : here

Topology : here

Lacanian Transmission : here

By Éric Laurent here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Jacques Lacan in English or here

Translation Working Group here

Texts written by other members of the Earl’s Court Clinical Group

Bruno de Florence  (See here or

Owen Hewitson (See here or

Greg Hynds here

Julia Evans (See here or

Text presented to Clinical Group meetings

Greg Hynds : Reading the Recommendations : London, 1st April  2017 (Open Meeting) : Information here

Julia Evans : What makes the initial interventions by an analyst work? : 1st April 2017 (Open Meeting) : Information here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s case of Obsessional Neurosis (Seminar IV) : a reconstruction of the case by Julia Evans on 15th June 2017 or here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s description of Object Relations Theory (Seminar IV) by Julia Evans on 27th July 2017 or here

A preliminary engagement with ‘Psychoanalytic Violence: An Essay in Indifference in Ethical Matters’ by Dany Nobus by Julia Evans on 30th July 2017 or here

The analyst’s position : Thursday 26th October 2017 by Julia Evans on 26th October 2017 or here

Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Social Bond : acting as a 1-subject, outside of ideals : 5th November 2017 (London) by Bruno de Florence on 5th November 2017 or here

The analyst’s position : 5th November 2017 (London) : Julia Evans by Julia Evans on 5th November 2017 or here

‘The irreducibility of a form of transmission’ : a case study by Julia Evans on 15th March 2018 or here