On excess, trauma and helplessness: Repetitions and transformations1

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Abstract

Freud's work establishes a link between an excessive amount of excitation, the infant's experience of helplessness, and trauma. The idea of excess emphasises a quantitative element, not reducible to the field of representation. In this paper I explore the notions of excess and closure in relation to two clinical examples. A patient who lived through experiences of excess and flooding is contrasted with another patient whose experience of excess is expressed through withdrawal. The complex process of elaboration and working through in their analyses takes place by bringing together affect, representation, sensorial and somatic experiences, dreams, associations and enactments as they are gathered and given meaning après coup through analytic work. Two concepts were central to the understanding of what took place in the analyses: excorporation and figurability. The paper emphasizes the place of temporality in creating a triadic space in an analysis as it relates the here and now with the there and then in the work of après-coup. The paper also traces the roots of this modern approach that relates the analyst's work of regression, time, and the creation of a triadic space to Freud's metapsychology.

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