The American Journal of Psychoanalysis

, Volume 79, Issue 4, pp 540–554 | Cite as

Traumatization Through Human Agency: “Embodied Witnessing” is Essential in the Treatment of Survivors*

  • Clara MucciEmail author


The importance of human relations in understanding and treating trauma is evident not only from the severity of traumatization inflicted by human agency and the dissociation that ensues from traumatic interpersonal relations, but also from the analyst’s affective participation which is essential to the reparation of the serious psychopathologies that originate in traumatization. Developing Ferenczi’s theorizations, on the identification with the aggressor, I propose that after the abuse the traumatized subject identifies partly with the persecutor and partly with the victim, which sometimes is represented by the body itself, becoming the object of the destructiveness. Such unconscious identifications are accompanied by the dynamics of experiencing complex feelings of guilt and shame (the victim side) and the aggressiveness and anger, (the persecutor/persecuting side). It was Ferenczi who first described the potential for a therapist, acting benevolently and supportively as sole witness, to create the preconditions for the patient to re-contact long-dissociated parts, thanks to the implicit non-verbal and corporal exchange, a concept which is here explained as embodied testimony/witnessing and enactment, and unconscious communication of the right hemispheres of therapist and patient.


dissociation embodyment witnessing identification with the aggressor survivor/s 



This article is dedicated to the memory of Giovanni Liotti.


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Copyright information

© Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PescaraItaly

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