Afterwardsness In A Group
Freud used this idea to think about the way our histories are constantly being revised in the light of current experience. Our histories are necessarily our experience of our histories and this may, and does, change in profound ways over the course of our lives.In the group tonight we were thinking about a traumatic event in the early life of one of the group members. I was able to remind the group that the only aspect of the traumatic exoerience that is available to be changed is how the traumatised individual experienced the event. The ‘Real’ of the event can never be known, let alone changed!There is no point in imagining (in a kind of time-travel thought experiment) what the group could have done to change the facts of the traumatic event if it had been able to be there at the time: What they would have said to the bullying brother or the neglecful parent. The event happened as it happened and we are not able to change the past any more than we can predict the future. The only thing that may be revised is the person’s experience of the event and what it means to them. However because time does not exist in the ordinary way in our unconscious, changing our experience in the present has a profound effect on the experience as it happened then.
By imagining how the traumatised child would have had a different experience of the event had the ‘grown-up-they-have-now-become’ been available to them at the time it was happening, the individual’s history is changed in ‘afterwardsness’ and their inner world with its object relations is transformed. Trauma almost always involves an element of isolation.
In a further revision, the group is available to the individual as they make themselves available to their younger selves, and the traumatic event takes its place in the symbolic life of the group.
Freud suggested an event is traumatic when it precipitates an earlier event that has not been able to be worked through, so that the ego is as it were assaulted by the earlier event from the inside, as a consequence of the current trauma. I am aware the earler trauma makes itself felt in the group in peculiar ways, but I will have to come back to this at a later date.