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Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2005, 50, 521537

Shadowed reality or the Prometheuscomplex: analytical psychotherapy after

political imprisonment and persecution
Reinhild Hlter, Berlin
Abstract: Traumatic experiences of violence like those that were brought about by the
communist regime of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) are still present
as if they happened yesterday, causing severe disadvantages in everyday life even after
all those years. Consequently, in cases of extreme traumatization induced by political
imprisonment, persecution and applied psychological methods of disintegration, regressive processes take place which corrode the ego. The breakdown of cathexis, i.e., the
failure of empathic connection at the time of the trauma, is the strongest characteristic
of severe traumatization. As a result of this destruction for the traumatized there is an
inability to keep upright an inner empathic, emotional connection.
As we try to grasp, from a Jungian point of view, the psychodynamics of severe
traumatization, we can speak of a powerful pathogenous complex, which I call the
Prometheus-complex. Gustav Bovensiepen speaks of this complex as a sub-network,
a limited fragment of the matrix of all internalized experiences, consisting of internal
working models, feelings and patterns of anticipation which interact mutually. The
human being, captured in such isolation and paralysis of the mind, can find himself in
the therapist on a mental level.
Key words: complex theory, defensive organization, political persecution, psychic
torture, symbolization, trauma, trauma-complex.

The collapse of communist rule in Eastern Europe has opened new opportunities
for individual and social development. At the same time we are able to see more
clearly how life under dictatorial circumstances has shaped people, especially
those whobecause of their political nonconformityhave been subject to
repressive measures of the state. According to official estimations, in East
Germany from 1945 until 1989 more than 300,000 people were imprisoned
because of political motives. In addition to these, there is the multitude of
people who were subject to spying and tracking methods because they got into
the sights of the Staatssicherheit (GDR State Security, also known as Stasi) on
flimsy grounds. Especially for these cases, the Staatssicherheit developed
an operative psychology, in which know-how from psychiatry, personality


2005, The Society of Analytical Psychology

Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.


Reinhild Hlter

diagnosis, developmental psychology, psychotherapy and neighbouring

sciences were gathered to generate directly applicable subtle methods of
manipulation and disintegration of the individual. Operative psychology was
also used in the recruitment of state security personnel, but it particularly
aimed at undermining the activities of dissidents and was kept strictly confidential. Action plans were developed for groups and individuals with the aim
of creating distrust between the group members and to systematically discredit
the reputation and public renown of the individual, to bring about professional and social failure, to attack the self-confidence of the targeted person.
The main goal was to trigger panic and consternation and in the end to
destroy the personality of the individual. Also during political imprisonment,
the know-how of operative psychology became the basis for the subtle and
highly effective treatment of the detainee. It is not hard to imagine that the
consequences for the individual can be painfully felt up to the present time.
As a private analyst as well as in my work for a counselling centre for the
politically traumatized of the GDR-dictatorship in Berlin, I was able to gather
much knowledge about the methods and long-term effects of psychological
terror. Traumatic experiences of violence, often dating back twenty to thirty
years, are still present as if they happened yesterday, and continue to be
a severe handicap in the individuals everyday life.
I would now like to give you some concrete insights into the situation of the
political detainees in the GDR as well as an outline of the psychological
torture methods and their consequences, before I go into the psychodynamic
processes involved from a Jungian point of view.
If in the years following World War II, brutal physical abuse of the prisoners
was common in the territory under Soviet military control and in the early
GDR, this treatment was abandoned in the following years in favour of the
silent methods of the MFS (State Security Office), which expressed themselves
in continually refined psychological measures of disintegration.
Particularly during the initial period of detention awaiting trial, the causing
of insecurity and disorientation brought about severe psychic breakdowns.
Not only were the prisoners left in the dark about the duration of imprisonment, but the sophisticated interrogations that went on hour and hour were
also interlaced with false rumours about relatives and friends, as well as with
false witnesses and extortion to destroy confidence in existing relationships.
Children of the imprisoned were put in state institutions or given to adoptive
parents loyal to the party. The methods of deprivation used, such as total
isolation in a bare cell for days or weeks, as well as alternating de-stimulation
and over-stimulation (i.e., deprivation of sleep caused by burning neon lights
day and night with checks every ten minutes by the prison guard opening the
peephole), left prisoners with a feeling of total despair.
Following this isolation prisoners were grouped together with other detainees, often with strategically positioned cell-informers. These people were
mostly fellow prisoners who were forced to spy on their cellmates, taking

Analytical psychotherapy, political imprisonment and persecution


advantage of their desire to communicate. A wide range of behaviour was

found here, from almost amicable inquiry and confidential exchange to
menace and violence. Thus over a period of weeks, months, and sometimes
years, prisoners were kept in the uttermost uncertain, terrifying situation,
without a chance of verifying reality, which led to many of those involved
being in a continual state of confusion. To illustrate this I would like to
present to you the following case study.
The patient, at the age of nineteen, was arrested in the winter of 1979 in
Czechoslovakia after an unsuccessful attempt to flee to the West.
Patient: I had to lie down on my belly in the snow, blindfolded with handcuffs
on my back. After that, I was put in prison without a chance to wash
myself or eat. My hands were cuffed at the head of the bed; additionally
guards with machine guns watched over me. The cell had no heating
and I felt miserably cold.
After almost three weeks of detention he was taken to Leipzig on an approximately eight-hour journey in a specially constructed van.
Patient: The interior of the van was divided into several single cells. The cell,
dark and airless, was just big enough to sit in. I could not move.
Besides that, I was handcuffed. We had a longer stay in Dresden,
where I wasnt allowed out. On arrival in Leipzig, I was immediately
subjected to an interrogation by the Staatssicherheit that was to last
all night.
The patient was sentenced to two years and ten months in prison. He had to
serve one year and four months of this sentence. Following the trial he was
transferred to a penal institution where he was detained with common criminals.
Patient: I landed in the homosexual wing. In a cell with twenty-eight inmates,
twenty-six of them were gay. Bunk on bunk, all very close, and every
night the corresponding noises.
When the patient refused to do his assigned job because of the appalling working
conditions (working without protective clothes or other protection with toxic
substances like lead or asbestos), he was put in solitary confinement:
Patient: I had to undress and was put into a tiny, damp dungeon. The floor
was wet, I was not allowed to sit and had to stand upright all the time.
From 11 pm till 9 am the next morning I had to stand upright in the
dark, cold dungeon. The backaches became unbearable. After that I
was taken to a solitary cell. I was ordered to work but I refused and
was put back in the dungeon for hours. I was dead tired; to keep me
awake I was beaten in the kidney with a club by the guard. After that it
was prison again. This was repeated several times.


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The solitary detention continued for three weeks. Several months later the
patient was freed by the West German authorities.
The sole supporting figure during political custody was the interrogator,
who perfidiously took advantage of the hunger for communication that was
described by many a prisoner, deliberately invoked and intensified by methods
of deprivation. Some carefully calculated favours done by the interrogator
made him seem sympathetic and nurtured hopes in the detainee, but their
exclusive aim was to promote his readiness to testify. The behaviour of the
interrogator could abruptly change, arbitrarily and unfathomably for the prisoner. All of a sudden the good could turn to bad. Abandoned by everyone,
left alone in agony and despair, the intimidator (in this case the interrogator)
turns into the representative of the early omnipotent and existence-securing
other. These regressive processes produce an early image of object-relationship,
connected with total dependency, so that also the adult victim tragically
experiences in the perpetrator the sole source of narcissistic supply (Hirsch
1997, p. 105).
Forced by the loss of interior and exterior, temporal and environmental
orientation, the ego of the traumatized person continuously loses the power to
resist the unfathomable, the unnameable, the overwhelming. Jochen Peichl
describes this state:
The vital, libidinal, sensuous cathexis, that is coming from the outside, the narcissistic gratification by others, breaks down: The human being, feebled in his ego and
severely threatened, experiences feelings of depersonalization and derealization; he
ceases to sense himself, he begins to dissolve and to become groundless.
(Peichl 2001, p. 4)

Another patient, who was released into the GDR after being imprisoned
on charges of attempting to escape at the age of sixteen, describes his thenstigmatized existence:
My life was meaningless. No one wanted to be seen with me. I had no friends, my
parents dissociated from me. A suicide attempt failed. I had to arrange with life. My
dream to become a doctor fell to pieces. I was marked as an anti-social, hostile
person and was avoided by everyone. I quitted my education. I was a third-class
human being. I tried to keep my history a secret, even much later, until after I married, I never spoke about it. I was afraid my wife would leave me if I did.

The consequences of severe traumatization

But what is it that happens to the memories of things suffered, asks Werner
Seifert, and remarks: the sudden and compelling penetrations of the past in
reality creates gaps in the biography of the affected person, small deaths before
the final end of his life. Continuity is experiencing a leap. In isolation life
impoverishes, dries out and becomes desolate (Seifert 1998, p. 258). In everyday life nothing is taken for granted anymore. It is the very personal small

Analytical psychotherapy, political imprisonment and persecution


gestures of everyday experience that are deranged. The writer Jrgen Fuchs
writes in his Daily Notes:
The terrible thing is not
doing time in a cell
and being interrogated
its after that
when you are standing before a tree again
or drinking a bottle of beer
and you want to feel happy
really happy
like before
then it is.
(Fuchs 1979, p. 10)

Usually after the release from prison there is a period free of symptoms. The relief
over the freedom regained is immense and often just as intense is the attempt to
suppress the things that happened and to lead a normal life. Disorders caused by
trauma can occur after years of latency, the post-traumatic disease then emerging
in connection with events that reactivate the original trauma.
The effects of severe traumatization can be divided into three phases: the
acute situation of distress; the chronic response to the traumatic event; and the
individual adaptation to the chronically symptomatic state of PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) (van der Kolk, p. 143). I do not want to go into
further diagnostic classifications here, but I would like to expose the typical
symptoms after extreme traumatizations: intruding and irritating thoughts and
memories about the trauma (intrusions, nightmares, flashbacks) and the
avoidance of trauma-associated stimuli; a lack of or loss of self-regulation, i.e.
long-term difficulties when it comes to regulating aggression, fear and sexual
impulses or overwhelming sadness. In addition, difficulties at processing
stimuli, anhedonia, dissociation, self-destructive behaviour as an attempt at
self-regulation, drug abuse, somatic disorders and chronic changes of personality
with changes of self-perception, a significant distrust of others, chronic
feelings of guilt and shame as well as a tendency to revictimize and to victimize
others. Krystal (2001) has coined the term affect regression. As an after-effect
of traumatization, the overwhelming affects evade inner control; they become
global and therefore undifferentiated. They evade symbolization and thus
become de-verbalized. They are perceived as if they were of a physical nature,
i.e., they are re-somatized. The ability to recognize specific emotions that
could serve as a reference for action goes astray. As another effect of traumatization, Krystal describes the incapability of creating semantic constructs to
identify somatic states.
The inability to verbally express experience has a neurobiological equivalent.
It has been verified that, due to the overwhelming arousal upon traumatization,
the encoding of experience is limited in a special way. The use of linguistic
neuronal pathways is reduced, that of senso-motoric neuronal pathways


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increased. (The Broca region as the centre of speech does not function during
extreme arousal). The isolated traumatic reality cannot be processed symbolically, but is conserved as an accumulation of sensory fragments, as videos,
slides or inner tapes. From these originate the non-symbolized, inflexible
activation stimuli that are beyond wilful control and are automatically
activated by triggers (flashback). Van der Kolk (1996/2000) speaks of a
distinctive trauma-memory. The inner core of a traumatic experience can
almost always be precisely remembered, although it can bring distortions in
detail. The psyche acts in a dissociable way, in accordance with the modern
perception of a network structure of the brain. C.G. Jung already brought
up the issue that unconscious processes do not necessarily need a subject
(a steering ego): I recall to the mind all those absurdities caused by complexes,
which one can observe with all desirable accuracy during the association
experiment (Jung 1946, para. 200f; Huber 1998).
The idea of complex theory and its development
For a psychodynamic understanding of severe traumatizations I would like to
use the complex theory of C.G. Jung. This is one of the possible constructs
(I am also thinking of object relations theory) which enable us to discuss
psychodynamics. In the field of dissociative disorders, to which severe traumatizations belong, this in my opinion is the most convincing theory.
I would like to make some introductory remarks about the complex theory first.
C.G. Jung defines complexes as
splintered psychic parts of the personality, groups of psychic contents, which have
separated themselves from consciousness, functioning uncontrolled and autonomous, leading a special life in the dark sphere of the unconscious, from where they
are able to hinder and promote conscious operations at any time.
(see Jacoby 1998)

Jung emphasizes that complexes are caused by emotions. The nucleus of the
complex is archetypal and has a constellating power. Accordingly, typical of
the complex are the lack of corrigibility, the automatism and the self-enhancement
through mythological-archaic amplifications (Dieckmann 1991). Within an
appropriate interior or exterior situation, a virulent complex functions like an
alien object in the sphere of consciousness and withdraws energy from it.
Complexes are not necessarily caused by trauma, they only bear witness to the
existence of something irreconcilable and controversial. These are psychic
contents, that are not yet connected with the ego-complex. Depending on
their energetic charge, complexes are important nodal points of the inner life
and accordingly not necessarily negative. The stronger the emotions and their
connected field of associated meaning, the stronger the complex, the more
other psychic parts, in particular the ego-complex, are driven back (Kast
1998, p. 299).

Analytical psychotherapy, political imprisonment and persecution


In recent years the complex theory has undergone systematic development.

The developmental psychological perspective, according to which the child
already organizes and internalizes earliest patterns of experience with his
supporting figures, thereby forming complexes, has to be emphasized. In his
structural description of the complexes, Dieckmann already refers to the fact
that, next to archetypal elements, very early personal experiences also are
included in the core of the complex. Kast and Jacoby emphasize the great
affinity of the idea of the complex with Sterns idea of the RIGs (Representations of Interactions that have been Generalized). According to Stern these
RIGs emerge out of all interactions of the infant with its mother and they
depict an anticipation of behaviour and a pre-verbal representation. RIGs
arise from the immediate impression of manifold authentic experiences, and
they integrate the different attributes of action, awareness and feeling of the
core-self to an entity (Stern 1985/1993, p. 144). By RIGs, Stern means flexible structures, which represent a median of several authentic episodes and
form a prototype, which represents them all (Jacoby 1998, p. 86). Depending
on the tone of feeling these are integrated into the dynamic of the complexes.
Jean Knox has similar thoughts, primarily in connection to Bowlbys attachment theory. Bowlby emphasizes the universal human need to create close
emotional attachments. Thus stable attachment patterns emerge which have
the function of feeling regulation. They represent intrapsychic working models
as mental schemes. These working models contain early interpersonal experiences of the infant; they are image schemes that a human being creates of his
attachment figures and contain the bundled expectations regarding the behaviour
of a certain individual with regard to the self (Bowlby 1991, p. 78;
Bovensiepen 2004, p. 34). Like the RIGs, the working models intrapsychically
organize the perception of the experiences in relationships and store them in
the implicit memory. Knox points to the practicability of these ideas for the
understanding of Jungian complex theory and stresses: If archetypes can be
described in information-processing terms as image schemas, complexes
would seem to have many of the information-processing features of internal
working models (Knox 2003, p. 102).
Nowadays it is assumed that these complexes are linked together among
themselves, such that one can speak of a matrix, of networks or landscapes of
complexes. According to recent research, those emotions seem to play an
important part as a linking dynamic that organize the inner representations of
relational experiences along innate patterns of organization or archetypal
The constellation of the Prometheus-complex as a consequence of severe
As we try to grasp, from a Jungian point of view, the psychodynamics of
severe traumatization, we can speak of a powerful pathogenic complex,


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which I would like to call Prometheus-complex. By naming the pathogenic

trauma-complex Prometheus-complex, I would like to expose the multilayered dramatic occurrence of relationships, which is expressed in the myth.
The archetypal theme constellates the complex and furthermore shows the
force of the emotions that are involved in severe traumatization. Not only the
threat of death is of crucial importance to the development of the traumacomplex, but the complete story of the myth. The myth sketches the end of the
golden era in which gods, human beings and animals still lived in harmony,
as Zeus dethrones his father Chronos and seizes absolute power on Olympus.
Zeus demands to be worshipped by the humans, which causes Prometheus to
take their side and to revolt against the tyranny. As Zeus withholds fire, thus
preventing humans from cooking their meals, Prometheus secretly steals fire
from the sun and takes it to the humans. However, the punishment of Zeus is
dreadful. He sends the maiden Pandora to the humans, with a box containing
every evil of mankind. Prometheus is bound with unbreakable chains to the
rocks of the Caucasus Mountains, over a horrible abyss. According to Aeschylus
he is then thrown into a deep abyss and remains there for ten thousand years.
After that Prometheus is allowed to re-emerge and, still bound to a stone, is
delivered to an eagle which assaults him every day and pecks at his bleeding
liver. Zeus wants to force a testimony from Prometheus, since he knows in
what way the rule of Zeus will end. Yet Prometheus persistently keeps silent,
despite endless agony. The torment of the prisoner has to last forever or at
least for a period of thirty thousand years. After many years Hercules has
mercy on the prisoner, bends his bow and kills the eagle with his arrow. He
takes Prometheus with him and leaves the centaur Chiron in his place. A deal
is made with Zeus whereby the hitherto immortal Chiron dies instead of
Prometheus. But Prometheus henceforth has to wear an iron ring, with a rock
of the Caucasus attached to it, allowing Zeus to boast that his enemy is still
incarcerated in the Caucasian Mountains. The myth also implies the further
consequence of the complex: Prometheus does not get rid of the Caucasian
stone, he remains chained to the ring (Kevnyi 1992).
In my interpretation I would like to join with the dynamic understanding of
the complex, as postulated by Gustav Bovensiepen. He speaks of the complex as
a sub-network, a limited fragment of the matrix of all internalized experiences,
consisting of interior working models, feelings and patterns of anticipation
which interact mutually.
Viewed like that, perhaps it is reasonable not to look at complexes as mental images,
but as dynamic, dissociated splinter psyches, that contain conscious and unconscious
images and fantasies about certain modes of relationship and are characterized by a
series of similar experienced feeling-tones.
(Bovensiepen 2004, p. 43)

Let us return to the Prometheus-complex. Prometheus, the fore-thinker,

revolts against suppression. He steals the fire. In many explanations, the fire

Analytical psychotherapy, political imprisonment and persecution


stands for the sparkle of the mind that is just as unabdicatable for human
culture as is the spirit of contradiction. Punishment, imprisonment and torture
follow as a consequence. The parallel to the political prisoners is evident.
Prometheus refuses to cooperate, he does not reveal his knowledge. Because of
that he is chained to the Caucasian rock, over a yawning abyss. Bound in
complete isolation he has to suffer horrible torture. In his interpretation of the
Prometheus-myth, Jrg Rasche refers to Aeschylus, where Prometheus is thrust
to the bottom of the earth together with the rock. It is a gloomy grave made
of stone, which keeps him imprisoned for ten thousand years. It is the archetypal image of petrifaction, of turning to stone, which describes the defences of
dissociation and total isolation of feeling. Everything emotional or alive is cut
off and has to move for inner rigidity and coldness. Living-dead is the poignant
name Ferenczi (1933) gave to this state. The experience of subjective helplessness in the face of inescapable and inevitable danger and the surrender to it,
changes the state of affect to that of a catatonoid reaction, a sort of trancestate, anaesthetizing the physical and psychic agony to a sort of blind obedience
and increasing dissociative phenomena. Until Prometheus is allowed to emerge
from his state of being buried alive, ten thousand endless years pass. In a Jungian
or more specifically Fordhamian sense, this illustrates the attack on the primary self and the breaking into pieces of temporal continuity. The experiencing of time as a fundamental condition of mankind is archetypally determined.
Time cannot be experienced in a state of cosy satisfaction, but only in the
anticipation, the urge for satisfaction through the reliability of a good object.
The confidence in the presence and the reliability of good objects and the
anticipation of interpersonal empathy are profoundly shaken by the trauma.
Not only has the primordial trust been severely undermined, the experiencing
of continuity is also affected, the otherwise ubiquitous current of past, present
and future breaks off. The hole in the experiencing of time reflects the forced
emptiness, the hole in the ego-structure. During the traumatic situation time is
running in slow motion. The subjective experiencing of time is distorted and
solidified. The behaviour of the individual in extreme traumatization caused
by political imprisonment, persecution and applied psychological methods of
disintegration is characterized by basic self-preservationin the end, the most
elementary needs are the ruling principles of life, i.e., of survival. The ego of
the tortured person is attacked from two sides: by uncontrollable stimuli from
the outside that threaten to flood him, from the inside because of the reactivation of infantile fears, which the ego cannot reliably distinguish from reality.
Torture measures of deprivation that disable the sense of temporal and spacial
orientation considerably aggravate the situation.
Consequently, regressive processes take place, which destructively dissolve
the ego in this context; the intrapsychic communication between the self and
the good inner objects breaks down, the inner good object remains silent,
which causes agonizing loneliness and utter despair. As a protection against
narcissistic discharge, the powerful persecutor is introjected, taken into the


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interior world of the psyche, where it continues to act destructively as an alien

object in the self, strengthening the experience of worthlessness. Or to put it
another way: the internal working models, the anticipation and imagination
patterns of the early experience of relationships, are distorted and damaged.
Accordingly, also, the reflective function (Dennett 1978, 1987), which develops on the basis of early experiences of interaction, the ability, to recognize
behaviour as meaningful and to shape it actively on this basis (Fonagy & Target
2003, p. 33) is also impaired. The development of the reflective self-function,
which enables the individual to plan his own behaviour and actions and thus
implies a vision of the future, promotes the ability to differentiate between
interior and exterior reality and forms the basis for interpersonal communication
(Fonagy 2003, p. 17). How lasting the effects of a damaged reflective selffunction are, can be seen in the utterances of the traumatized, who even after
decades still suffer from feelings of meaninglessness and seem to be confronted
with a shadowed future. The ability to be aware of the conscious and unconscious behaviour of ones own and of others is called mentalization (ibid.,
p. 205). Dissociative mechanisms, that fragment unbearable situations into
parts to relieve the horror, also attack the mentalization and detach mental
contents, which normally are combined into a whole and strengthen selfcoherence. The individual has feelings and thoughts, but isnt able to classify
them as feelings or thoughts. Without the ability of reflection the normal
meaning of experience becomes lost. Experiences of the self exist in no mans
land, apart from other aspects of mental functioning (ibid., p. 181).
If the matrix of the earliest relational experiences falls apart, it is evident
that no operation of symbolization can take place. From a Jungian point of
view it shows that the transcendent function is damaged, for this is the psychological function that is responsible for the creation of symbols. Thus it is not
possible to create a functioning psychological interior space, which would
allow the construction of structured contexts of meaning. In the therapeutic
process, to which I will return in detail later, this loss is mirrored in the attack
on the reasoning of the analyst, who has problems preserving space for his
own thought. It is difficult for the analyst to take up a third position in order
to develop symbolic activity. In his book, The Inner World of Trauma, Donald
Kalsched (1996) emphasizes the important role of the self-care system, formed
by dissociative defences. According to Kalsched the trauma causes a division
of consciousness, one part of the personality regressing to an infantile, vulnerable state, while the other part progresses to a false omnipotent adaptation to
the outside world. According to Kalsched this is an archetypal process, in
which the omnipotent persecutory part attacks and encapsulates the vulnerable part, silencing it with the aim of keeping it safe from further attacks from
the outside and thus protecting it. This total defence of the self, on the one
hand, is rescue; on the other hand, after the end of the acute traumatization, it
turns into a principal defence against any spontaneous expression of the self in
the world.

Analytical psychotherapy, political imprisonment and persecution


In the myth of Prometheus the archaic defence also finds its expression.
Prometheus does not stay petrified, but emerges again, although he is chained
to the rock and exposed to repeated attacks by the eagle. The physical pain
saves him from petrificationpain as an expression of being alive. So there
appears anotherperversely structureddefence pattern in the behaviour of
Prometheus: he endures the torture that the eagle, as a henchman of power,
inflicts upon him. However, the liver grows again and again at night. In this
way he is able to omnipotently withstand the attacks, apparently undoing
them in the night. But after his liberation he still has to wear an iron ring to
which a Caucasian rock is connected.
Kalsched emphasizes another important function of the archetypal traumadefence, in that he does not solely see it as avoidance behaviour, but also as
active construction in the form of narrative. Therefore a form of narrative is
created in phantasy with the purpose of creating a positive idea of identity and
personal worth in a situation of total dependency. Jean Knox (2003) understands this as a process of image construction, functioning like an internal
working model.
A clinical case
Imprisoned in the 1980s, Mr B. was able to withstand the interrogations by
the Staatssicherheit for a long time. The psychological breakdown appeared as
a delusional decompensation, in which he succeeded, by creating a double
reality, to hide his delusion from others. During imprisonment he behaved
adaptively and quietly; secretly he imagined himself as chosen by God to fulfil
a secret mission in prison that made it necessary to talk to others on a nonverbal level, to communicate from soul to soul. Thus, he heard what he was
told, but he was convinced that people wanted to tell him something
completely different on the level of thoughts; he just had to try to interpret the
signs in the right way to understand. The whole thing developed into a
significant system of delusion.
Colours, numbers and letters got a two-fold meaning. Mr. B was extraordinarily proud to be the only person entrusted with this secret mission.
Simultaneously, he completely retreated because he feared to be called a
lunatic, if other people would notice his strange behaviour. His immense
worry was that as a bearer of secrets he would not be transferred to the
West any more. This delusional system stayed after he was bought out by the
Federal Republic of Germany. His marriage broke into pieces; he failed
professionally. At the time he first visited the counselling centre, he suffered
from social isolation; the delusional symptoms had already dissolved.
Nevertheless, today he is barely capable of reading a book, because the real
content is blurred, and he still catches himself in the attempt to read the
meaning between the lines. During the therapeutic treatment, lasting for five
years (once a week), Mr. B. has regained much freedom and is a working


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professional again. But he still sketches very precisely, how even today, he
sometimes attempts to slide into the other sphere, which is very much a
concern for him:
I am afraid of success. If I become aware that the other has less knowledge than
I have, then to not hurt him I go to the other sphere, because everyone is equal there.
Or, if I hurt someone, I try to balance it in the other sphere, from soul to soul so to

He states further:
Whenever I notice that I am sliding into this sphere, I immediately withdraw myself
from the other, because I fear that it might show on my face.

Mr. B. is able to speak about this very precisely, but he is imperceivable to me

on the affective level, I am not able to emotionally sense him, but do sense the
fascination of this sphere, when I bounce off from the omnipotent idea that
guards his emotional life. This sphere saves him from his own aggressive
impulses or when he fears the persecutory vengeance of the other. It offers him
compensation, without getting dangerously near to the other. In his breaking
off contact, his isolation and delusional decompensation, the damage, but also
the creative act of salvation of Mr. B., becomes evident. His tragic dilemma
caused by experiencing brute violence during imprisonment comes down to a
paradox: to survive, I have to partly destroy myself.
Consequences for treatment
Due to the dissociative processes during traumatization and afterwards, in
time multiple internal working models develop, which can unexpectedly be
activated and alternated (Knox 2003), and thus cause unsteadiness of the
personality. Triggering stimuli (sounds, smells) activate flashbacks with their
corresponding defences. The multi-layered functioning of the complex reveals
itself primarily in the forming of relationships. It is a characteristic feature of
the treatment of severely traumatized people that they tend to break off
contact in the therapeutic process. The fear that everything good could be
destroyed again, has dug itself deep into their consciousness and leads to an
attitude of distrust, often in connection to social withdrawal and isolation.
The inner reality has experienced a before and an after and nothing will be
like it was before. Traumatized people live a shadowed life overcast by a
powerfully charged complex, which swallows everything that comes near with
tremendous gravitational force. There are no temporal coherence and continuity,
and even worse, no coherent meaning and no future. The intrusive recurrence
of the traumatic experience cannot be relieved by meaning. On the level of
emotional discharge and its overwhelming, in other words, of the primary feeling (Chiozza 1999; cf. Varvin 2000), the persecuted and traumatized person
still lives in the world of the trauma, in the detention cell, in the interrogation

Analytical psychotherapy, political imprisonment and persecution


room. The patients feel as if they were immured in an inner prison,

condemned to live a life in the cold and in isolation, separated from all things
alive. Chained at the edge of an abyss in a Promethean manner, time seems to
stand still. Although the former detainees are able to talk about many details
of their experiences during imprisonment, the therapist has the feeling that
something is being kept back. Kept back for instance are humiliating feelings
of shame and guilt that are deeply concealed, that are too intimidating to be
verbalized. That which cannot be verbalized is presented through action.
Often the pathological perpetrator-victim relationship is staged in the beginning of the therapeutic process. The unconscious pattern of anticipation (the
internal working model) can be described as follows: if I confide in someone,
I will be deceived and betrayed. I am at the mercy of the other and in the end
I am alone. The defence processes that are at work during traumatization
remain in effect in therapy. Although the patient appears to be cooperative,
the therapeutic process stagnates. In these dead-end situations the patient has
long since withdrawn from communication. Often the narcissistic, and therefore salvational gain from this withdrawal, can only be sensed in countertransference when the therapist pokes against this impenetrable fortress, which, like
a mighty triumphant victor, prevents any penetration. In this inner prison the
salvational omnipotent image can survive, the omnipotence can continue to
exist beyond verification. Anything is allowed that preserves the patient from
having to feel the extremely shameful impotence of being at the mercy of
others. According to Kalsched this is typical of the archaic trauma-defence, in
which the vulnerable part capable of engaging in relationships is being encapsulated and silenced by the omnipotent part to protect it from renewed
So the persistence of this psychic retreat (Steiner 1993) is by no means a
passive event. By way of a scenic representation, the analyst is fitted into this
retreat, he is locked up in chains and impeded in his freedom of movement.
Related to the concrete process of the therapy this means: the patient tries
hard, he comes regularly and on time and he speaks about his experiences in
prison. He causes the analyst to completely take his side, the side of the good
victim. In this process the analyst does not notice for a long time that no
change is taking place and that the therapeutic process is stagnating. Unconsciously this suits the analyst, who participates in the act, thus spared from the
violent attacks of the patients anger, and also from his agonizing, dreadful
feelings. This is where the attack on the reasoning of the analyst becomes
apparent; he isnt able to preserve his space for thought, nor to develop
symbolic activity, much like the traumatized person, whose symbolic function
is impaired. To the patient, the analyst is someone he values and would like to
keep, but over whom he triumphs as well and whom he tries to destroy. A
change for the better can only happen on condition that the therapist analyses the
therapy and his countertransference feelings and regains his symbolic attitude
through the restoration of his own interior space. The countertransference


Reinhild Hlter

feelings of meaninglessness provide an impression of the torn relational

and explanatory connections of the severely traumatized individual. In the
active and empathic exchange between analyst and patient and in the
framework of transference/countertransference processes, a matrix consisting
of relational experiences develops in the sense of a supporting container/
contained-relationship, which allows the transcendent function to develop
(Bovensiepen 2002). Symbols are the processing places of the complexes.
Therefore it is necessary during the therapeutic sessions to confront the often
overwhelming emotions, and to examine which conscious and unconscious
activities, fantasies and images are related to them. Made available to
consciousness through its symbolic processing, the patients experience is
extricated from trauma-conditioned speechlessness and put into words, so that
it becomes possible to work through those experiences.
In the therapeutic process, the stagnation also mirrors the inner drama of
paralysis. The absence of movement in the retreat embodies this timeless
situation, flashbacks demonstrate that time does not pass. Also the future is
not really imaginable, or at best it is imaginable in an overshadowed form, as
an imminent catastrophe, that is bound to happen some day. The saving
omnipotent gain of this loss of temporal reference lies in the overcoming of
In the myth Prometheus is saved because Chiron is prepared to die in his
place. Chiron, being equipped with a non-healing wound, personifies sorrow,
death and compassion. He is considered to be the creator of medical science
because of his attempts at soothing pain. For the therapy of the traumatized,
we can say that liberation from the trauma, from prison, can only be attained
through the acceptance of the finiteness, through the mourning over things
suffered, over the time that is lost, over lost chances.
Complexes do not work in an isolated way, but they are mutually interconnected. If an extremely charged, powerful complex is generated because of a
severe traumatization, it has strong consequences for pre-existing complexes.
Thus the positive mother complex changes itself because of the distortion or
even rupture of earliest relational experiences by the overwhelming catastrophe, in so far as the bearing moment of maternity cannot be experienced
anymore. Very often severely traumatized persons develop a strong authority
complex, which even years after leads them to leave employments because the
situation of professional subordination recalls old, unbearable feelings of
being at the mercy of others. Suffered injustice, combined with massive humiliations and cut-off future prospects, often lead to a distinct envy complex
accompanied by strong feelings of grudge and resentment. The understandably
intense wish to take revenge on the person that has hurt oneself, often cannot
be expressed, either because these excessive impulses arouse the fear of retaliation,
or because fantasies concerning the realization of the wishes lead to intense
feelings of guilt. The fear of their own destructive hate leads to a situation
in which revenge can be neither openly put into action nor given up

Analytical psychotherapy, political imprisonment and persecution


completelya vicious circle, in which open violence is prevented, but in which

also the inner grudge, that saturates everything, leads to an endless revenge. In
the therapeutic process the defensive dynamic of the complexes appears in the
form of a collusive division (Kast 1998)due to projective processes, the
analyst is seen as perpetrator, who is incapable of reconciliation. The only
thing the therapist can do is to understand this manipulative transference and
endure itand survive these attacks (i.e., the shutdown of the analyst)until
the patientif therapy is successfulstarts to question this transference until
he, besides admitting his own perpetratory input, is able to give up omnipotent
control. Becoming aware of his hatred and of his guilt and the corresponding
emergence of the wish for destruction of the object is a prerequisite for the
reconciliatory impulses to be sensed, and the grief over things lost and painful
suffering be permitted.

Des vcus traumatiques de violence comme ceux qui ont eu lieu dans le rgime communiste de lancienne rpublique dmocratique allemande (GDR) sont encore prsents
comme sils taient arrivs hier, causant des handicaps svres dans la vie de tous les
jours mme aprs toutes ces annes. Ceci montre quont eu lieu chez les personnes
ayant vcu une traumatisation extrme la suite dun emprisonnement politique, de
perscutions et dune utilisation sur eux de mthodes psychologiques visant la desintgration, des processus rgressifs qui ont attaqu le moi. Leffondrement catharctique,
labsence de connection empathique au moment du traumatisme sont les points les plus
caractristiques dune svre traumatisation. Parce quil y a eu destruction de ce qui est
traumatis il y a une incapacit garder une connection interne motionnelle et empathique.
Si nous cherchons concevoir, dun point de vue jungien, les dynamiques de traumatisation svre, nous pouvons parler dun complexe pathogne puissant, que jappelle le
complexe de Promthe. Gustav Bovensiepen parle de ce complexe comme dun sousrseau, un fragment limit de la matrice de toutes les expriences internalises, constitu de modles, affects et shmas danticipation qui interagissent les uns avec les autres.
Ltre humain enferm dans un tel isolement et une telle paralysie de son esprit peut se
retrouver dans le thrapeute au niveau mental.

Traumatische Gewalterlebnisse, wie sie von der DDR-Diktatur verursacht wurden, sind
oft noch so prsent wie zum Zeitpunkt des Geschehens, was zu massiven Behinderungen im tglichen Leben fhrt, auch wenn das Ereignis 20 oder 30 Jahre zurckliegt. Bei
diesen Extremtraumatisierungen durch politische Haft, Verfolgung und gezielte psychische Zersetzungmanahmen finden regressive Prozesse statt die in diesem Kontext
destruktiv ich-auflsend sind. Der Besetzungsabzug bzw. das Scheitern der empathischen Verbindung zur Zeit des Traumas ist das strkste Merkmal schwerer Traumatisierung. Die Folge dieser Auslschung ist die Unfhigkeit, eine empathische Beziehung zu
sich selbst aufrecht zu erhalten.


Reinhild Hlter

Aus jungianischer Sicht knnen wir von einem mchtigen pathogenen Komplex
sprechen, den ich den Prometheus-Komplex nennen mchte., da dieses archetypische
Thema die Wucht der Emotionen zeigt, die mit einer schweren Traumatisierung einhergehen. Ich mchte mich hier dem dynamischen Komplexverstndnis anschlieen, wie es
von Gustav Bovensiepen postuliert wird. Bovensiepen spricht von dem Komplex als ein
Sub-Netzwerk, einen begrenzten Ausschnitt, aus der Matrix aller verinnerlichten Erfahrungen, bestehend aus inneren Arbeitsmodellen, Affekten und Erwartungsmustern.
Dem in der seelischen Isolation und Erstarrung gefangenen Menschen mu die Mglichkeit gegeben werden, sich in geistiger Hinsicht im Therapeuten zu finden und dies
beinhaltet ebenso die ganze Bandbreite der Symbolisierungs- und Mentalisierungsaktivitt des Therapeuten.

Le esperienze traumatiche di violenza come quelle determinate dal regime comunista

della prima Repubblica Democratica Tedesca (GDR) sono ancora presenti come fossero accadute ieri e nonostante tutti questi anni continuano a causare gravi svantaggi
nella vita di tutti i giorni. Di conseguenza, in caso di traumi gravissimi indotti dalla prigionia politica, dalla persecuzione e dallapplicazione di metodi psicologici di disintegrazione, si verificano processi regressivi che corrodono lIo. Il collasso della catechesi,
cio la caduta delle connessioni empatiche al momento del trauma, rappresenta la
caratteristica pi forte di un grave trauma. Il risultato di questa distruzione lincapacit da parte di chi stato traumatizzato di mantenere una intima connessione emotiva
ed empatica.
Mentre cerchiamo di comprendere, da un punto di vista junghiano, la psicodinamica
dei traumi gravi, possiamo parlare di un potente complesso patogeno, che io chiamo il
complesso di Prometeo. Gustav Bovensiepen parla di questo complesso come di una
rete sotterranea, un frammento limitato della matrice di tutte le esperienze interiorizzate, che consistono di modelli operativi interni, di sentimenti e di aspettative che interagiscono reciprocamente. Lessere umano intrappolato in un tale isolamento e in una
tale paralisi della mente, pu trovare se stesso nel terapeuta ad un livello mentale.

Experiencias traumticas como aquellas que resultaron del rgimen comunista de la

antigua Repblica Democrtica Germana estn todava presentes como si hubiesen
ocurrido ayer, causando severas desventajas en la vida cotidiana incluso despus de
todos esos aos. Consecuentemente, en casos de trauma extremo inducido por encarcelamiento poltico, persecucin y mtodos psicolgicos aplicados de desintegracin,
procesos regresivos tienen lugar que corroan el ego. La interrupcin del cathexis, es
decir, la falta de la conexin emptica a la hora del trauma, es la caracterstica ms
fuerte del trauma severo. Como resultado de esta destruccin para el traumatizado
existe la inhabilidad de mantener estable una empata interna, una conexin emocional.
Mientras intentamos agarrar, desde un punto de vista Jungiano, la psicodinmica del
trauma severo, podemos hablar de un poderoso complejo pathogenous, al cual llamo
Complejo-Prometheus. Gustav Bovensiepen habla de este complejo como una sub-red,
un fragmento limitado de la matriz de toda experiencia interna, consistiendo de modelos
internos de trabajo, sensaciones y patrones de anticipacin que trabajan mutuamente.
El ser humano, capturado en tal aislamiento y paralisis de la mente, puede encontrarse
a si mismo en el terapeuta a un nivel mental.

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