The aim of this article is to think of the place of the witness as a third place that the analyst, in the clinical space of trauma, is able to sustain. According to Ferenczi, in traumatic dreams a third is already being summoned. It is not the witness of the realm of law, nor the place of the father or the symbolic law. This is a third space that can be called potential, interstitial space, indeterminate and formless, where something that at first would be incommunicable circulates and gradually takes shape. This space allows and supports the literalness of a testimonial narrative, its hesitations, paradoxes and silences. More than a trauma theory, the notion of a potential space would be the great contribution of psychoanalysis to the treatment of trauma survivors, establishing the difference between the task of a psychoanalyst and the one of a truth commission.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Agamben, G. (1999). Remnants of Auschwitz: The witness and the archive. (Homo Sacer III). New York: Zone Books.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Benveniste, E. (1969). Le vocabulaire des intitutions indo-européenes. Paris: Éditions de Minuit.

  3. Butler, J. (2004). Precarious life. The powers of mourning and violence. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Delbo, C. (1995). Auschwitz and after. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Derrida, J. (1978). Writing and difference. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Felman, S., & Laub, D. (1991). Testimony: Crisis of witnessing in literature, psychoanalysis and history. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Ferenczi, S. (1909). Introjection and transference. In First contributions to psychoanalysis (pp. 33–93). London: Karnac, 1994.

  8. Ferenczi, S. (1928). The elasticity of psychoanalytical technique. In M. Balint (Ed.), Final contributions to the problems and methods of psychoanalysis (pp. 87–101). London: Hogarth Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Ferenczi, S. (1931a). On the revision of the interpretation of dreams. In M. Balint (Ed.), Final contributions to the problems and methods of psychoanalysis (pp. 238–242). London: Hogarth Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Ferenczi, S. (1931b). Child analysis in the analysis of adults. In M. Balint (Ed.), Final contributions to the problems and methods of psychoanalysis (pp. 126–142). London: Hogarth Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ferenczi, S. (1932). The clinical diary of Sándor Ferenczi. In J. Dupont (Ed.) (M. Balint & N. Z. Jackson, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  12. Gondar, J. (2011). Things in words. Ferenczi and language. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 71, 329–337.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Gondar, J. (Issue Editor) (2017). Special issue. Trauma and subjectivity: A South American perspective. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 77(1).

  14. Kelley-Lainé, K. (2014). Trauma child on the couch: Transference, introjection, identification. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 74, 60–70.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Klee, P., & Gale, M. (2013). Creative confession and other writings. London: Tate Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Levi, P. (1988). The drowned and the saved. New York: Summit.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Levi, P. (1993). If this is a man. New York: First Collier Editions.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Prince, R. (2009). The self in pain: The paradox of memory. The paradox of testimony. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 69, 279–290.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Schneider, M. (1988). The trauma and the paradoxical filiation. Paris: Éditions Ramsay.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Schneider, M. (1992). The part of the shadow. Approach to female trauma. Paris: Aubier

    Google Scholar 

  21. Seligmann-Silva, M. (2008). Narrating the trauma. In Psicologia clínica, 20(1), 65–82.

  22. Seligmann-Silva, M. (2010). The place of testimony. In Tempo e argumento, 2(1), 3–20.

  23. Semprun, J. (1980). What a beautiful Sunday. New York: Hartcourt Brace Jovanovich.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Semprun, J. (2005). The long voyage. New York: Overlook Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Winnicott, D. W. (1971/1991). Playing and reality. London: Routledge.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jô Gondar.

Additional information

Address correspondence to Jô Gondar, PhD. Rua General Cristóvão Barcelos 24/701, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 22245-110, Brazil.

*This paper is part of the Special Issue, Trauma and Subjectivity: A South American Perspective (Gondar, 2017).

Translated by Christianne Otero.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article


Download citation


  • trauma
  • witness
  • potential space
  • clinic
  • testimonial literature