The Enigma of Extreme Traumatism: Trauma, Exclusion and their Impact on Subjectivity*


My aim is to discuss the immediate effects of extreme trauma and to speculate on its long term effects. The formulations associated with the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome generate an overly medicalized view of trauma, grossly underestimating its devastating impact. Catastrophic traumatic experience rips a hole in the representational continuity of psychic life; neither representations nor narrations are generated. Instead, a representational emptiness occurs, such that what has taken place cannot be shared or transmitted. The cathartic word becomes a robotic mocking of the interchange between human beings. There is no internalization, no ability to make the experience subjective. The resulting deep splitting in the psyche is characteristic of extreme traumatism, and its balance or perpetual working through is elaborated in this paper.

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Correspondence to Marcelo N. Viñar.

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Address correspondence to Dr. Marcelo N. Viñar, at:

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

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Viñar, M.N. The Enigma of Extreme Traumatism: Trauma, Exclusion and their Impact on Subjectivity* . Am J Psychoanal 77, 40–51 (2017).

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  • extreme trauma
  • state sponsored violence
  • impact of catastrophic trauma
  • trauma and exclusion
  • alienation
  • impact on subjectivity
  • testimonial literature and narrative