“That the Holocaust…” —Jacqueline Rose: on getting stuck inside your mind by experience, as a traumatic diktat

…could have become a premise–that is, a proposition which produces its own logical conclusions–is striking, or rather strikingly different from seeing it, for example, as unrepresentable atrocity, as unassimilable, or barely admissable trauma in the way Judith Butler, citing Primo Levi, has so powerfully described…

— Jacqueline Rose, The Last Resistance, 2017, p. 214

— Antoni Tàpies, lithograph

As I thought about it, it seemed to me that the idea of ‘premises’ as diktat over the future might also do as a working definition of trauma. When I was studying Sylvia Plath a long time ago, and trying to understand the appearance of the Holocaust motif in her writing as something other than the opportunism of which she was accused, I read an article by German psychoanalyst Ilse Grubrich-Simitis on working with second-generation Holocaust survivors that has stayed with me ever since. She described how the language of these patients was characterised by a dull, thudding referentiality, with no mobility or play, as if they were saying–in a way only made clear after the most difficult analytic listening–‘this happened,’ ‘happened‘ ‘happened‘ over and over again, to compensate for the silence, the psychic refusal to acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust, in the generation before. And in one of his evocative articles, ‘The Trauma of Incest’ of 1989, psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas describes how trauma shuts down the mind of the patient. The problem is not believing what they say, but the fact that that is all they have to say, so that there is nowhere else left for them to go inside their minds.

— Ibid., 215