Repetition and Trauma
Toward A Teleonomic Theory of Psychoanalysis
Routledge – 1988 – 192 pages
The culmination of over three decades of investigation into traumatic processes, Repetition and Trauma is the late Max Stern's pioneering reconceptualization of trauma in the light of recent insights into the physiology and psychology of stress and the "teleonomic" character of human evolution in developing defenses against shock. As such, it is a highly original attempt to reformulate certain basic tenets of psychoanalysis with the findings of modern biology in general and neurobiology in particular.
At the core of Stern's effort is the integration of laboratory research into sleep and dreaming so as to clarify the meaning of pavor nocturnus. In concluding that these night terrors represent "a defense against stress caused by threatening nightmares," he exploits, though he interpretively departs from, the laboratory research on dreams conducted by Charles Fisher and others in the 1960s.
From his understanding of pavor nocturnus as a compulsion to repeat in the service of overcoming a developmental failure to attribute meaning to states of tension, Stern enlarges his inquiry to the phenomena of repetitive dreams in general. In a brilliant reconstruction of Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he suggests that Freud was correct in attributing the repetitive phenomena of traumatic dreams to forces operating beyond the pleasure principle, but holds that these phenomena can be best illumined in terms of Freud's conception of mastery and Stern's own notion of "reparative mastery."
"We may rejoice with Max Stern that with the help of his devoted wife, Lisolette Bendix Stern, he succeeded in achieving his life's goal - a unified teleonomic theory of psychoanalysis. My ardent wish is that my colleagues will avail themselves of this extraordinary synthesis of the work of a great psychoanalytic pioneer."
- Henry Krystal, M.D., author, Integration and Self-Healing (Analytic Press, 1993)
"The book certainly presents some innovative ideas. I am totally in agreement with Stern's attempt to connect modern physiological research -- such as sleep and dream research -- with psychoanalytic theory and practice. I also find myself in agreement with his attempt, a new one for me, to integrate psychoanalytic and other views of human psychological development with larger evolutionary principles."
- Ernest Hartmann, M.D., International Journal of Psychoanalysis
Introduction, Levin 1. Pavor Nocturnus 2. Regression Explanantions 3. Trauma and the Repetition Compulsion 4. Reparative Mastery 5. The Teleonomic Principle
Max M. Stern (1895-1982) received his medical and psychiatric training at the University of Heidelberg and Frankfurt am Main and his psychoanalytic training at the Institute of the Palestine Psychoanalytic Association, from which he graduated in 1938. Following his emigration to the United States in 1947, he practiced psychoanalysis in New York and served as a training analyst and faculty member at both the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, and the Division of Psychoanalytic Education at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. A past president of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York, Dr. Stern was the author of 18 papers on early psychobiological development and the integration of psychoanalysis with biology.