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Revisiting Soul Murder with Paul Williams, PhD

March 9 @ 12:00pm - 4:00pm EST

Soul Murder is a crime, not a diagnosis, Leonard Shengold argues. It comprises a particularly toxic combination of chronic abuse (sexual, physical or emotional), and extreme neglect of a child’s healthy developmental needs. In this presentation, the history of soul murder will be considered together with clinical accounts and examples from literature. It will be proposed that the soul murderer is continually murdering themselves, and imposes on the infant this identification with a murderous internal part-object. So powerful is the projective identification and the introjection that the child yields their true self to a form of death by brainwashing. Less dramatic but similarly debilitating versions of this can occur in perverse relationships in which sadism is a feature. Rehabilitation of a soul murdered individual requires acceptance and recognition of murder, the absence of a true self and the growth of a self from ashes. This clinical picture provides analysts with an unusual set of circumstances, which may or may not include psychosis, but will reveal trauma at multiple levels of experience. How to think about, and modify analytic technique, particularly in the countertransference, in order to listen to a soul murdered person, will be emphasized.

APsA Staff