by Hans Ten Dam, M.A.
While regressing to the causes of psychological and psychosomatic problems, says this author, we sometimes find chronic adverse conditions, rather than specific traumas. In his own practice, he has found that these cases call for a somewhat different treatment—that instructions to relive the adverse conditions can actually worsen the symptoms. This article differentiates “hangovers” from “traumas,” presenting some general insights into hangovers and a method of dealing with them. A case history is offered in illustration.
In regression therapy we look for the unassimilated experiences whose repercussions have carried over into present life. These are usually called “traumas.” But that label does not fit a whole range of repercussive conditions I have seen in my practice—obsessions, pseudo-obsessions, alienation, character postulates (rigid programs, often belief systems, usually expressed in key sentences) and what I term “hangovers”—each of which calls for a different treatment. Here I want to talk about hangovers.
A trauma begins and ends at a specific moment. It is a precise episode, charged with negative emotions, in which the ego collapses. A hangover comes from a situation that caused a more general kind of misery. The ego is pinched off and diminished, like a bonsai. It is almost stagnated by long weariness, pressure, despondency, and depression. Fear, anger, and grief are intense, acute emotions, but boredom, weariness, and depression are chronic and diffuse. They do not produce a trauma, a wound, but rather a hangover, a dead weight, a “dirt skirt.”