Splitting in Individuals, Families and Groups as a Result of Transgenerational Legacies of Trauma and Guilt
The Journal of Psychohistory 50 (2) Fall 2022, S. 123-136
ABSTRACT: Splitting is one of the most elementary defense mechanisms of the human psyche. This mechanism kicks in when the psychological processing possibilities threaten to collapse due to excessive demands. That is why this mechanism occurs in early childhood as well as during severe stress such as trauma. As Lifton’s work showed, this defense process is also activated in connection with the performance of cruelty and murderous acts. It then regularly combines with other defense mechanisms such as projective identification, denial, displacement, or identification with the aggressor.
The text first describes the different mechanisms of trauma transmission. It then illustrates the psychological consequences of splitting processes and of transgenerationally inherited traumas and feelings of guilt using the example of the descendants of Holocaust survivors and Nazi perpetrators.
KEYWORDS: Transgenerational trauma transmission; Holocaust; Trauma; Guilt feelings; Shame; Defense mechanisms; Second generation; Third generation