Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Breaker of the trance: The warrior as a means to heal from trauma
by Smith, Laura Lynn, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014, 330; 3666751
Abstract (Summary)

When an individual has suffered from repeated abuses during childhood, an intrapsychic conflict arises in which inner persecutory figures terrorize other, more vulnerable aspects of the personality (Kalsched, 1996). The aim of this dissertation is to explore how the archetype of the Self, an organizing and integrating principle within the psyche (Jung, 1952/1954), can activate within the adult trauma survivor the aggressive energies of the warrior as a means to mitigate the inner persecution that arises out of traumatic experience.

Norse myth and the epic poem Beowulf, both rich in war and warring, are used as the hermeneutical texts to illustrate the hypothesis regarding the function of the Self and the warrior in the face of trauma. Mythic figures such as Odin—as the Self, Thor and Beowulf—as warriors, and Loki, Grendel, and Grendel's mother—as inner persecutors, demonstrate the interplay between the Self-warrior-inner persecutory triad that can evolve out of traumatic experience. Texts on trauma, the archetype of the warrior, and the experiences of the modern warrior provide further hermeneutical material for the research.

Findings from this study indicate that archetypal warrior energies have the capacity to lessen the influence of negative internal forces within the trauma survivor, effectively breaking a form of trance commonly induced by the experience of cumulative childhood trauma. Results demonstrate that the warrior archetype has a maturational arc. In its mature form, the warrior is capable of forming cooperative relationships with formerly negative inner aspects, once the warrior's efforts have softened the impact of those aspects upon the ego. Surprisingly, studied texts also reveal that former inner persecutors, once they are brought into greater relatedness with the whole of the psyche, contain within them numerous gifts for the benefit of the overall personality.

This dissertation infers that any subject under investigation may benefit from the rich material found within the study of Norse myth and the archetype of the warrior, both topics of which practitioners within the field of depth psychology have generally overlooked.

Keywords: trauma, child abuse, warrior, trickster, Jung, Norse myth, Beowulf.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nelson, Elizabeth E.
Commitee: Schwarzenbach, Katherine B., Wynslow, Robin N.
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Depth Psychotherapy
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Icelandic & Scandinavian literature, Clinical psychology, Experimental psychology, Personality psychology, Military studies
Keywords: Beowulf, Child abuse, Jung, c.g., Norse myth, Trauma, Warrior
Publication Number: 3666751
ISBN: 978-1-321-39978-3
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