Micro-trauma: A Psychoanalytic Understanding of Cumulative Psychic Injury, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


A Psychoanalytic Understanding of Cumulative Psychic Injury, 1st Edition

By Margaret Crastnopol


252 pages

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Paperback: 9780415800365
pub: 2015-01-22
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pub: 2015-01-05
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Micro-trauma: A psychoanalytic understanding of cumulative psychic injury explores the "micro-traumatic" or small, subtle psychic hurts that build up to undermine a person’s sense of self-worth, skewing his or her character and compromising his or her relatedness to others. These injuries amount to what has been previously called "cumulative" or "relational trauma." Until now, psychoanalysis has explained such negative influences in broad strokes, using general concepts like psychosexual urges, narcissistic needs, and separation-individuation aims, among others. Taking a fresh approach, Margaret Crastnopol identifies certain specific patterns of injurious relating that cause damage in predictable ways; she shows how these destructive processes can be identified, stopped in their tracks, and replaced by a healthier way of functioning.

Seven different types of micro-trauma, all largely hidden in plain sight, are described in detail, and many others are discussed more briefly. Three of these micro-traumas—"psychic airbrushing and excessive niceness," "uneasy intimacy," and "connoisseurship gone awry"—have a predominantly positive emotional tone, while the other four—"unkind cutting back," "unbridled indignation," "chronic entrenchment," and "little murders"—have a distinctly negative one. Margaret Crastnopol shows how these toxic processes may take place within a dyadic relationship, a family group, or a social clique, causing collateral psychic damage all around as a consequence.

Using illustrations drawn from psychoanalytic treatment, literary fiction, and everyday life, Micro-trauma : A psychoanalytic understanding of cumulative psychic injury outlines how each micro-traumatic pattern develops and manifests itself, and how it wreaks its damage. The book shows how an awareness of these patterns can give us the therapeutic leverage needed to reshape them for the good. This publication will be an invaluable resource for psychoanalysts, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and for trainees and graduate students in these fields and related disciplines.

Margaret Crastnopol (Peggy), Ph.D. is a faculty member of the Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and a Supervisor of Psychotherapy at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis & Psychology. She is also a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles. She writes and teaches nationally and internationally about the analyst's and patient's subjectivity; the vicissitudes of love, lust, and attachment drives; and varieties of micro-trauma.  She is in private practice for the treatment of individuals and couples in Seattle, WA. 




Crastnopol’s book divides up the world in a whole new way. "Micro-trauma" is a convincing conceptualization of some of the most problematic happenings between people. But despite its novelty—and it is brand-new--what Crastnopol describes will be immediately recognizable to any clinician. Add lucid and entertaining writing that is often actually gripping, and you have the makings of a book that will be read at all levels of the field, from students to seasoned analysts. - Donnel Stern, Ph.D., William Alanson White Institute and New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

Margaret Crastnopol’s "Micro-trauma: A Psychoanalytic Understanding of Cumulative Psychic Injury" is an exceptional book in that it's a genuinely original contribution to understanding ourselves and others in our day in/day out, lifelong, prosaic, and most intimate interactions. Crastnopol draws on the full range of psychoanalytic thinking to articulate the many ways that we undermine the self-worth and well-being of one another and of ourselves. Reading this book will help therapists and others, all of us, to better understand and catch ourselves as we subtly and unconsciously invalidate, misrecognize, and are misattuned to ourselves and each other. Her creative and literary explications of such relational dynamics as "unkind cutting back," "psychic airbrushing," "chronic entrenchment," and "uneasy intimacy," among many other characterizations, are both immediately useful and unforgettable. - Lewis Aron, Ph.D. Director, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis.

In our contemporary "in-your-face" culture, nuance and subtlety have all but disappeared. Yet these barely-registering phenomena live on in the sounds and silences of the psychoanalytic consulting room. Indeed they are the heart and soul of psychoanalytic discourse. In this superb new contribution, Margaret Crastnopol, an astute observer of those quotidian minutiae that fly under the radar, provides a comprehensive survey of micro-traumas that make up the fabric of our existence but may go unaddressed and unobserved in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. She deftly depicts the little murders, the withdrawals, the slights, and the stifled emotions that can wreak havoc on one's sense of well-being, and she shows how psychoanalysis is unique among the panoply of treatments in today’s marketplace in its potential for ameliorating the effect of those painful experiences. I highly recommend this book to both beginning clinicians and experienced analysts.  -Glen O. Gabbard, MD, Author, Love and Hate in the Analytic Setting

"Micro-trauma is a fascinating examination of the resonance of emotional experience and how affect operates within an insidious network of related feelings. With an abundance of vignettes to illustrate its principles and a strong, varied theoretical perspective, the book can be invaluable for researchers and clinical professionals alike…The book opens the door for further research and review from professional readership, something valuable for the scientifically and clinically-minded." - Michael Fiorini, Somatic Psychotherapy Today, Volume 5 Number 3, Summer 2015

"Drawing together established theory and clinical practice, this book presents in-depth studies of common, identifiably hurtful behaviors and offers insight into techniques addressing the injuries… Chaplains in a wide variety of settings will find this focused inquiry into the human condition helpful… Introspection is part of the reader's experience, as well… Professional and conversational in her style, Crastnopol skillfully weaves her clinical experience and well-developed theory snuggly into a wider fabric of established psychotherapeutic schools, highlighting the unique contribution her work is making while demonstrating her mastery of the knowledge base." - Keith Goheen, MDiv BCC, chaplain, Beebe Healthcare, Lewes, DE, APC Forum

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments. Cumulative Micro-trauma that’s Hidden in Plain Sight: An Overview. Unkind Cutting Back and Its Navigation. Connoisseurship Gone Awry. Uneasy Intimacy—A Siren’s Call. Psychic Airbrushing and Excessive Niceness. Chronic Entrenchment and Its Collateral Damage. Unbridled Indignation. Little Murders and Other Everyday Micro-Assaults. Toward Repair.

About the Author

Margaret Crastnopol (Peggy), Ph.D., is a faculty member of the Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and a supervisor of psychotherapy at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology. She is also a training and supervising analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles. She writes and teaches nationally and internationally about the analyst’s and patient’s subjectivity; the vicissitudes of love, lust, and attachment drives; and varieties of micro-trauma. She is in private practice for the treatment of individuals and couples in Seattle, Washington.

About the Series

Psychoanalysis in a New Key Book Series

When music is played in a new key, the melody does not change, but the notes that make up the composition do: change in the context of continuity, continuity that perseveres through change. Psychoanalysis in a New Key publishes books that share the aims psychoanalysts have always had, but that approach them differently. The books in the series are not expected to advance any particular theoretical agenda, although to this date most have been written by analysts from the Interpersonal and Relational orientations.

The most important contribution of a psychoanalytic book is the communication of something that nudges the reader’s grasp of clinical theory and practice in an unexpected direction. Psychoanalysis in a New Key creates a deliberate focus on innovative and unsettling clinical thinking. Because that kind of thinking is encouraged by exploration of the sometimes surprising contributions to psychoanalysis of ideas and findings from other fields, Psychoanalysis in a New Key particularly encourages interdisciplinary studies. Books in the series have married psychoanalysis with dissociation, trauma theory, sociology, and criminology. The series is open to the consideration of studies examining the relationship between psychoanalysis and any other field – for instance, biology, literary and art criticism, philosophy, systems theory, anthropology, and political theory.

But innovation also takes place within the boundaries of psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalysis in a New Key therefore also presents work that reformulates thought and practice without leaving the precincts of the field. Books in the series focus, for example, on the significance of personal values in psychoanalytic practice, on the complex interrelationship between the analyst’s clinical work and personal life, on the consequences for the clinical situation when patient and analyst are from different cultures, and on the need for psychoanalysts to accept the degree to which they knowingly satisfy their own wishes during treatment hours, often to the patient’s detriment.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health