If Someone Speaks, It Gets Lighter: Dreams and the Reconstruction of Infant Trauma

Reviewed Publisher: 
Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1994., 277 pages, $36.(hardcover). (800-926-6579) ISBN: 0881631825.
Reviewed Title: 
If Someone Speaks, It Gets Lighter: Dreams and the Reconstruction of Infant Trauma
Reviewed Author: 

Dr. Share offers an extensive exploration of a difficult and neglected area of analytic inquiry, that of infant and prenatal psychological experience and its relationship to clinical work. She brings important insights to an understanding of the psychic residue of fetal and neonatal life, connecting psychoanalytic data to relevant data from fields such as neurobiology, experimental, prenatal, and developmental psychology. Her observations, conclusions, and clinical illustrations are important, intriguing, and quite provocative, exemplifying a sophisticated appreciation of the material that she is discussing.

Dr. Share's basic premises regarding the impact and unconscious registering of early infant and prenatal trauma are much in accord with my own thoughts and experience and are immensely valuable on theoretical and clinical levels. As she wisely notes, working analytically in the area of prenatal experience with patients can provide an essential understanding and sense of self-continuity that often is not available through other lines of investigation. Periods of impasse, transference and counter-transference, psychosomatic symptoms, and affective qualities or behavior that otherwise seem inexplicable can be rendered meaningful through an appreciation of prenatal psychical experience.

Her ideas that different memory systems may delineate narrative from historical truth and that memory and behavior may become unconsciously organized around traumatic psychical experience are particularly potent revelations. The resolution of residue of early trauma often requires the collaboration of patient and therapist in a setting where both emotional and intellectual frameworks are available around which experience can be both narrated and reconstructed. In some instances, it is only through analytic exploration that early trauma can be documented as plausible, and perhaps veridical, even if not objectively verifiable. Dr. Share has offered us a psychical and intellectual scaffolding for such an enterprise.

The ambitiousness of this book is both its asset and its liability. The range of theory that Dr. Share presents offers an interesting view of the interconnections between the thinking and research that has existed in diverse fields of investigation. Her discussion of the ideas of psychoanalytic theorists who are lesser known and seldom quoted in the United States, such as Sadger, Fodor, Peerbolte, and Ploye, is particularly impressive and indicates the breadth and sophistication of her knowledge. However, her own ideas become swamped by the extent and diversity of the literature she cites. I found this style to be the primary weakness of this book.

The reader is taken on a lengthy sojourn through the work of numerous researchers and theorists making her own ideas merely points of interest along the way. Dr. Share's ideas are well considered, intellectually stimulating, and clinically and theoretically powerful, but they are lost in a survey of available literature that compromises their richness. I think she is too tentative in putting forth her own conceptualizations, subordinating them instead to the ideas of others. The fragmentary presentation of literature further impedes the flow of the book and distracts attention from the central postulations. Dr. Share's thoughts deserve the limelight. Her ideas would have been better served if they were more resolutely presented as the core of the book with the relevant literature more selectively and succinctly integrated as a background to her own thinking.

As it stands, certain gems, such as considerations of the early trauma as the mother (p. 237) and the observation that "no associations" may reflect a period of time in which there was little with which to associate (p. 241), are hidden or presented almost as after-thoughts in the closing chapter, and left unelaborated. Dr. Share's understanding of the pictorial nature of dreams as providing a special avenue for contact with deeper anxieties and early trauma is another especially valuable idea that was not as developed as it might have been. For example, it also seems possible that dreams serve the function that Dr. Share suggests not just by virtue of their pictorial nature, but their pictorial nature may be inherent to their purpose. Perhaps dreams are pictorial in order to create linkages between unconscious experience that is not verbally coded, and conscious, aware experience. We may not just use the pictorial nature of dreams to access deep unconscious material such as early trauma, but, rather, dreams may be eidetic, because deep unconscious connection necessitates imagery.

Although Dr. Share's ideas expanded my own thinking she gives only a taste of her own views, whetting the reader's appetite. The "fruits of her labor" are worthy of fuller development. I am pleased that Dr. Share has decided to be "someone that speaks", and I encourage her to speak with an even louder voice.

Publication Date: 
03/1998