Reflections on coma: Man deprived of his consciousness



In this paper the authors reflect on the phenomena produced by the surprising communication between the unconscious of a therapist and that of a comatose patient. In a particularly disturbing context, when the patient’s sternum is open and exposed, the therapist communicates empathically with the comatose person, identifying the patient’s inexpressible experience and generating signs of a response from him in the form of the blinking of his eyelids. The absence of any reaction to pain, a pathognomonic sign of the comatose condition, could be related to the splitting-off of the trauma, as if the situation were frozen, through a denial of the sensory and neurological perception of pain – a kind of self-anaesthesia as a defence against the catastrophic anxieties raised by the threat of the return of the primary trauma. Starting from this encounter a relationship is formed whose guiding thread emerges in the shared illusion of a regression that makes it possible. It involves a process of returning to the past and a re-actualization of the past that includes the question of its change through representation.