M. Gerard Fromm, Ph.D.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

8:30am to 9:00am Registration

9:00am to 12:00pm Presentation

Fear of Breakdown and Fear of Breakthrough

“Something happened,” says Winnicott in one of his last and most evocative papers, but the person wasn’t there for it to happen to. Yet the traces of this Thing – reminiscent of Freud’s Das Ding - are ever tugging and always on the horizon. This “flash of insight” – one of many during an electrifying period of theory development for Winnicott – is grounded in clinical work with psychotic and traumatized patients. If we take the first sentence of this paragraph literally, we could also read it as an inter-generational truth for all of us: something indeed happened to our parents; we may not have been there but we were on the horizon. In this presentation, I will examine Winnicott’s fear of breakdown idea as it may relate to the transmission of trauma across generations. This growing field of study considers the psychological impact of trauma-related anxiety as it is communicated unconsciously from one generation to the next. Often related to the devastating consequences of socio-historical events, such unbearable and uncontainable feelings silently but powerfully fall onto and into the next generation, with serious consequences for the normal development of relationships between parent and child. At the end of his paper, Winnicott, at his most eloquent, turns his formulation around and speaks of nothing happening, when something could have happened. Might this tragically empty moment also speak to the fear of breakthrough both parent and child sense as they stumble into the fallout of trauma one has been carrying for the other?

Learning Goals and Objectives

Participants will be able to:

1) To identify, and contextualize into his broader theoretical formulations, the main concepts in Winnicott’s “Fear of Breakdown” paper.

2) To link those concepts to the field of trauma and its transmission from one generation to the next.

3) To identify the clinical implications of, and ways of working with, the patient’s “fear of breakthrough.”


M. Gerard Fromm, Ph.D., is Distinguished Faculty and former Director of the Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center. He is on the faculty of the Yale Child Study Center and has taught at, and provided organizational consultation to, a number of psychoanalytic institutes across the country. He is President of the International Dialogue Initiative, an interdisciplinary group that studies the psychodynamics of societal conflict, and Past President of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations.

He maintains a psychoanalytically-informed organizational consultation practice and is a Partner in College Health and Counseling Service Consulting. His books include: Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma across Generations, A Spirit That Impels: Play, Creativity and Psychoanalysis, and Taking the Transference, Reaching toward Dreams: Clinical Studies in the Intermediate Area.


Important Relocation Information:
OU College of Public Health Auditorium
801 NE 13th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73104

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Registration by Mail

If you prefer to register by mail, please print off the following brochure and mail it with your check to: OSPS, PO Box 12683, Oklahoma City, OK 73157. If you have questions about registration, please email Trish Myers at triciamyers@cox.net.

M. Gerard Fromm Brochure