Sharon Neuwald, Dr.PH.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

8:30am to 9:00am Registration
 9:00am to 10:30am Presentation

My Personal Participation in a Grey Zone, Understanding Massive Psychic Trauma, Moral Ambiguity and Survival: Film’s Power to Inform and Contain

What is it like to understand and relate to individuals who have experienced massive psychic trauma, a form which requires participation in ignoble acts to survive? What are the effects on their children in their engagement with parents, siblings and the larger environment? Is there a remedy to the guilt and shame that come with this form of survival? In this paper, Dr. Neuwald tackles these questions theoretically but goes further to personally imagine these circumstances. She uses a film, The Grey Zone, based on an essay by Primo Levi in his book “Drowned and Saved” to probe into these questions.

Using this backdrop, Dr. Neuwald incorporates research by various theorists and philosophers including Georgio Agamben, Joerg Bose, Ghislaine Boulanger, Anna Freud, Heinz Kohut, Emily Kuriloff, Henry Krystal, Robert Lifton, Nancy McWilliams, Harvey Peskin and others to vividly describe this form of trauma. She identifies the losses faced by individuals in this situation and coping strategies they deploy in the face of unbelievable horror.

Dr. Neuwald then entertains this condition in her mind through the lens of her own immigrant family to discover and experience its impact. She confronts and thereby understands the emotional power contained in the intergenerational transmission of trauma. The second half of the paper suggests reparative actions again drawing on theory, the film, selective interviews as well as Dr. Neuwald’s own emotional engagement.

Learning Goals and Objectives

Participants will be able to:

1) Describe losses faced by individuals experiencing massive psychic trauma.

2) Describe and demonstrate activation of dissociative processes resulting from these losses.

3) Illustrate the dissociative processes occurring to subsequent generations through the unconscious transmission of intergenerational trauma.

4) List and portray three functions mitigating the effects of massive psychic trauma.


Sharon Neuwald, Dr.PH., is a consultant whose areas of focus are health, human services, education and community development. In addition to her doctorate of public health from the University of Michigan she has a master’s degree in management of human services from Brandeis University and a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to consulting, Sharon worked in local and state government starting out as a planner of aging services for a sub state planning district located in Ardmore Oklahoma. She then moved to Oklahoma City working as a legislative researcher covering education and human services with the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She finished her state government service at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services working on policy issues related to Medicaid, welfare reform, child welfare and child care services. She has also been an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Social Work. Sharon enjoys volunteer nonprofit board service. She currently serves as President of OSPS, is a board member for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Women’s Foundation with prior service at Variety Health Center. Sharon was part of the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California’s (PINC) 2nd remote training group, as a didactic student. Her love of psychoanalysis began in the 1970’s through conversations with a college colleague and now a close friend.


St. Anthony Hospital
Rapp Foundation Conference Center
535 NW 9th, 4th Floor
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Map to the Rapp Center

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 Kay Smith at

Sharon Neuwald Brochure