What's Missing?: The Intergenerational Transmission of Hysteria and the Mother-Daughter Dyad

Sherie Friedrich (2010)

The concept of an intergenerational transmission of hysteria, from mother to infant daughter, is presented in this theoretically based dissertation. A scholarly review of the psychoanalytic literature on infant development and the mother-daughter dyad, maternal pathology and intergenerational transmission, and hysterical personality and the etiology of hysteria in relation to these themes will inform the discussion. Attending to the role of the mother across these domains, an argument for the intergenerational transmission of hysteria by means of the maternal is developed and presented for the reader's consideration. The primary aim of this work is to address a gap that exists within the vast body of literature dedicated to the topic of hysteria; the examination of the mother-daughter dyad in relation to the intergenerational transmission of hysteria. A definition for hysteria is borrowed from The Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (Alliance of Psychoanalytic Organizations, 2006) which defines hysteria based on a constellation of symptoms and defense mechanisms related to anxiety around gender, sexuality, and power, accompanied by central affects of fear, shame, and guilt. Building upon the work of psychoanalytic theorists who have initiated the exploration of the maternal in relation to hysteria (e.g., Benjamin, 1994; Bollas, 2000; Marcus, 2004; Zanardi, 1995), a proposed model for understanding the etiology of the hysterical personality in relation to the mother-daughter dyad is presented and applied to a literary illustration. A discussion follows and presents findings including clinical and theoretical research implications, areas for future research, and limitations of this research.