The Compulsion to Repeat

Mary Elizabeth Tran

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Content Warning: Injury, Mental Illness, Death

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‘The compulsion to repeat’ was a term Freud used to describe traumatic reenactments. These reenactments are an unconscious attempt to have control over a painful situation, one that could eventually be resolved or managed. To help understand the narratives of various family members who took part in the Vietnam War, I have produced a series of photographs that juxtaposed the idea of analgesia with the re-exposure to stress and pain, providing a similar relief for war veterans. The story consists of a man’s hallucinations: he has a vague sense of emptiness, welcoming the swing of his friend’s arm. It’s familiar territory. Battered and bruised, the man remains overtaken by futility, resulting in his own demise.

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