The Core Conflictual Relationship Theme Approach to Relational Narratives: Interpersonal Themes in the Context of Intergenerational Communication of Trauma

Hadas Wiseman, Jacques P. Barber

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    In this chapter we present the way we applied the Core Conflictual Relationship Theme (CCRT) approach to study relational narratives told by descendants of parents who experienced extensive trauma. The CCRT framework was developed by Luborsky (1977) to understand central relationship patterns and issues that are manifested in relational narratives. Initially, the CCRT was identified only from relational narratives told spontaneously in psychotherapy sessions. Later on, Luborsky (1990) developed a specialized interview, called the Relationship Anecdotes Paradigm (RAP), designed to elicit narratives to identify the CCRT components in the same way as the narratives drawn from psychotherapy sessions. This method of interviewing enabled researchers to study narratives outside of the psychotherapy sessions and to study narratives in individuals who were not in psychotherapy, as we did in our study of second-generation Holocaust survivors. We present the relational narratives that sons and daughters of mothers who were survivors of Nazi concentration camps told during RAP interviews; we do this to demonstrate the application of the CCRT framework to understanding interpersonal themes and patterns among this high-risk group. In addition, we explore the way intergenerational communication of trauma emerges as a central theme in these relational narratives. In each of the narratives that we presented in this chapter, there was some form of distressed and distorted communication. These distressed and strained modes of communication can be viewed in relation to these mothers' traumatic experiences. Our participants grew up feeling that there were "secrets" they were not allowed to know or that their mothers dared not tell them. The silent style of communication, whereby from early on the child had a nonverbal awareness of the parent's trauma yet this awareness was surrounded with silence and a lack of factual information and emotional sharing of experiences, led to a sense of "knowing-not-knowing." Growing up to the music of knowing-not-knowing seemed to leave the sons and daughters of the second generation with a certain degree of unfinished business that was carried into their interpersonal adult life. The application of the CCRT framework that was described in this chapter is clearly relevant to psychotherapists working with such second-generation adults who seek psychotherapy. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHealing Plots
    Subtitle of host publicationThe Narrative Basis of Psychotherapy
    EditorsA. Lieblich, D. P. McAdams, R. Josselson
    Place of PublicationWashington D.C
    PublisherAmerican Psychological Association Inc.
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Print)1-59147-100-1
    StatePublished - 2004

    Publication series

    NameThe Narrative Study of Lives
    PublisherSage Publications, Inc.
    ISSN (Print)1072-2777


    • *Emotional Trauma
    • *Intergenerational Relations
    • *Narratives
    • *Parent Child Communication
    • *Interpersonal Relationships
    • Conflict
    • Daughters
    • Holocaust Survivors
    • Mothers
    • Sons


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