Negative emotionality and relationships with God among religious Jewish Holocaust survivors

Samuel Juni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For those who believe in God, tragedy and misfortune often raise internal emotional and religious dissonance. Regardless of one's theological stance, emotional reactions to the Holocaust can be expected to elicit negative feelings towards God, resembling the reactions one would experience towards parents or caretakers who perpetrate or facilitate aggression. Coining the term “theistic object relations” to reflect the maturity level of relationship with God, it is posited that it is predicated on a safe and nurturing environment – paralleling the maturational development of healthy interpersonal interactions. In this context, survivors’ reactions are elaborated using the lens of parental abuse and neglect. Individual beliefs about God's role, while affecting the options for cognitive rationalisations among victims, are posited to have only minimal relevance to the expected negative emotionality. Variations in such reactions are explored from a psychoanalytic perspective within the intersectional context of trauma, divine providence, object relations development, and defence mechanism theory. Unresolved questions about the developmental hallmarks of theistic object relations are outlined insofar as they are relevant to our population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-174
Number of pages10
JournalMental Health, Religion and Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 16 2015


  • God
  • Holocaust
  • emotions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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