Dark Matters: Exploring the Realm of Psychic Devastation

Author(s) : Ira Brenner

Dark Matters: Exploring the Realm of Psychic Devastation

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : July 2014
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 288
  • Category :
    Trauma and Violence
  • Category 2 :
    Psychoanalysis
  • Catalogue No : 33531
  • ISBN 13 : 9781780491639
  • ISBN 10 : 1780491638
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This book takes a deeper look into the darker side of the human condition by examining the psyches of those who have been victims or survivors of heinous acts perpetrated by others. From the "personal Holocaust" of sexual abuse in the family, to the genocidal persecution during "the" Holocaust, and from the shared national horror of September 11 to the Palestinian/Israeli situation, a special model of the traumatized mind is evolved to further our understanding of such "dark matters".

The traditional models of the mind fall short when dealing with extraordinary people under ordinary conditions as well as with ordinary people under extraordinary conditions. This metapsychology is organized around the defensive operations of repression or splitting. In the model proposed here, defensive altered states of consciousness, or dissociation seems more helpful. A historical perspective is offered, from Freud and Breuer, with their Studies on Hysteria, to current thinking about dissociative disorders. A developmental line of dissociation is also explored. Extensive case material is presented to illustrate the theoretical as well as technical challenges of working with the lapses of memory, unbearable affects, and countertransference demands upon the clinician.

Reviews and Endorsements

Dark Matters is a profound and provocative study of dissociation and trauma at the historical and societal/cultural, as well as personal, levels. Richly illustrated through detailed clinical presentations and case discussions, it recounts the treatments of patients who suffer from a wide range of dissociative phenomena, including the still-controversial Dissociative Identity Disorder. This allows readers to share in the insights and experience of an experienced clinician and theoretician, whose deeply psychoanalytic consciousness combines with passion, compassion, and creativity in an attempt to illuminate the darkest recesses of the human psyche.’
— Howard B. Levine, MD, is on the faculty of the Psychoanalytic Institute of New England, East (PINE), the editorial boards of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Inquiry, and the Board of Directors of the International Psychoanalytical Association

‘After Freud turned away from the study of dissociation to repression, this concept was lost for a long time in psychoanalysis, and the resulting conceptual lacunae couldn’t really be filled by other concepts like "splitting". Therefore, dissociation and its vicissitudes remained a dark matter in psychoanalysis. Since some time related to the renewed discourse on trauma, the interest in dissociative phenomena is increasing. One of the main exponents of this development is Ira Brenner. For decades, he has treated patients suffering from severe dissociative disorders. With his extraordinary knowledge and deep understanding, Brenner presents a comprehensive theory of dissociation not only for traumatised individuals, but also for traumatised societies. In patients with severe Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), the traumatic shock results not only in disruptions of perception, memory, and consciousness, but also in alter personalities encapsulating disowned traumatic memories. At the centre of Brenner’s book are case reports of the psychoanalytic treatment of these patients who have endured overwhelmingly cruel and life-threatening treatment in childhood. Brenner is a masterful clinician, giving us the opportunity to learn how to treat patients with severe dissociative disorders. He describes his treatment technique in detail, in particular for critical situations, which are common in the treatment of these patients. Dark Matters is a major advance in the theory and clinical practice of dissociation and its disorders.’
— Werner Bohleber, PhD, psychoanalyst, editor of the journal Psyche, and author of Destructiveness, Intersubjectivity, and Trauma

Dark Matters is a dark book, yet it sheds welcome light on the most obscure and disturbing areas of human experience. To timeless questions about evil and suffering, Ira Brenner brings wisdom that represents the mastery of a vast clinical and empirical literature and decades of sensitive work with survivors of extreme trauma. Through a lens that illuminates dissociative processes, Brenner considers not only complex therapeutic questions, but also the psychological causes and consequences of the Holocaust, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and the attacks of September 11, 2001. This book belongs in the offices of all therapists who work with our most shattered patients and in the library of anyone trying to understand the most perverse and destructive aspects of the human condition.’
— Nancy McWilliams, PhD, ABPP, Rutgers Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology, and author of Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process

About the Author(s)

Ira Brenner, MD, is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and Training and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, where is he also Director Emeritus of the Adult Psychotherapy Training Program. He has developed a special interest in the area of psychological trauma and has co-edited two special issues of the International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies where he is Associate Editor of the section on trauma. He has also written four books: The Last Witness: The Child Survivor of the Holocaust (co-authored with Judith Kestenberg); Dissociation of Trauma: Theory, Phenomenology, and Technique; Psychic Trauma: Dynamics, Symptoms, and Treatment; and Injured Men: Trauma, Healing, and the Masculine Self. In 2008, Dr Brenner received the President’s Award from the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia for extraordinary service. He is also the recipient of the Gratz Research Prize from Jefferson for work on the Holocaust; the Piaget Writing Award; and the Gradiva Award.

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