The 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. In the model proposed here, defensive altered states of consciousness, or dissociation seems more helpful than a model based on repression or splitting. 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.
From the publisher
‘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