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Lewis, G. (1999). Gender Myths and Mysteries: Resuming the Dialogue Presenter: Doris Brothers, Ph.D. Inaugural Dinner: The Alexandra Symonds Center for the Study of Gender and Psychoanalysis June 27, 1998. Am. J. Psychoanal., 59(2):181-182.
(1999). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 59(2):181-182
Scientific Meetings of the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis
Gender Myths and Mysteries: Resuming the Dialogue Presenter: Doris Brothers, Ph.D. Inaugural Dinner: The Alexandra Symonds Center for the Study of Gender and Psychoanalysis June 27, 1998
Gayle Lewis, Ph.D.
To begin this inaugural dinner honoring the Alexandra Symonds Center for the Study of Gender and Psychoanalysis, Doris Brothers warmly reflected upon Alexandra Symonds, emphasizing both her scholarly abilities and her capacity to radiate in discourse and in friendship.
Brothers highlighted some themes derived from Symonds's 1974 paper, “The Myth of Femininity,” in which the author provided her views of being “female” versus being “feminine.” In this seminal paper, Symonds spoke to “the psychological consequences of the radical dichotomization of qualities deemed masculine and feminine,” buttressing her point with Horney's theory about the dependent solution as being typically “feminine” with the expansive solution as being stereo-typically “masculine.” Brothers, in agreement with Symonds, points to the struggles men and women have in acknowledging aspects of them that are felt to be gender incongruent. For example, the “macho” man is conflicted about crying and the “nurturing” woman struggles with her more aggressive impulses. What differs in their perspectives, however, is that Symonds viewed gender as being an intra-psychic phenomenon while Brothers views “the experience of self as gendered as arising and being maintained within an intersubjective field.” In addition, while Symonds saw repression as the means to “address gendered aspects that cannot be acknowledged,” Brothers sees dissociation as the defense in operation. It is this argument that directs the remainder of her presentation.
Following a description of the psychoanalytic history of dissociation that included acknowledgments to Freud, Janet, Kohut, Bromberg, and Ulman, Brothers reflected upon her book, Falling Backwards (1995), in which she focuses on the dissociative process in relation to trauma and “self-trust.” She states, “when self-trust is betrayed, a dissociative alternation of subjective reality often occurs as a means of stemming the tide of unbearable disintegrationanxiety.”
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