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Mann, D.W. (1997). Victims From A Sense Of Shame. Contemp. Psychoanal., 33:123-132.

(1997). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 33:123-132

Victims From A Sense Of Shame

David W. Mann, M.D.

IN “SOME CHARACTER TYPES Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work,” Freud (1916) depicted three “surprising traits of character,” which he dubbed “The Exceptions,” “Those Wrecked by Success,” and “Criminals from a Sense of Guilt.” Freud found each of these characters in its own way a product of guilt, punishment, and reparation. Those wrecked by success—Lady Macbeth serves as an example—have prospered at the expense of others. They are therefore guilty and must suffer, hence their seemingly self-imposed denouements. The criminal has done wrong in order to make sense of “an oppressive feeling of guilt of which he did not know the origin” (p. 332). Those who except themselves from the general rules of order are exceptions in this triptych as well, in that they have not done wrong but, rather, as children were unjustly punished and now feel entitled to special privilege. Freud did not tell us for what crimes these future egoists had been chastened, but for the criminals and the wrecks he made it clear, as he so often did, that “[t]he invariable outcome of analytic work was to show that this obscure sense of guilt derived from the Oedipus complex and was a reaction to the two great criminal intentions of killing the father and having sexual relations with the mother” (pp. 332-333).

The outcome of analytic work in the latter half of our century has proved less invariable. Oedipal conflict no longer accounts for every measure of neurotic suffering, a considerable proportion of which now appears to derive from earlier epochs of development, when rivalry counts less in the psychic economy of the infant or child than does its dependency upon others.

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