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Laub, D. (2003). Dissociation of Trauma: Theory, Phenomenology, and Technique. By Ira Brenner. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 2001 246 pp.,$40.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51(2):669-674.

(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51(2):669-674

Book Reviews: Trauma, Early Development, and Psychopathology

Dissociation of Trauma: Theory, Phenomenology, and Technique. By Ira Brenner. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 2001 246 pp.,$40.00.

Review by:
Dori Laub

While Ira Brenner's writing on phenomenology and technique flows naturally here, and is masterful, his struggles with psychoanalytic theory seem almost Herculean. Brenner himself seems aware of this: “I do not think that a full understanding of DID [Dissociative Identity Disorder] can occur until Freud's goal of uniting dream psychology and psychopathology is realized” (p. 35). The struggle begins with Brenner's stance toward external reality, in which he practically reverses the shift Freud made in 1897 from the seduction theory to the idea of infantile sexuality: “Given the problems of psychic reality, memory, and reconstruction—especially in situations of physical and sexual abuse—I have included only those cases when there was corroboration of the past” (p. ix). Almost all the case studies in the book are indeed about women who experienced incest in their early childhood, often in addition to other forms of sexual and physical abuse.

The “real” massive trauma is experienced by the child defensively in a dissociated ego state, which is the origin of both (a) the post-traumatic dream, in which the identities of perpetrator and victim are disguised, and (b) the dissociated personifications, in which two categories of identities are clear but a “pseudoexternalized displacement” is employed “in the service of negation” (p. 90). The plot of the abuse is the same, however, in the manifest traumatic dream and in the memories of the “alter.” The dissociated personifications remember and re-enact the plot and its derivatives, within and without the transference situation, as having happened or happening to “someone else” (p. 87).

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