Oedipus Rex and Dissociated Sex - Rethinking the Myth and Other Cherished Psychoanalytic Principles

One of the greatest plays ever written incorporates almost all aspects of the human condition and has indeed stood the test of time. It has been translated into many languages and performed throughout the world for over 2 millennia. This play then became the flagship of the psychoanalytic enterprise and took on a new role our culture. It became inextricably linked with the theory that a boy’s unconscious incestuous wish for his mother was the central organizer of mental development. Sigmund Freud, at the turn of the 20th century, cited it as literary evidence of the universality of the “Oedipal Complex”. Since then, the enormous appeal of this theory dwarfed other crucial themes in Sophocles masterpiece, until recently. For example, pandemics, pedophilia, infanticide, human sacrifice, the power of curses, superstition, psi phenomena, religion, mass murder, suicide, trauma, inter-generational transmission of trauma, and dissociation are just some of these themes. In so doing, a number of these elements have not been as thoroughly studied by analysts as might have been.

To compound this oversight, Freud’s “cornerstone” of psychoanalysis was based on a model of motivated forgetting, or repression, which did not recognize the importance of autohypnosis and “hypnoid states”. As a result, it has taken over a century for clinicians and theorists to connect the dots from hypnoid states to dissociation. In order to do so, it has been necessary to recognize that mainstream Psychoanalysis has overvalued internal reality and minimized the importance of external reality, especially severe, early sexual trauma.

The author will review salient aspects of this history, present his own views on dissociation and dissociative disorders, and illustrate his clinical approach. It is a transference based,
dynamically oriented, and hypnosis informed, five stage treatment

Potential to Distress: Yes

This presentation was originally presented as part of a live virtual seminar in November, 2023.

Target Audience


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to:

  • Identify two major flaws in the history of psychoanalysis resulting in the exclusion of dissociative phenomena
  • Describe the three levels of Dissociative Character and their correlates with DSM V
  • List the five stages of treatment in Psychoactive Therapy
  • List five organizing influences in the genesis of alter personalities in DID
  • Describe the function of the “it’s not me!” Self
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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Presenter: Ira Brenner, MD
Presenter Bio: Dr. Ira Brenner is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia where he was formerly the Director of the Adult Psychotherapy Training Program.  

In private practice, Dr. Brenner treats patients of all ages at his office in Bala Cynwyd, PA. With a special interest in psychological trauma, Brenner lectures across the country and internationally, and has authored over 100 publications, including six books.

  •  Handbook of Psychoanalytic Holocaust Studies- international Perspectives. (Routledge, 2020)
  • Dark Matters: Exploring the Realm of Psychic Devastation (Karnac Books, 2014)
  • Injured Men: Trauma, Healing, and the Masculine Self (2009) *2010 Gradiva ® Award Winner
  • Psychic Trauma: Dynamics, Symptoms, and Treatment (2004)
  • Dissociation of Trauma: Theory, Phenomenology and Technique (2001)
  • The Last Witness – The Child Survivor of the Holocaust (co-author Judith Kestenberg) (1996)

Brenner is the recipient of the Gratz Research Prize from Jefferson, the Bruno Lima Award in Disaster Psychiatry, the Piaget Writing Award for his 2001 book Dissociation of Trauma: Theory, Phenomenology and Technique, and the Gradiva Award for his 2009 book Injured Men.

Available Credit

  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


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