Has there been an actual increase in the occurrence of incest? Or is the seemingly greater frequency due to our increased awareness of incest and more careful listening to our patients? The distinguished psychoanalysts contributing to this sharply focused volume take the latter position. They discuss various aspects of incest, the occurrence of which they agree is always traumatic to its victim.
Incest occurs in dysfunctional families and often in the setting of multiple traumatic factors (e.g., emotional deprivation, physical abuse, parental alcoholism). In cases of parent-child incest, one parent is the perpetrator and the other, by silence or absence, unwittingly colludes with the former. While an individual with early sexual trauma may have a certain self-reliance, ambition, perseverance, and tenacious pursuit of self-knowledge, the fact remains that incest is inimical to normal, healthy development. It leads to profoundly deleterious effects, including lifelong guilt, sadomasochistic tendencies, defects of self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, and vulnerability to psychosomatic phenomena, accidents, injuries, depression, and even suicide. It is therefore extremely important to be able to recognize the phenomenological and psycho-dynamic configurations suggesting that incest has occurred in the individual's past. Such knowledge enables therapists to be more alert to the nuances of transference and countertransference, leading to a heightened empathy and to more precise and helpful interpretations. The contributors to this book highlight, with the help of detailed and poignant clinical illustrations, various cues of incest-related psychopathology. They discuss the transference manifestations of such patients and, in an extremely helpful manner, clarify the subtleties in treatment technique. By so addressing the phenomenon of incest, this book makes an important inroad into the prevention and amelioration of the profound psychic trauma- the trauma of transgression- caused by the use of a child's body for the sexual gratification of the parent.