Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Isaac Complex: Paternal aggression and filial self -sacrifice
by Somerstein, Lynn, Ph.D., Union Institute and University, 2008, 149; 3334990
Abstract (Summary)

Often our culture is more concerned with the influence mothers have on child development than fathers do, and the importance of fathers is considered to be secondary (Herzog, 2001; Lasky, 1992, pp. 3-5; Pruett, 2000, p. 5-6; Trowell and Etchegoyen, 2002, p. xv-iv), but some theorists consider the effect that fathers have on their children's development very significant (Fonagy and Target, 1995; Herzog, 2001; Pruett, 1987, 2000; Meloy, 2001).

Peter Blos, in his book Son and father, published in 1985, writes about the close bonds between fathers and sons, which foster normal development with in the average family; however, some fathers have a narcissistic investment in their sons and do, as a result, they do not encourage their sons' individual growth. In this paper I explore a distorted pre-Oedipal dyadic father-son relationship from the viewpoints of attachment theory, psychotherapy, and psychoanalytic theories, which find a symbolic statement tin Genesis, in the Akeda.

The Biblical story called β€œThe Akeda,” or in English, β€œthe Binding of Isaac,” is a paradigm of the effects that this tie can have when it goes awry. There are of course many interpretations of the meanings of the Akeda, but I will concentrate on the particular meaning that it came to have in the Iife of one individual as he grew from son to father. I will look at five more case examples from the perspective of psychoanalytic psychotherapy as I try to understand individual development.

The men I will investigate lived to please their fathers and failed to learn how to please themselves, or even who those selves were. They associated sex with violence, adult masculinity with aggression, and were hindered in their ability to love. I find that the relationship between the authoritarian, narcissistic father and his pre-Oedipal son can sometimes engender filial passivity and sadomasochism and lead to a tendency for the son to remain within the father/son dyad, disrupting epigenetic development from childhood to adulthood. I call this relationship the Isaac Complex. It can be transmitted across generations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hopkins, Linda
Commitee:
School: Union Institute and University
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-B 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religion, Personality psychology, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Authoritarian father, Binding of Isaac, the Akedah, Father-son relationship, Filial self-sacrifice, Isaac Complex, Masculine aggression, Masochism, Narcissism, Paternal aggression
Publication Number: 3334990
ISBN: 9780549885863
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