John Steiner, PhD

 

In the third day of his life Oedipus suffered a violent murderous assault in which his ankles were pierced so that he could be left to die. In fact he was not only saved but brought up as their son by the childless King and Queen of Corinth. A severe trauma left a significant physical and psychological scar which was hidden beneath an apparent normal childhood. His background including the cause of the infirmity of his ankles remained obscure until it was revealed in the course of Sophocles drama. Facing the truth involved an exposure of the way an idealised illusion had served to protect Oedipus not only from the truth of the murder and incest but also of the fact that he had been severely traumatised. A phantasy of an ideal family commonly serves as a defence against trauma and as a result facing the truth involves relinquishing the idealisation which may be experienced as a further trauma. If severe, trauma may block the acceptance of guilt and hence prevent the evolution of a benevolent cycle involving forgiveness and reparation.

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