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Saturday, September 14th 2019

Oedipus Wrecks: Infidelity as Manic Defense

Shelley Nathans, Ph.D.
presented by TICP: Toronto Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis

Innis Town Hall Theatre, Innis College, University of Toronto
2 Sussex Ave., Toronto, M5S 1J5

The paths leading to infidelity in a couple’s relationship are manifold and diverse; there is no singular cause, no simple, linear route. Using a contemporary Kleinian framework, Shelley Nathans, Ph.D. will present her ideas on the theory and technique of working with couples struggling with infidelity.

Morning Session:

Infidelity as Manic Defense – Theory & Technique

In the morning, Dr. Nathans will present her paper, “Infidelity as Manic Defense”, in which she describes some of the important theoretical issues relevant to understanding affairs. The main focus of this paper is on the problems that one or both of the partners in a couple may have with mourning past or impending loss, and the consequent infidelity that may result from a manic attempt to replace depression or psychic pain with excitement. A developmental orientation will be used to delineate a range of psychological dilemmas that contribute to infidelity, including claustrophobic anxieties, difficulties with mourning past or impending loss, Oedipal problems and separation issues. Following the paper, Dr. Nathans will give a presentation on the technique of working with infidelity issues in psychoanalytic couple psychotherapy.

Afternoon Session:

Frozen loss and failure to mourn: A discussion and screening of an edited version of the film 45 Years.

In the afternoon session, the theme of loss and mourning in the life of the couple will continue through the viewing of a short, edited version of the 2015, Andrew Haigh film, 45 Years. This will be followed by Dr. Nathans’ commentary on the dynamics of the couple portrayed in the film and a subsequent hour-long audience discussion.


This event is an accredited group learning activity (section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and approved by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA). The specific opinions and content of this event are not necessarily those of the CPA, and are the responsibility of the organizer(s) alone. This program meets the criteria for 3.5 CME credits.

This program has been approved by the Ontario Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists and psychological associates. This program meets the criteria for 4 Continuing Education Credits.

Learning Objectives

• Participants will be able to describe Klein’s concept of the manic defense;
• Name three psychopathologies for which there is evidence of their existing along a spectrum from healthy to psychotic;
• Participants will be able to list two types of triangulations that may be relevant to understanding infidelity;

Click here to download the full conference brochure.

Schedule for the day:

10:00 am Introduction of speaker (Dr. Judi Kobrick)
10:10 am “Infedelity as Manic Defense” Dr. Shelley Nathans
11:00 am Dialogue between audience and Dr. Nathans
12:00 pm Lunch (on your own)
2:00 pm “Frozen loss and failure to mourn” Dr. Nathans
3:00 pm Audience Discussion and dialogue with Dr. Nathans
4:00 pm Closing remarks (Dr. Kobrick)


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