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by Phyllis W. Meadow
Rowman & Littlefield, 2003
Review by Chris Staheli on Apr 12th 2004
book is an excellent study in the origins and theories that inform modern
psychoanalysis. She substantiates said theories with her own experiences in
practicing psychoanalysis. This book traces the birth of modern analysis back
to its start with Freud and then doctors utilizing unconventional techniques to
treat mental patients in the 1950's. Even without her extensive experience in
this field, the wealth of information in this book would stand on its own due
to the vast research compiled within it's pages. It is brilliant, well
written, and organized meticulously.
In the 1950s, psychoanalysis was beginning to undergo a transformation that
Freud himself would scarcely have thought possible. In the 1930's, due largely to
the efforts of his protégé's, Wilhelm Reich and Carl Jung, analysts had
undertaken the task of utilizing analysis to address psychosomatic symptoms and
more importantly, to treat varying psychoses, previously thought impossible
because psychotic patients were considered unable to free associate.
the varying mental hospitals across the country, a substantial influx of World
War II veterans and other patients were flooding the wards. As neuroleptic
drugs were not widely used at the time, psychoanalysis was a useful tool for certain
mental health professionals who did not want to use the barbaric methods of
prefrontal lobotomy, insulin shock therapy, and ECT. An observer to these
therapy sessions noted that the psychologists were trying to strip the patients
of their delusions and meeting with strong resistance and little success. An
idea formed from this observation posited that such symptoms were in fact
defense mechanisms and it was counterproductive to try to break through them
until the patient was ready to let go of them. This theory was then actualized
by therapists who worked with patients, helping them to work gradually towards
breaking these defenses when the time came that they were not longer needed. It
took great skill and patience on the part of these analysts to know when the
time was right to present their interpretations.
feature of modern analysis is an emphasis on the mind body connection, which
can be evidenced in the psychological studies on heart disease and ulcers, just
to name two examples. Psychosomatic disorders, or somatic armoring, as Wilhelm
Reich defined them, are believed to be caused by an individual's response to
environmental and internal stressors over a period of time. Outlets for this
accumulated stress can be found in modern psychoanalysis, and as therapy
progresses these symptoms tend to dissipate.
themes Meadow explores are the roles that aggression, self destructive
behavior, paranoia, and Oedipus complexes play in shaping a person's inner
life. She traces the dualism of the death drives and the creative life drives
that inform the actions, conflict, and drama of the human psyche.
between facts and statistics, lie her own experiences as an analyst, in the
form of brief anecdotes, case histories, and theories which attest to her
brilliance and provide insight into the psychoanalytic process. They are
sometimes tinged with an extremely subtle sense of humor.
accessible, despite the technical terminology used, this book should be
required reading for all students of psychology, professional, academic or
© 2004 Chris Staheli
Chris Staheli is a student of psychology at QCC in New York. His interest in psychology was piqued by a high school
course. He also studies philosophy. In his spare time, he writes poetry, weight
lifts, and plays jazz and classical guitar.