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by Phyllis W. Meadow
Rowman & Littlefield, 2003
Review by Chris Staheli on Apr 12th 2004

The New Psychoanalysis

Meadow's 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.

   In 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.

Another 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.

Other 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.

Interspersed 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.

Easily accessible, despite the technical terminology used, this book should be required reading for all students of psychology, professional, academic or otherwise.

 

© 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.