PSYCHOANALYSIS: The Impossible Profession by Janet Malcolm
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PSYCHOANALYSIS: The Impossible Profession

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This dynamic, demystifying introduction to psychoanalysis, unusually strong on the seminal contributions of Freud, uses the views of one quirky insider (""Aaron Green"") to illuminate orthodox psychoanalytic treatment, primarily as it is practiced at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and several others. Malcolm covers a vast territory with remarkable concision, defining basic terms, discussing the evolution of key techniques, focusing for brief stretches on one or another modern theorist--what each derives from Freud, in what ways each appeals to the strictly traditional analyst. Green provides his own history and speaks fluently on topics most often distorted or poorly reported--why strict doctor/patient boundaries must be maintained, for example, or why patients having some success tend to terminate prematurely. He also volunteers mixed feelings toward his Institute and some of its less respectable organizational aspects. Though clearly a maverick, Green is a steadfast informant for the periodically skeptical Malcolm; and together, through an extended give-and-take, they reveal how much--how little--psychoanalysis is able to accomplish. (Green prefers a surgical image: a radical reordering, not a transplant.) Moreover, Green emphasizes how the psychoanalyst, by no means exempt from emotional reactions, struggles to prevent their inappropriate, destructive manifestation in the consultation room. When Malcolm's Profile of Green appeared in The New Yorker last winter, it generated much controversy and an unscheduled local guessing game. This slightly less provocative book is an expanded, revised version of that article, examining more fully ""analyzability,"" termination, and several influential theorists. In addition, Malcolm's surprisingly emotional ending has been altered and Green's identity has been further obscured (e.g., his age and marital status are different). Poking so many sacred cows, this is the kind of report that necessarily attracts criticism from all quarters, including unlikely patients, dissatisfied customers, practitioners from other schools (Green calls them ""fly-by-nights""), and the Institute colleagues he characterizes as petty squabblers. But don't be put off. We don't predict a Green-ing of America--there's a strong New York accent here--but Malcolm's triple-exposure is one of a kind and most compelling.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1981
Publisher: Knopf