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My Psychoanalysis and Its Shadow

by Kim Chernin

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-017118-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

 Memories of 25 years on the couch make for a curiously compelling recounting of the rewards and shortcomings of psychoanalysis. Chernin (Crossing the Border, 1994, etc.), herself a psychoanalyst, dives into recollections of time spent with three analysts over a quarter of a century. Using traditional analytic tools--primarily association--she recalls to life the passionate young woman in Vienna who sought intellectual and sexual adventure; the fragmented, newly divorced young mother in California who found in her first analyst a target of devotion; the emerging adult who found a life's work and a credo of bisexuality with her second analyst, and the mature woman who broke with classical ``interpretive'' psychoanalysis through her third analyst. All of these rewarding if drawn-out probes are tracked by a shadow self that has ``descended, as if in a diving bell, to uncharted regions.'' It is not Chernin's theories, but her ability to lead the reader into that ``teeming, fecund inner world,'' which rarely surfaced in the analysts' offices, that make this book appealing. With the help of yet another analyst who monitors her clinical work, she comes to believe that analysis is not the science of mining the psyche, but the art of storytelling. The ``patient'' molds a unique story for the ``doctor'' to appreciate without fitting either the tale or the telling into an established framework. Whether about infants as bisexual beings or adults as their own best storytelling analysts, Chernin's sudden ``insights'' echo ideas that have been chewed over since Freud (and long before, if you count mythology). Still, she pleads for respect, citing those insights as hers for the moment, invested with the ``aha'' of personal discovery--like a child who finally understands that c-a-t is more than squiggly lines. Despite her angry critique of traditional psychoanalysis, Freud remains a hero and psychoanalysis has ``a lasting place among the major achievements of our culture.'' There are echos of Erica Jong in this book's naive self- absorption, but Chernin's hard-core fans will find it rich with discovery.