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Are human beings destined to find perfect complements in love, or are we more like the fabled porcupines-forever jostling for a place between painful entanglement and loveless isolation? This is the question at the heart of this stunning new book. "People seek therapy only when things have gone terribly wrong in their lives," observes Deborah Luepnitz, one of the field's most gifted psychotherapists and a writer of uncommon talent. "They arrive in the grip of a death wish or some unspeakable obsession, but what is at stake always turns out to be intimacy-the endless dilemmas of loyalty and desire." Schopenhauer's Porcupines recounts five stories from Luepnitz's practice, with patients who range from the super-rich to the homeless-as they grapple with panic attacks, psychosomatic illness, marital despair, and sexual recklessness. We watch their therapy unfold week-to-week, from the first phone call to the final sessions, as these men and women learn, in the words of one poet, "to make room in love for hate."Written with wry humor and deep compassion, Schopenhauer's Porcupines goes further than any other book in unveiling the secrets of "how talking helps." Its wisdom and intelligence will appeal to readers everywhere who are reaching for psychological renewal and want to go beyond "quick-fix" cures.
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Deborah Anna Luepnitz is on the Clinical Faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.From Publishers Weekly:
Throughout its history, psychological theory has contended that at least part of what can make maintaining intimate relationships so difficult is the conflict between feeling aggressive and loving toward the same person. Luepnitz, a psychotherapist and author of The Family Interpreted, finds a metaphor for this problem of intimacy in Schopenhauer's porcupine dilemma a story of how porcupines in winter must struggle between the desire to seek warmth from closeness with each other and the pain they feel from one another's quills as they become too close. Drawing from the writings of Winnicott, Lacan and Freud, along with case studies, Luepnitz not only provides insight into the practice of a wide range of psychotherapeutic treatments (such as couples therapy, family therapy and supportive psychotherapy), but also shows how psychotherapy can help people balance their conflicting feelings of love and hate via discourse and reflection. Written for a general audience, this book is enjoyable to read and nicely describes the treatment of a variety of patients, from an 11-year-old girl struggling to control stress-induced diabetes to a homeless woman dealing with poverty and a history of abusive relationships. Although such anecdotes cannot "prove" the validity of psychotherapeutic methods, Luepnitz's book does give those who may be curious or skeptical about "talk therapies" the opportunity to consider whether psychotherapy is right for them.
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