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In this beautiful work of reflection and self-reflection, Joyce Slochower wrestles with a seldom acknowledged dimension of being a psychoanalyst - the dialectic between illusions and less ideal realities that complicate the analyst's sense of who she is and of how best to meet her clinical obligations. Psychoanalytic Collisions details the various ways in which the analyst's wishes (both professional and personal) collide with the less-than-perfect actualities of everyday clinical work. The collisions in question are often rooted in the analyst's own illusions: illusions of therapeutic possibility in the face of ordinary human existence or illusions of therapeutic selflessness in the face of one's own "immutably self-centered humanity." Such collisions may complicate nonclinical professional activities such as writing, in which the analyst's desire to develop a personal idiom collides with self doubt and the imagined rebuff of teachers and colleagues. Other collisions coalesce dyadically in the consulting room. They may reflect sharp dissonance between what the patient needs the analyst to feel and what the latter actually feels, as in discrepant experiences of erotic desire. They may grow out of colliding idealizations of analyst and patient, each of the other. And they may arise in the wake of traumatizing life events that destroy the shared illusions on which treatment has rested.
In finely wrought examinations of these eventualities, Slochower is guided by the belief that collisions are intrinsic both to forging an analytic identity and to practicing in a manner consonant with that identity. Psychoanalytic collisions, she enjoins, often cannot be resolved, but they can usually be productively engaged. And the very act of engagement - be it establishing new grounds for collaboration in the wake of real-world catastrophe, or wrestling with clinical impasse grounded in the radically divergent expectations of analyst and patient, or owning up to what Slochower terms "secret delinquencies" - can provide the basis for a vision of the "good enough" analyst in which therapeutic hopefulness coexists with acceptance of the analyst's all-to-human fallibility.
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Joyce Anne Slochower, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at Hunter College and at the Graduate Center of CUNY and a faculty member and supervisor at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.Review:
"Broadening and deepening her unique approach to therapeutic ‘holding,’ Joyce Slochower now holds together the many tensions evoked by the collision of the patient's and analyst's subjectivities. Exploring the tensions between illusion and reality, the ideal and actual, the altruistic professional and self-centered human provider, Slochower offers a theoretical contribution enhanced by moving, deeply personal explorations of her clinical work. She tackles the difficult therapeutic challenges posed by mutual idealization, hatred, and erotic transference and countertransference and beautifully demonstrates how the analytic process negotiates and transforms these collisions."
- Lewis Aron, Ph.D., New York University, Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
"This is a wise book, a mature book, a book that every psychoanalyst and psychodynamic psychotherapist will profit from reading. We are continuously in the process of negotiating the difference between what we are and what we wish we were, what we sometimes think we are, what our patients would like us to be, what we and our patients think we should be, and what our theories tell us we should be. Slochower well knows that this process of negotiation among the many variations of the imaginary and the real, this experience of psychoanalytic collision, is the stuff of our work. You will recognize what Slochower means immediately and, having read her book, you will be better able to negotiate collisions the next time you have to-which is to say in your next session."
- Donnel Stern, Ph.D., Editor, Contemporary Psychoanalysis
"Joyce Slochower offers an exemplary integration of the personal, professional, and clinical in this book...[Her] language for capturing important qualitative distinctions between illusions that enable or disable development, while not the intended focus of the book, is one of its many noteworthy contributions. Starting with a quite personal introduction, she sets a tone that continues throughout, weaving together the consulting room and the social milieu in which it is situated...Slochower's honesty in reporting a treatment disruption, and her forthright discussion of how she wrestled with her handling of this patient's idealization, are refreshing because rare in our literature."
- Ralph Kaywin, International Journal of Psychoanalysis
"Let me not mince words: Psychoanalytic Collisions is an extraordinary book that brings us up close and personal to a first-rate psychoanalytic mind...[She] offers detailed case examples that are both ordinary and dramatic. She champions an acknowledgement of the complex subjectivities involved. She highly respects social and existential realities. Moreover, she writes from the mind and heart. Her style is one of elegant simplicity and understatement. Slochower's book does not feel like a lecture. It feels like a series of intimate and illuminating conversations with a colleague in a local cafe minus the contrived questions and answers of some books. The colleague is humble and brutally honest. She is profoundly respectful of the complexities of life for both the patient and the analyst. She likes debating and values opposing theoretical views. This is as good as it gets for a contemporary psychoanalytic book."
- Spyros D. Orfanos, PsycCRITIQUES
"...Slochower has made another significant contribution to our theoretical as well as clinical literature and I recommend this book highly. In fact, I plan to assign it as an essential text to the candidates that I teach at my Institute."
- Christine C. Kieffer, PhD, ABPP, in Psychologist-Psychoanalyst, Fall 2008
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