email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Arabic FreudThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek
Leonard Shengold is a practicing psychoanalyst affiliated with the Psychoanalytic Institute at New York University. Soul Murder Revisited continues the themes presented in his 1989 book Soul Murder, in which he explored various forms of child abuse and deprivation, and the accompanying psychological trauma that often follows victims into adulthood. "Soul murder" is a continual theme in Shengolds writings, and this latest book is the latest in a long line of writings on this subject: "Dickens, Little Dorrit, and Soul Murder," in Psychoanalytic Quarterly 57 (1988); "The Effects of Child Abuse as Seen in Adults: George Orwell," Psychoanalytic Quarterly 54 (1985); "Kaspar Hauser and Soul Murder: A Study of Deprivation," International Review of Psychoanalysis 5 (1978); and "An Attempt at Soul Murder: Rudyard Kiplings Early Life and Work," Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 30 (1975). As this partial list reveals, a particularly interesting feature of Shengolds work is the use he makes of historical and literary subjects, and his descriptions of the ways in which writers who suffered abuse and neglect used their creative powers to transcend the pain and psychological damage inflicted by early childhood trauma. Particularly poignant in Soul Murder Revisited is Shengolds in-depth descriptions of the writers Algernon Swinburne and Elizabeth Bishop. Shengold says of these and the other writers he profiles: "Some of their talents may have been adaptively motivated and enhanced...by the need to master the traumata, the attempts at soul murder, that occurred in their childhood" (13).
Shengold defines "soul murder" as "the apparently willful abuse and neglect of children by adults that are of sufficient intensity and frequency to be traumatic." For the children who have suffered thus, "what has happened to them has dominated their motivating unconscious fantasies; and they have become subject to the compulsion to repeat the cruelty, violence, neglect, hatred, seduction, and rape of their injurious past" (1). Soul murder, says Shengold, "distort[s] and inhibit[s] the emotional life of the child...tends to destroy the childs capacity for joy and inhibit the power to care and to love...it is especially damaging to the capacity for love that can partially transcend narcissism, permitting caring for others" (114). This mistreatment of children by the adults who are charged with their care, says Shengold, is "based on something inherent in human nature--a destructive and sadistic drive" (2). And because such behavior has its origin in human nature itself, Shengold states that such abuse will never disappear.
Shengold maintains a high degree of empathy with the child victims whose sufferings he documents, while never relinquishing a distinctly psychoanalytic perspective and mode of interpretation. In holding this intermediary position between empathy and the kind of therapeutic objectivity that facilitates insight, Shengold distinguishes himself from Alice Miller, who has become emotionally fused with the victims about whom she writes. Another strength of Shengolds writing is that he eschews oversimplifications. While validating and appropriately empathizing with victims of childhood abuse, at the other end of the spectrum, in a complex and nuanced chapter titled "Narcissistic Pathology," he describes a group of patients who claim to be victims of abuse, and who present with clinical symptoms resembling those of "soul murder." Yet Shengold concludes of these patients that "In spite of their strong need to accuse their parents of something grievous...the analytic explorations turned up very little that was unusual in the way of parental evil or criminality" (245). The precipitating factor in these all these cases were parents who shared a "weakness of character and relative inability...to be forceful and firmly say No!" (246). These parents imbued narcissistic delusions in their children by instilling in them a belief that the world held "no tragedies or failures, only happy endings, and no death" (246). These children, upon realizing that "the inexorable conditions of life would not always permit the fulfillment of wishes" (251), displaced their rage at these broken promises onto charges--or perhaps one might say fantasies--of actual mistreatment by their parents. In a subsequent chapter, Shengold asserts: "The conviction that something traumatic has happened, right or wrong, should originate with the patient, not with the therapist" (268). Yet even in cases where patients "unmistakably" remember the abuse, there are always levels of doubt stemming from patients ambivalence about hating the parents on whom they still feel dependent. There are also, says Shengold, "false convictions" (268). This mode of interpretation is likely to be a controversial one in some circles; there are varieties of popular counseling and psychotherapeutic practice that affirm all claims of abuse as de facto evidence of abuse, and the presence of certain symptoms as further, incontrovertible evidence. It is precisely to this contemporary phenomenon that Shengold addresses the remark that "More observations about different kinds of pseudo-soul murder are needed in these times of controversy about charges of child abuse" (254).
Readers of this book will be helped by having familiarity with psychoanalytic theory, but those without this background will have no difficulty gaining valuable insights into the subject of child abuse in its various forms, the coping mechanisms of victims, and the complexities involved in diagnosis and treatment.
Naomi Gold is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Toronto School of Theology. Her dissertation discusses and critiques the way in which psychoanalytic object-relations theory has been used by theologically-committed analytic writers to validate theological belief systems. She has degrees in theology and religious studies, and has an active interest in the history and development of of "New Age" religion, religious cults, and the psychology of religious belief.
To discuss this book or the review you have just read, join the Metapsychology Discussion E-Mail Group by going to this URL: http://www.onelist.com/subscribe/metapsy-discussion
Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology.
We feature over 7900 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and
We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.
Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'
Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send
review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank
you for your support!
Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these
announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click
Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers
for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Promote your Page too
Metapsychology Online Reviews