"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Guest Post: World, Affectivity, Trauma: A Book Review

by Dennis Palumbo


"Interpretation does not stand apart from the emotional relationship between patient and analyst; it is an inseparable and, to my mind, crucial dimension of that relationship."
-- Robert Stolorow, Ph.D

For almost five years, I was a member of Dr. Robert Stolorow's weekly supervision group for psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychoanalysts. As many clinicians know, Stolorow was one of the pioneers of intersubjectivity theory, which pretty much occupies center stage in the world of contemporary psychoanalysis.

Even though I'd been a licensed psychotherapist for many years when I joined Stolorow's group, I found soon enough that I would benefit greatly from his insights into the psychoanalytic process, his beliefs about the relational nature of good clinical work, and, especially, his views on the origins and treatment of trauma.

As I came to learn, Stolorow's interest in trauma was not merely professional: he often shared with members of the group his profound feelings of pain and heartbreak at the untimely death, some years earlier, of his beloved wife DeDe. In fact, as he's written about elsewhere, it was this shattering loss that propelled him into a traumatized state, and led to his exploration of trauma's causes and treatment.

Now, many years later, supported and encouraged in his work by his wife, Julia Schwartz, Stolorow has become, in my view and those of others, one of the country's pre-eminent thinkers on the subject of trauma.

Moreover, his writing on the subject now weaves together both analytic theory and philosophical inquiry. Hence, his recent book, World, Affectivity, Trauma: Heidegger and Post-Cartesian psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2011).

In this short, trenchant book, Stolorow shows -- in the words of Richard Polt, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Xavier University -- "how today's psychoanalysis can be deepened and transformed by an encounter with Heidegger's thought -- and vice versa."

Thus, in Stolorow's own words in the Introduction, his book is "intended as a contribution to both psychoanalysis and philosophy."

The fact that the book manages to accomplish this goal is due, in my opinion, to a number of factors: first, the depth of Stolorow's understanding of both current psychoanalytic theory and Martin Heidegger's existential, contexually-based philosophy.

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