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Jacobson, S.R. (1996). Thoughts Without a Thinker, by Mark Epstein, Basic Books, 1995, 242 ps.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 56(1):121-123.
   

(1996). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 56(1):121-123

Book Reviews

Thoughts Without a Thinker, by Mark Epstein, Basic Books, 1995, 242 ps.

Review by:
Susan Rudnick Jacobson, C.S.W.

Mark Epstein, a psychiatrist schooled both in psychoanalytic theory and the practice of Buddhism, has a mission: to bring the psychological dimension of Buddhism to the psychoanalytic community and to make it user friendly. He does this out of a deep conviction drawn from his years of doing treatment in which he has seen how his practice of Buddhism has enriched and expanded his understanding of his patients, and given him a method that can often be integrated with the psychoanalytic approach. As psychoanalysis concerns itself more and more with issues surrounding narcissism and deep alienation of self from self and other, he is one of a growing body of analysts who are finding Buddhism relevant.

But in taking on this task Epstein is well aware that he has had to challenge the myth held since the time of Freud that equates meditative experience with a regressive return to the breast or womb that Freud described as “oceanic feeling.” Although some psychoanalytic pioneers such as Horney and Fromm were attracted to Buddhism, most traditional psychoanalysts have continued to view an Eastern approach as fringe, alternative, or at best mystical, and outside the scope of analytic inquiry. The major thrust of this book is devoted to showing how the opposite is true. Buddhism involves a philosophy and method of awareness, of owning disowned parts of the self, of being rooted in the world rather than looking for a cosmic, other-world detached experience.

In order to meet his audience on its turf, he proposes to explain the basic premises of Buddhism in the language of psychoanalysis, searching for correspondences in psychoanalytic theory whenever possible.

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