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Josephs, L. (2010). Sensuality and Sexuality Across the Divide of Shame, by Joseph D. Lichtenberg, The Analytic Press, New York, 2008, 160 pp. Sex Changes: Transformations in Society and Psychoanalysis, by Mark J. Blechner, Routledge, New York, 2009, 192 pp. Heterosexual Masculinities: Contemporary Perspectives from Psychoanalytic Gender Theory, by Bruce Reis and Robert Grossmark, Routledge, New York, 2009, 240 pp.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 70(3):306-310.
(2010). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 70(3):306-310
Sensuality and Sexuality Across the Divide of Shame, by Joseph D. Lichtenberg, The Analytic Press, New York, 2008, 160 pp. Sex Changes: Transformations in Society and Psychoanalysis, by Mark J. Blechner, Routledge, New York, 2009, 192 pp. Heterosexual Masculinities: Contemporary Perspectives from Psychoanalytic Gender Theory, by Bruce Reis and Robert Grossmark, Routledge, New York, 2009, 240 pp.
Review by: Lawrence Josephs
Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Human Sexuality
Psychoanalysis originally obtained notoriety from its special focus on the aspects of human sexuality that were typically not discussed openly in polite society. Freud's focus on childhood sexual abuse, infantile sexuality, polymorphous perversity, bisexuality, and incestuous desire gave psychoanalysis a provocative quality. Critics viewed Freud as obsessed with the unsavory aspects of human sexuality, which seemed to be overemphasized in human personality functioning. The early dissenters such as Jung, Adler, and Rank all developed psychologies in which the socially unacceptable aspects of human sexuality were less central and to some extent this trend has continued as psychoanalytic theory has become more focused on ego psychology, self psychology, and theories of object relations. These trends seem to have gone so far that the French psychoanalyst Andre Green (1995) wondered if sexuality still has anything to do with contemporary psychoanalysis. The three books under review are all attempts to put sexuality back in the spotlight, but from the point of view of contemporary relational trends within psychoanalysis. How do the highly conflicted aspects of human sexuality look in the light of recent developments in self psychology, attachment theory, and relational/interpersonal psychoanalysis if Freudian drive theory is rejected?
Joseph Lichtenberg's (2008) Sensuality and Sexuality Across the Divide of Shame looks at human sexuality primarily through the lenses of self psychology and attachment theory. Kohut's seminal insights made shame dynamics central in human personality functioning. From the point of view of self psychology, shame is a signal of a disturbed narcissistic equilibrium, of a threatened sense of self, and evokes defensive and compensatory efforts to protect and restore that vulnerable self. Lichtenberg in an original application of that theory looks at the organizing role of shame dynamics in psychosexual development.
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