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Levi, L.D. (1998). Danger and Defense: The Technique of Close Process Attention. Edited by Marianne Goldberger. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1996, xxii + 386 pp., $54.00. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(4):1259-1261.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(4):1259-1261


Danger and Defense: The Technique of Close Process Attention. Edited by Marianne Goldberger. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1996, xxii + 386 pp., $54.00

Review by:
L. David Levi

Perhaps, after all, reports of the death of ego psychology are exaggerated. At least the Paul Gray enthusiasts who gathered these papers in honor of his seventy-fifth birthday are not believing them. The core of structural theory—id, ego, superego, along with a focus on defense analysis—forms the conceptual frame for their delineation of their patients, the process, and the changes they seek. Apparently rejecting out of hand the two-person paradigm, they proceed to their user-friendly method for teaching their patients how the mind works.

Todd Davison, Monroe Pray, Curtis Bristol, and Robert Welker instruct the reader just to point out to patients where in their associations they have shifted from anger or criticism (i.e., drive derivatives) to self-criticism or aggression turned against themselves. Defense has been activated, and asking the patient what danger prompted the switch leads to the analyst, who usually represents an externalized superego. The danger anticipated from the analyst leads by association to the genesis of the conflict in early parental figures. The authors' metaphor for the situation, an observer on shore pointing out to a canoeist his changes of course, presumably to avoid dangerous rocks, conveys the safe distance and objectivity of the analyst in their method. The rigorous discipline of focus on the patient's own words avoids reliance on empathy to divine unconscious wishes and reduces the risk of harmful countertransference or empathy gone awry. Pray's paper (previously published) details how Gray's method, like Anna Freud's, uses consensually validatable surface. Pray contrasts this method to the more prevalent ego psychological technique wherein the analyst guesses the conflict from surface defenses, other knowledge of the patient, and theory, but the patient is liable to yield to the analyst's authority rather than coming to understanding by his own facilitated observation.

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