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Hall, R. (2006). Listening to Fear: Helping Kids from Nightmares to the Nightly News. By Steven Marans. New York: Henry Holt, 2005, 264 pp., $15.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 54(4):1441-1447.

(2006). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 54(4):1441-1447

Listening to Fear: Helping Kids from Nightmares to the Nightly News. By Steven Marans. New York: Henry Holt, 2005, 264 pp., $15.00.

Review by:
Ruth Hall

“Lord save the little children! Because for every child born of woman's womb there is a time of running through a shadowed place, an alley with no doors, and a hunter whose footsteps ring brightly along the bricks behind him. With every child-rich or poor-however warm and safe the nursery, there is a time of echoing and vast aloneness, when there is no one to come nor to hear, and dry leaves scurrying past along a street become the rustle of Dread and the ticking of the old house is the cocking of the hunter's gun” (Davis Grubb, Night of the Hunter).

This quote, the epigraph to Listening to Fear, eloquently captures the emotional state of terror that occurs when the ego's ability to know what is true is unstable and a sense of total helplessness prevails. If it is brief and vanishes with the comfort of the appearance of a trusted other, the aftermath, while notable, does not broadly compromise functioning. However, if it persists “too long,” it constitutes trauma and reparative work is needed. Steven Marans's book aims to help caretakers of all sorts assist in that work. His main tool is the art of truly hearing what the child has to say about the traumatic event and treating it with serious respect. He sifts it through his understanding of the power of fantasy and self-doubt and their roots in the vicissitudes of each developmental stage. He is especially mindful of the child's need to draw strength from primary caretakers, as soon as possible and throughout the recovery process.

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