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Mendoza, S. (2004). Sex, Death and the Superego: Experiences in Psychoanalysis by Ronald Britton. Published by Karnac Books, London, 2003; 190 pp; £19.99 paperback.. Brit. J. Psychother., 21(2):331-335.

(2004). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 21(2):331-335

Book Reviews

Sex, Death and the Superego: Experiences in Psychoanalysis by Ronald Britton. Published by Karnac Books, London, 2003; 190 pp; £19.99 paperback.

Review by:
Steven Mendoza

Here is another exemplary book from Dr Britton who describes it as ‘a personal reappraisal of psychoanalytic theories in the light of clinical experience’ (p. ix). On the next page he makes it clear that his purpose is not only that we should benefit from his experience but also from our own. He explains that in psychoanalysis, ‘The acquisition of personal experience is very slow, and therefore the reliance on the authority of others is protracted’ (p. x). His book reappraises psychoanalytic theories with scholarship as well as clinical experience and all of us will learn from both aspects. The knowledgeable and experienced will not feel that their time is being wasted; the trainee will learn not only metapsychology but its realization in the consulting room and the feel of how ideas inform and are informed by clinical work.

In Part One, ‘Sex and Death’, the death instinct is reappraised as a function not of death itself but of destructiveness directed not inward at the self but outward at the object. On page 3 he says that the ‘desire for a love-object … is primary’. Here he seems to go beyond Klein's principle of an ego from the beginning of life to the principle of primary love which pervades the British School of object relations and is expressed by Balint (1968) in The Basic Fault (p. 179). Later he refers to Fairbairn's (p. 118) concept of the antilibidinal ego in his discussion of the ego-hostile superego. More generally there is an openness of mind to a variety of schools of psychodynamic thought.

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