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Motz, A. (2013). Addictive States of Mind edited by Marion Bower, Robert Hale and Heather Wood. The Tavistock Clinic Series; series editor: Margot Waddell. Published by Karnac, London, 2013; 256 pp; £25.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 29(4):546-549.

(2013). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 29(4):546-549

Book Reviews

Addictive States of Mind edited by Marion Bower, Robert Hale and Heather Wood. The Tavistock Clinic Series; series editor: Margot Waddell. Published by Karnac, London, 2013; 256 pp; £25.99 paperback

Review by:
Anna Motz

This exciting collection of papers explores the complex, nuanced nature of addictive states of mind in those who engage in compulsive, repetitive and self-destructive acts. The symbolic representation of an addiction and pleasurable aspects of the behaviour are here considered secondary to the painful psychic state of the individual who is seeking a solution to an unbearable state of mind and finds himself in thrall to activity that appears to offer escape from this.

As Alessandra Lemma describes in her Foreword, addictive states of mind have a central dynamic function as narcissistic enclaves that seem to offer sanctuary from the sway of corrupt, abusing and bullying internal objects. They become refuges from unreliable internal objects, as described by Steiner (1993), and require repetitive, ritualistic and familiar patterns of behaviour and thought, offering apparent protection from the pain of reality and depression. The book explores the extent to which activities as diverse as child pornography, self-starvation and gambling can be considered addictions in any meaningful sense, and whether there are common themes that can link them. The concept of addiction is itself deconstructed in this fascinating and consistently well-written collection.

It is a striking achievement to offer a fresh perspective on the traditional behavioural notion of ‘addiction’ with its rather rigid and determinist approach to disturbance. According to that approach, addictions are reinforced by the reduction in anxiety or discomfort that engaging in them offers; when this pleasure recedes and there is a return of the pain or discomfort the need for its release through the addiction similarly returns.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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