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Gordon, P. (2015). Daseinsanalysis by Alice Holzhey-Kunz, translated by Sophie Leighton. published by Free Association Books, London, 2014; 292 pp; £24.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 31(3):404-406.

(2015). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 31(3):404-406

Daseinsanalysis by Alice Holzhey-Kunz, translated by Sophie Leighton. published by Free Association Books, London, 2014; 292 pp; £24.99 paperback

Review by:
Paul Gordon

Daseinsanalysis was the term used by the psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger from the 1940s for his approach to the severe problems with which his patients presented him. There is, the author of this book explains, no alternative in English; the term sometimes used, ‘existential analysis’, was a mistranslation of a key idea. Binswanger (1881-1966), who had trained at the famous Burgholzli clinic outside Zurich, had been drawn to psychoanalysis and became friends with Freud - they had a long and voluminous correspondence - as well as being acquainted with the ideas of Jung. He later encountered the thinking of the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, and sought to apply that thinking to his own work. In particular, Binswanger found the philosopher's idea of ‘being-in-the-world’ (dasein) central to an understanding of the sufferings his patients faced. Binswanger brought to psychiatry the idea of ‘the world project’, that is, the broad horizon of meaning within which every individual human believed, thought and acted. Daseinsanalysis was always concerned with meanings: what does a behaviour or symptom mean to the person?

Binswanger, it needs to be said, was highly critical of Heidegger's view of the human being, which he regarded as rather limited. In particular, it lacked any concept of love. It was this lack that he sought to remedy and replaced, as Holzhey-Kunz says, an isolated ‘I’, with a loving ‘we’.

Being-in-the-world, Alice Holzhey-Kunz, a Swiss philosopher and daseinsanalytic therapist explains, is an articulation of the idea that we are not contextless, not a worldless subject. In Heidegger's telling words, we are ‘thrown into the world’. We are, moreover, the only beings who have a relationship to our own being, and it is this that causes us to suffer, because we are aware that we do not control the world and because we are aware of our physical fragility.

[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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