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Stern, J. (2015). Minding the Body: The Body in Psychoanalysis and Beyond by Alessandra Lemma (New Library of Psychoanalysis ‘Beyond the Couch’ Series). Published by Routledge, London, 2014; 180 pp; £30.99 (paperback). Brit. J. Psychother., 31(4):541-543.

(2015). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 31(4):541-543

Minding the Body: The Body in Psychoanalysis and Beyond by Alessandra Lemma (New Library of Psychoanalysis ‘Beyond the Couch’ Series). Published by Routledge, London, 2014; 180 pp; £30.99 (paperback)

Review by:
Julian Stern

This is a creative, intelligent and moving volume, relatively short but packing into less than 200 pages a fine foreword by Donald Campbell, a clear introduction and then 10 chapters on topics as diverse as the unconscious meaning of hair, an exploration of the psychic uses of the analyst's toilet, and ‘some psychoanalytic reflections on the psychic and social functions of reality TV makeover shows’.

In his foreword, Campbell reflects on one of Lemma's basic assumptions: that embodiment shapes the mind. He reminds us of Freud's notions of intrapsychic bisexuality, and how many of the adolescents described by Lemma often seem to manifest a breakdown compared with a more ‘usual’ adolescent trajectory. Such adolescents may move towards concrete and medicalized interventions, including sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), which in his view is a misnomer, based on the assumption that one's gender can be assigned. He describes an unconscious phantasy in some patients requesting SRS as a ‘phantasy of self mutilation by proxy’, with some patients displacing impulses to mutilate themselves onto their surgeons. He argues that common to many of Lemma's patients is an aversion to reflection and a reliance on action, and he goes on to write about the importance of the skin, and the meaning of blood to differing groups of patients, before summarizing some of the chapters to follow. He concludes by writing: ‘This book will sharpen your understanding of some of the more extreme representations of the body, and the human being that inhabits it.

[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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