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Eagle, M.N. (2015). A review of Cyclical Psychodynamics and the Contextual Self: The Inner World, the Intimate World, and the World of Culture and Society: by Paul Wachtel. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. 262 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 51(4):755-767.

(2015). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 51(4):755-767

A review of Cyclical Psychodynamics and the Contextual Self: The Inner World, the Intimate World, and the World of Culture and Society: by Paul Wachtel. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. 262 pp.

Review by:
Morris N. Eagle, Ph.D. A.B.P.P.

Paul Wachtel's Psychoanalysis and Behavior Therapy: Toward an Integration published in 1977 achieved the status of an integrative classic. Since that time, Wachtel has continued to pursue his mission of providing us with powerful integrative concepts and formulations that constitute seminal contributions to theory and practice. His most recent book, Cyclical Psychodynamics and the Contextual Self: The Inner World, the Intimate World of Culture and Society (part of the Relational Perspectives book series edited by Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris) continues in that tradition. The book is divided into two parts. Part I deals with psychotherapy and personality dynamics; Part II focuses on social issues of “race, class, greed, and the social construction of desire” (p. xiv). The common thread that unites these two parts is the powerful role of what Wachtel refers to as “cyclical psychodynamics.” As he states in the acknowledgment section, his purpose is “to create a book that states as effectively as I can the implications of cyclical psychodynamic theory both for clinical work and for understanding the ways in which cultures and societies shape us and are simultaneously shaped by the daily experiences of the people who live within them” (p. xvii).

Wachtel argues for an extension of the two-person point of view heralded by relational psychoanalysis to a thoroughly contextual perspective in which the understanding of the individual includes consideration of the “myriad forms of relational matrices that he encounters and participates in throughout the day and week” (p. 5).

[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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