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Rayner, E. Daws, D. (1986). Theatres of the Mind: Illusion and Truth on the Psychoanalytic Stage, Joyce McDougall, Free Association Books, 1986, XIV + 301 pages, hb £25, pb £9.95.. Free Associations, 1(7):133-141.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(7):133-141

Theatres of the Mind: Illusion and Truth on the Psychoanalytic Stage, Joyce McDougall, Free Association Books, 1986, XIV + 301 pages, hb £25, pb £9.95.

Review by:
Eric Rayner

Dilys Daws

We are going to enthuse about this book for it has an unforgettableness about it. This is not because of any particular message, though there are many of these, nor for any special characteristics, but for a unique way of interweaving these which is likely to make the book valuable for many different sorts of people.

McDougall was born in New Zealand but has practised as a psychoanalyst in Paris for many years. She is internationally known particularly for her ideas relating psychosomatics to psychoanalysis. But this book has a wider focus. It aims to investigate the neuroses, psychoses, addictions, perversions and psychosomatoses using the idiom of the drama. She describes in dramatic form how sufferers from each of these play out compulsive scripts in their lives, in their symptoms and in the therapeutic transference.

This brings us to the first quality of the book that deserves emphasis. Strangely for a psychoanalyst, McDougall is great fun to read. We, a psychoanalyst and a child therapist, took it on holiday to read and argue about. This was a good time because the book is full of gripping yarns which are none the less most serious, moving and instructive case descriptions. She is an outstanding, even great, describer of what goes on in analysis. As a storyteller she knows how to keep readers in suspense by telling them just enough and no more, compelling them to go on. In a kindly way she is humorous, even comic, about herself and her patients in such a way as to crystallize aspects of psychodynamic interaction which probably could not be described in any other way. Above all she allows a transparency about her own feelings that would make a stuffier or less courageous analyst quake. This could be tricky exhibitionism but it is not. Here is a sample.


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