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Brown, G. (2012). Playing with Dynamite. A Personal Approach to the Understanding of Perversions, Violence and Criminality. Estela V. Welldon, London, Karnac Books, 320 pp, £25.99 ISBN: 978-1-85575-742-4, published 2011. Free Associations, 13(1):120-128.

(2012). Free Associations, 13(1):120-128

Playing with Dynamite. A Personal Approach to the Understanding of Perversions, Violence and Criminality. Estela V. Welldon, London, Karnac Books, 320 pp, £25.99 ISBN: 978-1-85575-742-4, published 2011

Review by:
Gabrielle Brown

Understanding the forensic field demands a ‘grown up conversation with the general public about what it means to be human’ Estela Welldon contends, quoting Helena Kennedy QC (Welldon 2011: 143). The diverse collection of essays in ‘Playing with Dynamite’ invite the reader into a whole range of conversations - theoretical, clinical, technical, historical, political and personal. Charming interludes of lively discussion with her former student, the psychotherapist, scholar and editor Brett Kahr are interspersed with serious and tough-minded sections of the book. The rhythm of immersion in clinical details followed by discussion, which these interludes set up, reverberates throughout the book, modelled on Welldon's own engaged but thoughtful clinical practice. As in many human conversations and many conversations about being human, the book has multiple rewards as well as frustrations, digressions and repetitions. And, as is also common in good conversation, there are a plethora of points which could do with amplification in future dialogue.

Estela Welldon is a psychoanalyst, group analyst and psychiatrist, particularly notable for her interest in female perversion and its transgenerational transmission via motherhood. As the book recounts, she founded the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy (IAFP) and developed Forensic Psychotherapy training at the Portman clinic, leading to a ‘golden decade’ of students who, the dedication states, ‘have becomes this country's most accomplished clinicians, academicians, writers and researchers in this, the most difficult field of psychiatric endeavours’.

The book gives insight into perversion and its underlying repetition compulsion.

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