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Kurpinsky, M. (2006). The Psychosomatic Paradox by Claude Smadja Psychoanalytic Studies United Kingdom: Free Association, 2005; 233 pp.. Fort Da, 12(2):98-102.

(2006). Fort Da, 12(2):98-102

The Psychosomatic Paradox by Claude Smadja Psychoanalytic Studies United Kingdom: Free Association, 2005; 233 pp.

Reviewed by
Maureen Kurpinsky, Ph.D.

Anne Carson (2005), Canadian classicist and poet, was asked in an interview by The Threepenny Review why she preferred Greek as opposed to Latin texts. She stated that she felt as if the mud and dew were still on the Greek words, whereas (she gestured upwards) our own language exists somewhere up in the branches. This image of words imbued with the stuff of their origins and conversely of language drained of all vitality was a backdrop to my reading of Claude Smadja's The Psychosomatic Paradox. The “paradox” of the title refers to the observation that the onset of somatization often leads to a positive change in a patient's mood. Smadja's closer look reveals the binding and unbinding of the psychesoma at the heart of the paradox. In health, there is a continuous looping, like the movement inherent in the Mœbius strip — thought, infused or fused with sensation; and excitation, bound in meaningful symbols, concepts, and language.

Claude Smadja's work developed in his study with the psychosomaticists of the Ecole de Paris (Ecole), formed in the 1950s. Smadja frequently cites with respect and gratitude the work of its founding members, Pierre Marty, Michel Fain, Michel de M'Uzan, and Christian David. This group of pioneering psychosomaticians recognized the impasse reached by the medical model of psychosomatic medicine, which applied psychoanalytically derived concepts to somatic illness — resulting in an overlay of jargon onto physical maladies. Somatic illness then appeared as a mere doubling of the symbolic meaning of a psychological conflict. Smadja illustrates this failed attempt at a monistic theory of psychosomatics with a 1952 quote of Alexander of the School of Psycho-Somatic Medicine of Chicago.

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