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Doig, M. (2008). Learning from Life: Becoming a Psychoanalyst by Patrick Casement London: Routledge, 2006, 212 pp.. Fort Da, 14(1):75-81.

(2008). Fort Da, 14(1):75-81

Learning from Life: Becoming a Psychoanalyst by Patrick Casement London: Routledge, 2006, 212 pp.

Reviewed by
Mariana Doig, M.A., MFTI

Learning from Life: Becoming a Psychoanalyst is Patrick Casement's most personal book. While he does reveal aspects of himself, Casement does so with restraint. But one is still left with the sense that this revelation is purposeful and related to what has informed him in his thinking as a psychoanalyst. His seeming reserve creates a space for the reader to drift and think, guided by a loosely told but recognizable story. Into this book Casement has woven both personal and professional experience to clarify and vitalize his understanding and relationship to psychoanalytic ideas.

Casement's book is a wonderful read for any mental health professional who is curious about psychoanalytic ideas and who thinks about theory as something that needs to be struggled with personally and tried on for size. He writes early in the book, “A sense of direction can emerge even out of the tangled web of a life” (p. 22), establishing a link with the chaotic unknown in himself, in others, and in life. If you are starting out, or mid-career, or perhaps contemplating retirement, in different ways this book invites revisiting your experiences as a child and growing up, and how those experiences may be related to your affinity for a particular theory. It will also invite reflection into your own clinical work and what it is you find in a theoretical perspective and those ideas you are driven to pursue to further understand and develop. In reading Casement and his distilled ideas, there is a sense that the savoir he eventually arrives at is connected to and redeems the suffering in his history. Much more than simply showing us how identity and history are linked to our theoretical affinities, and to our particular suffering, in his tracks we glimpse how “psychoanalytic theories are libidinal, created by the desire of the author … not only by his insights but also by that which remains in him unanalysed, perhaps even unanalysible” (Kohon, 1999, p. 156).


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