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Kinston, W. (1982). The Mask of Shame: By Leon Wurmser. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1981. Pp. 345 + xiii.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:514-515.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:514-515

The Mask of Shame: By Leon Wurmser. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1981. Pp. 345 + xiii.

Review by:
Warren Kinston

This is a classical work: classical in that it is based on mainstream American ego-psychology, classical in that it draws on literature and the Grecian philosophical heritage, classical in that it is rooted in many years of clinical experience and observation, and classical in that it is addressed to the intelligent lay reader as much as to psychoanalysts. In his preface and introduction, the author offers a brief defence of the difficulties inherent in writing a classical work. He does not hide his avoidance of theoretical issues (p. xii) or his anthropomorphism (p. xiii), but explains them as part of a deliberate attempt to write in a metaphorical and experience-rich fashion. This anthropomorphic non-theoretical language is, of course, the language of the analyst talking to his patient. It is the language of insight and respect for complexity. It is the language in which analysts feel most comfortable.

The strength of the book lies in the numerous vivid clinical illustrations, some longer and providing a thread linking the chapters, others brief, but all ringing true. Any future conceptualization of shame must regard this book as a source material of clinical data. This is not a trivial compliment. The author has noted rightly that shame, the concept and the experience, has been avoided in psychoanalytic discourse. He tactfully refrains from naming names, so it is well to note here that Hartmann and colleagues were doubtful as to whether shame could be distinguished as an experimental entity.

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