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Goldberg, S.H. (1993). The Electrified Tightrope: By Michael Eigen. Edited by Adam Phillips. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson. 1993. Pp. 289 + xxviii.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1290-1292.
(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:1290-1292
The Electrified Tightrope: By Michael Eigen. Edited by Adam Phillips. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson. 1993. Pp. 289 + xxviii.
Review by: Steven H. Goldberg
'From the outset it seemed clear that I could never be a strictly orthodox analyst, whatever that may mean. I loved Freud and Jung, body therapies, phenomenological and existential philosophers, Gestalt psychology, Melanie Klein, D. W. Winnicott, and the British Independents, R. D. Laing and Harold Searles, and later, Kohut, Lacan, and Bion' (p. 261). So writes Michael Eigen in the Afterward to this collection of twenty of his previously published psychoanalytic essays. It is not surprising, then, that these papers explore a distinctive and unusual range of interests not often explored in the psychoanalytic literature.
Though five of these papers have appeared in the pages of this journal, the remainder have appeared in journals and books less likely to have come to the attention of most analysts. Accordingly, the publication of these papers in one volume provides a valuable service to the reader interested in Eigen's work, which also includes two psychoanalytic books, The Psychotic Core(1986) and Coming Through the Whirlwind(1992). The Introductory Notes and Afterward by the author, along with the excellent Introduction by the editor, are useful and orienting, and assist the reader in negotiating these unconventional papers. Rather than attempt to summarise all of these papers, I will discuss those that, to me, represent Eigen's work at its most original and thought-provoking.
In 'Abstinence and the schizoid ego', Eigen describes a number of patients who chose to undergo periods of profound abstinence and withdrawal in the service of their personal development. These patients, according to the author, withdrew from the outer world in an effort to consolidate a core sense of self, previously suspected but not fully known; this consolidation in turn led to a renewed and deeper connection with the world and an ability 'to grant this deeper sense of I to others' (p. 5).
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