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Neubauer, P.B. (1999). Siblings in the Unconscious and Psychopathology: Vamik D. Volkan and Gabrielle Ast. Madison, Connecticut: International Universities Press. 1997. Pp. 184 + xiv. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(1):195-196.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(1):195-196

Siblings in the Unconscious and Psychopathology: Vamik D. Volkan and Gabrielle Ast. Madison, Connecticut: International Universities Press. 1997. Pp. 184 + xiv

Review by:
Peter B. Neubauer

The reader can rest assured that the title of this book does not refer to an encyclopaedic exploration of the sibling experience and its multiple influence on psychopathology. In the introduction the authors make it clear that they address the ‘mental representation of childhood siblings … in adult patients’ internal worlds, and the role they play in psychopathology' (p. xi, my italics). They are not interested in studying normal or transient conflicts about rivalry, envy and jealousy among siblings. They focus on the role of the unconscious fantasies in adult life as the necessary entrance into the inner mental life as being the pivotal mode of the analytic intervention. They never fail to assert that they are examining sibling ‘representations’. They do not dwell on conscious fantasies, day-dreams or overt behaviour, but study the repressed conflicts.

It is this traditional psychoanalytic position that they never abandon. It leads them directly to the significance of unconscious fantasies, to which they assign an early chapter. Here, too, they restrict the field of exploration, defining unconscious fantasies as being repressed conscious fantasies or day-dreams. They do not include Freud's assumption of primary unconscious fantasies that have been unconscious all along, as an expression of the drives. The authors then state that the repressed day-dreams have to follow primary process thinking, but, and there is the interesting characteristic of unconscious fantasies, they still follow their organised story-like quality.

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