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Olds, D.D. (2001). The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process: Stanley R. Palombo. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. 1999 Pp. 395.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 82(3):613-617.

(2001). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 82(3):613-617

The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process: Stanley R. Palombo. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. 1999 Pp. 395.

Review by:
David D. Olds

Psychoanalysts face many questions that traditional psychoanalytic theory cannot satisfactorily answer. Why are there sudden shifts in mood or in the transference relationship during a session? How does an interpretation ‘emerge’ from the psychoanalytic dialogue, with both the analyst and patient realising it is something they have dimly known for a long time? How do we explain the fact that children in apparently similar circumstances, including genetic twinship, develop very different lives, and how does the opposite happen with children from vastly different origins? What explains the discontinuities in child development, the advances and apparent regressions without evident cause? How does the dyad of analyst and analysand evolve in the direction of increasing freedom and richness of association, leading to deepening transference and deepening understanding of that transference. This ambitious book by Stanley Palombo is an attempt to bring to psychoanalysts a theoretical model that aims to answer such questions, namely dynamic systems theory.

The book is part of what we might call the second wave of challenge to psychoanalysts in the past decade. The first wave of challenge comes from the cognitive sciences, that loose amalgam of biological and psychological disciplines that is making such impressive headway in understanding the brain and its many functions. That wave has faced us with a major need to adapt our own theories to the worlds of these neighbouring sciences.

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