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Zimmer, R. (2008). Haunted by Parents by Leonard Shengold Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, and London, 2006; 257 pp; $35. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(6):1280-1283.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(6):1280-1283

Haunted by Parents by Leonard Shengold Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, and London, 2006; 257 pp; $35

Review by:
Richard Zimmer

Though its title suggests something static and entrenched — the inhabitation of the abodes or spirits of the living by the dead — Haunted by Parents, Leonard Shen-gold's richly evocative book, is equally about change: specifically, what changes as individuals develop emotionally, why such changes are painful and often resisted, the role of emotional knowledge in the process of change, and how change is represented, in myth and literature, and intrapsychically. Shengold focuses on four themes in the book: the enduring importance of early relationships with parents in the emotional lives of individuals; the connection of psychic change to feelings of loss; the difficulties of both knowing and owning the truths about the parents and the self; and the use of images of the garden and the progression of the seasons as metaphors for change.

Shengold's intended audience includes both the literate lay person, and the practicing psychoanalyst. Throughout most of the book, he adheres to ordinary language and avoids the use of jargon; when he uses psychoanalytic terminology, he is always careful to explain it in the language of the layman. Though his work is clearly informed by a broad familiarity with the analytic literature, and his list of references, analytic, literary and biographical, is extensive, Shengold does not intend Haunted by Parents to be a work of detailed and exhaustive analytic scholarship. What he does is to move fluidly amongst a variety of different forms of discourse: brief clinical vignettes which highlight aspects of change and the acquisition of emotional knowledge in psychoanalysis; concise explications of psychoanalytic theories of mental structure, transference, and the process of intrapsychic change; psychoanalytically informed readings of works of literature and poetry which illustrate how great writers depict the themes he is addressing; psychobiographical material which highlights these themes as they have manifested in the lives of literary figures; and Shengold's own personal musings on his experiences as a clinical psychoanalyst.

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