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Eckardt, M.H. (2010). Good Feelings: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Positive Emotions and Attitudes, edited by Salman Akhtar. Karnac Books, London, 2009, 479 pp., $35.00. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 38(4):749-752.

(2010). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 38(4):749-752

Good Feelings: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Positive Emotions and Attitudes, edited by Salman Akhtar. Karnac Books, London, 2009, 479 pp., $35.00

Review by:
Marianne Horney Eckardt, M.D.

Akhtar, in his interesting “Prologue,” sets the stage for this collection of pre-published papers on attributes of goodness. Freud seemingly had a pessimistic view of human nature: human beings are basically destructive and violent. He declared that a belief in the goodness of human nature is an evil illusion, which causes much damage. Yet, by positing concepts like the ego ideal and life instinct, he allowed for forces that combat this inherent self-destructiveness. The diverse richness of Freud's thinking in its turn stimulated the creativity of many of his disciples, some of whom saw more potential for goodness in human nature. Akhtar highlights Winnicott's notion of a well-evolved personality who has a capacity for concern, authenticity, and a robust “area of intermediate experience,” also called transitional space or realm. This domain of subjectivity is where imagination is born and paradox reigns supreme. Here we embrace the cultural experiences of poetry, fiction, spirituality, and religious affinities. Akhtar also points to Bion's notion of the search for truth, the capacity for faith in the existence of an absolute truth, “O,” which, however, can never be known.

Data from ethology and neonatal research allow us to conclude that goodness as well as badness is intrinsic to human nature.

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