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Marcus, E.R. (1996). Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience, by Christopher Bollas, Hill & Wang, New York, 1992, 294 pages, $11.00. Reviewed by Eric R. Marcus M.D.. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 5(4):581-585.

(1996). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 5(4):581-585

Book Reviews

Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience, by Christopher Bollas, Hill & Wang, New York, 1992, 294 pages, $11.00. Reviewed by Eric R. Marcus M.D.

Review by:
Eric R. Marcus, M.D.

Christopher Bollas is a popular author and Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience is his latest work. In my opinion, there are very great difficulties in its formulation and execution. My review must therefore do two things. It must describe the ideas in the book, the difficulties in conceptualization and explication of those ideas, the implications this difficulty has for interdisciplinary and applied psychoanalytic endeavors, and the relationship between theory and clinical work implied but misapplied. This review must also try to understand why the book is popular.

First, as to the ideas. The book is divided into two parts, the first of which is an exposition of his theories. Bollas' basic idea is that our lives are a creative expression of our unconscious and that external object relations reflect a continuing evolution of internal object relations. The object in reality is seen as important to inner growth. Trauma can be either a block or a creative potential. The dream work organizes life historical data both during sleep and the awake state. Most of this is unconscious. There is a prestructural state which serves as an object relations generator and the self organizer. This potential interacts with objects in reality and the inner object world to achieve creative organizations he calls genera (presumably after the word generative). The unfettered development of this system results in creative complexity and feelings of satisfaction.

The second part of the book is a series of papers describing the psychodynamics of certain patients, such as the homosexual cruiser, the borderline cutter. These papers focus on his view of the symptomatic experience and its social context.

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