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Fishman, G.G. (2003). Stanley Palombo: The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process Process. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8236-1666-5, 396 pp., $65.. Neuropsychoanalysis, 5(1):114-118.
    

(2003). Neuropsychoanalysis, 5(1):114-118

Stanley Palombo: The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process Process. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8236-1666-5, 396 pp., $65.

Review by:
George G. Fishman

A long and increasingly articulate line of behavioral researchers, therapists, and psychoanalysts has been bitten by the bug of nonlinear dynamic systems theory, better known since James Gleick (1987) as the new science of “Chaos” (cf. Chamberlain & Butz, 1998; Mandell & Selz, 1995; Moran, 1991; Robertson & Combs, 1995; Spruiell, 1993; Thelen & Smith, 1994). The reason is clear. Until the advent of chaos theory, there was no compelling way to mathematically simulate weather patterns, economic shifts, species evolution, neural network formation, or, last but not least, the intricacies of human intra- and interaction. Joining these other pioneers, Palombo has bravely left the safety net of traditional psychoanalytic theory and thoroughly immersed himself in one of the most fascinating offshoots of nonlinear exploration: the study of complex adaptive systems (i.e., complexity theory). With the help of one of its founders, Stuart Kauffman, Palombo has clearly studied more than just the basics of this complicated discipline. Along the way, he has also learned an impressive amount about the other first cousins of nonlinearity: coevolution, connectionism (neural networks), and game theory. Lastly, in order to integrate the role of interpretation in psychoanalysis, Palombo mustered the work of several prominent linguistic researchers.

The book he has written unwittingly affords the reader direct experience of one of its main underlying principles: that the maximal opportunity for psychotherapeutic change occurs “at the edge of chaos.

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