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McLaughlin, J.T. (1974). Confrontations with Myself. An Epilogue: By Helene Deutsch, M.D. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1973. 217 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 43:666-667.
(1974). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 43:666-667
Confrontations with Myself. An Epilogue: By Helene Deutsch, M.D. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1973. 217 pp.
Review by: James T. McLaughlin
This small gem of autobiography deserves far wider an audience than our psychoanalytic community. Its quiet fire and odd faceting, like fine old garnet, reward the contemplative.
First off it is an entertaining, at times haunting account of what it was like to grow up in century's end Poland—and to be Jewish, female, and the youngest in the family at that. Little Hala's emergence from beneath the desk of her father to become in adolescence a militant Socialist, feminist, and impetuous lover, then in a few short years a grudgingly respected physician and psychiatrist in Wagner-Jauregg's Munich and Freud's Vienna, while yet a devoted wife and mother: here is a story to win a nod from the women's liberation movement and the heart of the adolescent rebel that ever beats in the middle-aged analyst.
Analysts of any vintage, but particularly those trained in the United States since World War II who have little sense of continuity with the beginnings of psychoanalysis, can find linkage and the feel of heritage in the author's account of her experiences as a psychiatrist in the Vienna of Pötzl, Tausk, Rank, and Kardiner, as a member of the circle of analysts closest to Freud, and later as one of the leaders of psychoanalysis in Boston and the United States from the mid-thirties. This bridging function is nowhere more evident than in her account of the remarkably durable 'Black Cat' coterie, a grouping of younger analyst-couples not having easy access to the inner circles, but who in time turned out to be the second generation leaders of psychoanalysis in this country. What she describes speaks eloquently for the catalyzing power of small-group dedication to high purpose. It also touches upon two recurrent themes of the book: the author's quiet pride in the excellence of those many women analysts whose early and enduring eminence reflected the high quality of their contributions, and her matter-of-fact acknowledgment of the acceptance they received from Freud and those who followed him. Without bothering to say so, she manages to spike some of the noisier cannon currently broadsiding Freud and psychoanalysis for chauvinism.
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