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Hurst, D.M. (1992). Soul Murder. The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation: By Leonard Shengold, M.D. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1989. 342 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:257-262.
(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:257-262
Soul Murder. The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation: By Leonard Shengold, M.D. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1989. 342 pp.
Review by: David M. Hurst
Leonard Shengold occupies a unique position in the landscape of contemporary psychoanalysis: he writes from a visceral point of view and refuses to let us forget the body ego. For all the useful object (and selfobject) relational focus of object relations and self psychology perspectives, they neglect the corporeal self, the biological, the body animal. Shengold's work, on the other hand, keeps the viscera squarely under our nose, so to speak. While some of us occupy ourselves with abstractions, Shengold can usually be found mucking around in the guts of the matter. This is not to say that Shengold is a stranger to abstraction. He is a careful scholar, a diligent clinical researcher, and an expert on classical psychoanalytic theory. But he is not one to turn up his nose at dirt; in fact, he seems fascinated by it, and makes it fascinating to his reader. If our denial ever threatens to blind us to looking at some of the horrors of our patients' lives—the ugly, nasty, and cruel; the disgusting and terrifying—Shengold is standing by on the printed page, ready to cast his light into the darkness of ignorance, ready to remind us of what we know, but would prefer at times to forget.
Since first reading Shengold on Rat People in the late sixties, I have regarded him as a master illustrator of drive derivatives in clinical context, particularly the pregenital. In his writing, these come to life with a gritty reality, an immediacy that returns us from abstractions to the visceral experience of the patient. He raises to awareness impulses to bite, to tear with the teeth, to gulp down; to smell, to foul, to smear; to penetrate, to invade, to ream; I could go on. One imagines him helping patients acknowledge and work with experiences and feelings that another analyst might never hear from the same patient. Patients whose experience has included massive psychic trauma need such an analyst who can listen for and bear to hear the consequences of such experience.
It is remarkable that few among us have written about such patients; remarkable how little we have talked to each other about how we work with them.
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