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Skolnikoff, A.Z. (1998). Delusions of Everyday Life. By Leonard Shengold, M.D. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1995. 221 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(2):311-314.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(2):311-314

Delusions of Everyday Life. By Leonard Shengold, M.D. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1995. 221 pp.

Review by:
Alan Z. Skolnikoff

In a recent series of books, Soul Murder (1989), The Boy Will Come to Nothing (1993), “Father, Don't You See I'm Burning?” (1991), and Halo in the Sky (1992), Leonard Shengold has offered the psychoanalytic reader a stimulating re-examination of what we have otherwise considered severe pathology and how it can be understood and mastered through psychoanalytic treatment. The current volume continues that exploration, bringing delusions into focus. The title, of course, is an imitation of Freud's volume, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. The author's purpose is similar: to show that the distinction between severe pathology and “normal neurosis” is not great. This trend in psychoanalytic writing corresponds with both the widening scope of psychoanalytic treatment and an attempt to integrate ideas of American ego psychologists with those of Kohutians and Kleinians, particularly on the vicissitudes of aggression. The clarity of ideas in this work is furthered by the author's capacity to relate numerous clinical examples from his practice, as well as many literary examples.

The theme that is repeatedly focused upon is the ubiquity of primitive mental processes. The primal symptoms in these mental processes are delusions; primal defenses include denial, and primal impulses include cannibalistic, murderous, and polymorphous perverse impulses. The author anticipates the complaint of the reader who wants a clearer distinction between delusion and more neurotic phenomena. He tries to address this by referring to such alternate terms as quasi-delusion or fixed convictions. He prefers to stay with “delusion” because it encompasses the strength and persistence of certain primal ideas—such as the tie to the primal parents who are indispensable in our lives—which lead to resistance to change and differentiation in development and in treatment.

The chapters cover delusions in neurotic and narcissistic individuals, delusions defending against malignant envy, and paranoid delusions. Additional chapters are titled “Delusions and Perversions in Love” and “Owning and Warded Off Truths.”

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