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Wilson, M. (1998). A Thing Apart. Love and Reality in the Therapeutic Partnership. By Irving Steingart. Northvale, NJ/London: Jason Aronson Inc., 1995. 291 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(2):330-332.
    

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(2):330-332

A Thing Apart. Love and Reality in the Therapeutic Partnership. By Irving Steingart. Northvale, NJ/London: Jason Aronson Inc., 1995. 291 pp.

Review by:
Mitchell Wilson

In this book Steingart attempts to ground psychoanalysis, through closely reasoned argument, on the bedrock of the concept of psychic reality. Steingart is a firm believer in the correspondence theory of truth (i.e., that a world exists out there to which we can point) and in the transcendental reality of the human mind (i.e., that a person's psychic reality exists out there independent of our attempts to describe it). In essence, he argues that the psychoanalytic relationship is unique—“a thing apart”—because only in a psychoanalytic relationship do the participants lovingly pursue an ever-evolving understanding about the true nature of one of the participant's—the analysand's—psychic reality.

In the first chapter, “Reality and Truth in the Analytic Relationship,” Steingart joins a gathering chorus of psychoanalytic writers who have demonstrated convincingly that all analysts, whatever their avowed theoretical perspectives, utilize some notion of reality and truth in their clinical work. Steingart believes that in a successful psychoanalysis the analysand gains insightful understanding about his or her psychic reality in large part through the interpretive efforts of the analyst. He situates these assertions clinically by asking the following question: How do analyst and analysand decide whether the analysand's perceptions of the analyst are more or less real or more or less transferred from the analysand's unresolved past?

Borrowing from Merton Gill, Steingart says that analyst and analysand must adopt an attitude of “equivocality” toward the latter's beliefs about the analyst—a “let's see what else we can learn” attitude—without taking a position on the truth or falsity of the analysand's perception. In his discussions of Freud, Evelyn Schwaber, Roy Schafer, Gill, Edgar Levenson, and especially Irwin Hoffman, Steingart shows that they all employ some notion of truth in their clinical work. They all help their patients separate fantasy from reality and past from present. He is well aware that several of these writers assert they are doing other things of importance with patients as well as enlarging their understanding of themselves. For Steingart, these other things (e.g.,

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