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Zabarenko, L.M. (1991). The Prisonhouse of Psychoanalysis by Arnold Goldberg Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1990, 175 pp., $26.95. Psa. Books, 2(4):571-576.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Books, 2(4):571-576

The Prisonhouse of Psychoanalysis by Arnold Goldberg Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1990, 175 pp., $26.95

Review by:
Lucy M. Zabarenko, Ph.D.

Most knowledgeable colleagues were flabbergasted when Arnold Goldberg ascended to the directorship of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute. Imagining this conceptual buccaneer as a three-piece suited institutional CEO provoked one wag to lament, “Good grief, do you suppose he's going to give up his career as a trouble-maker?”

This brief, eloquent tract of a book is the answer. Ironically, there is a real danger that it will not be taken seriously because it is hilarious, elegantly written, and forthrightly revolutionary. Goldberg himself predicts as much, writing with doleful resignation that if “breeziness of presentation…fail[s] to convince…one should be happy to merely sow the seeds of unrest” (p. 15).

True, the book froths with overstatement, but never without a large core of truth; our fustiness is spoofed, but never without accuracy. One is tempted to ponder why psychoanalytic writing is apt to be discounted unless it is graceless, humorless, and dull. Dismissing this book would be a mistake. It is worthy of attention and a joy to read.

Goldberg at his beguiling best is nowhere more welcoming than in the introduction, where he chats companionably about his teachers, Roy Grinker and Heinz Kohut. He weaves anecdotes through a crisp plan and lucid statement of rationale for the book, all the while protesting that he is wrecked by outlines.

The goal is “recognizing the comfort of knowing things for sure” and the damage this has done. The remedy is “opening…the closed system” of psychoanalysis.

Be assured this is a partisan piece, an erudite and passionate plea for Goldberg's view of self psychology. Regardless of how one feels about that school, well-crafted prose is a welcome respite from leaden textual reiterations and tiresome exegetics.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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