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Zuckerman, J.R. (2014). Look Who’s Talking! The Ongoing Problem of the Female Voice. Psychoanal. Perspect., 11(3):265-283.

(2014). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 11(3):265-283

Look Who’s Talking! The Ongoing Problem of the Female Voice

Janet Rivkin Zuckerman, Ph.D.

This paper addresses women’s difficulties with self-expression, including anxieties about public speaking and conflicts with assertion and self-advocacy. By extension, it also discusses how psychoanalysis can incorporate elements of exposure therapy to dismantle such internal roadblocks. I begin with a personal experience with exposure that quieted my own fears of public speaking. I argue that such external therapeutic measures complement psychoanalytic work when intractable negative associations prevail. These measures foster rapid behavioral change to be understood and internalized within the analytic relationship. I also assert that psychoanalysis itself incorporates exposure, including action to consolidate therapeutic progress, confrontation with the analyst’s interpretations and countertransference, and navigation of impasse. Ultimately, the recognition and repair lived out in the psychoanalytic relationship recalibrate dysregulated affect, which creates a sturdy female voice and consolidates new ways of being. I present a literature review on public-speaking phobia and its treatment options, followed by clinical vignettes emphasizing the ways exposure, recognition, and repair can help women recapture their lost voices.

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