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MacDonald, A. (1993). Mothering Psychoanalysis. By Janet Sayers. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Pp. 319. £6.99.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 7(3):279-279.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 7(3):279-279

Book Reviews

Mothering Psychoanalysis. By Janet Sayers. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Pp. 319. £6.99.

Review by:
Anne MacDonald

Janet Sayers takes four female analysts, Helene Deutsch, Karen Horney, Anna Freud, and Melanie Klein, all of whom connect the early days of psychoanalysis with the present. She looks at their own lives and experiences as a means of enlivening and understanding their work. Focusing on each analyst in turn, Sayers starts with their personal and professional relationships with Sigmund Freud, and then helps the reader to understand their further journeys, separate but intertwining, that led psychoanalysis to a new consideration of the role of mothering, and towards its own continuing and diverse role in modern society. This is no mean task, as it would be only too easy to fall into a historical swamp, or captivate with tittle-tattle. In fact, she treats her subjects with respect and objectivity, looking carefully at their problems as well as their strengths, and is thus able to convey a great deal of their considerable respective achievements and theory in an informative and useful way.

‘There may be as many psychologies as there are psychologists,’ Sayers observes, and explains that she is looking at the very different experiences of being mothered and beingmother’ that shaped psychoanalysis. Thus the scene is set for an integrated view of these women, and the way in which they used their good and not-so-good experiences to help others.

This book is not an idealisation or celebration of mothering of the four key figures. It is an objective critique. I would recommend it to those who are new to the business of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as providing not only a framework for the work of four very important people, but also the more recent work that has arisen from it. I recommend it also to more seasoned travellers in these realms, as an interesting and thoughtful book with an important theme. In my view it is well worth a read.

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