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Gallagher, J. (1995). Being a Character. Psychoanalysis and Self Experience. By Christopher Bollas London: Routledge Pp. 294. £14.99.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 9:212-212.

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(1995). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 9(2):212-212

Being a Character. Psychoanalysis and Self Experience. By Christopher Bollas London: Routledge Pp. 294. £14.99.

Review by:
James Gallagher

In this original and always interesting book, Christopher Bollas looks at the unconscious processes which create the inner experience of ‘being oneself’. Starting with Freud's description of unconscious processes and the dream work, he looks at how we select and then invest the objects surrounding us with our inner experiences. Then in turn Bollas looks at how the objects surrounding us, both those chosen and those encountered by chance, have the potential to transform that very inner experience, bringing the individual into new potential areas of being.

Bollas then goes on to look in particular at the psychoanalytic situation and the use made of that potential space by the two individuals, analyst and patient, to bring about new inner states in each other. Analyst and patient communicate unconsciously. Bollas looks at length at how the analyst and analysand work together in this way to produce new psychic structures. The patient can hopefully then use these structures to produce mutative changes. Bollas recognises this also creates the potential for profound changes in the analyst and comments on this.

The second part of the book consists of a number of essays in which Bollas looks at particular forms of self-experience. These include the deeply disturbed experiences of women cutting themselves repeatedly; of homosexual men cruising gay bars; and an illuminating chapter on the Fascist state of mind and how it pervades individuals, groups and institutions.


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