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Altman, M.L. (1989). The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. Christopher Bollas. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, xii + 283 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 76(4):625-627.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Review, 76(4):625-627

The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. Christopher Bollas. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, xii + 283 pp.

Review by:
Miriam L. Altman

In The Shadow of the Object, Christopher Bollas attempts to elucidate some particular features of the Object Relations School's theoretical positions and to substantiate them with rich clinical descriptions. His connections to Winnicott, Heiman, Bion, Little, Milner, and Khan are acknowledged as well as evident. Language is very important in this book. Bollas has an extremely evocative style. However, some of his use of words creates difficulties.

In his introduction, Bollas notes that he has learned from his work with the autistic child how to listen to the unspoken. The silence and cries of the child must be heard. Bollas describes this child's manner: “He lodges himself inside the other, compelling the other to experience the breakdown of language (and hope and desire). …” (p. 3). Bollas expounds on his title and clarifies the purpose of the book: “the human subject's recording of his early experiences of the object … is the shadow of the object as it falls on the ego, leaving some trace of its existence in the adult …” (p. 3). The treatment process at least partly deals with “the emergence into thought of early memories of being and relating…. The reliving through language of that which is known but not yet thought (what I term the unthought known), is the subject of this book” (pp. 3-4).

Inherent in our field is a problem in the language that psychoanalysts use to delve into theory and treatment issues. On the one hand, there is a proliferation of jargon that in itself does not further contribute to our overall understanding of the material. Some of the new terms that are introduced are variations on already used terminology.

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