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Lidz, T. (1994). The Personal Myth in Psychoanalytic Theory: Edited by Peter Hartocollis and Ian B. Graham. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1991, xviii + 413 pp., $50.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:940-945.

(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:940-945

The Personal Myth in Psychoanalytic Theory: Edited by Peter Hartocollis and Ian B. Graham. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1991, xviii + 413 pp., $50.00.

Review by:
Theodore Lidz, M.D.

The volume contains 17 of the contributions by the outstanding analysts invited to present papers at the First Delphi International Psychoanalytic Symposium in 1984. The editors, who organized the symposium, selected the topic of the mythological aspects of metapsychological theory for the meeting held at the center of the ancient Greek world and of the myth that greatly influenced Freud's conceptualizations. They chose, I believe unfortunately, "personal myth," a concept introduced by Ernst Kris in 1956 as a suitable basis for reexamining the various streams or conceptualizations of psychoanalytic theory which they believed offered a means of resolving the conflicts between several dominant contemporary approaches to psychoanalytic theory and practice: predominantly, ego psychology, object-relations theory, and self psychology.

The term "personal myth" is catchy, but has limitations that challenge its appropriateness for the meeting and the book. Kris presented the concept as applicable to a few of his patients in whom an unconscious distortion or misapprehension of their origins or early experiences served as a defense against an awareness that would seriously upset their psychic equilibrium. This had given rise to a false life story and system of beliefs that were so rigidly defended that they made psychoanalysis impossible unless countered by specific measures Kris recommended. Although in his introductory chapter Graham presents his reasons for his belief that a focus on patients' personal myths can unify psychoanalytic theory, the reviewer could not follow his reasoning, perhaps because of the complexity of his discussion of many diverse analytic orientations. His Epilogue not only fails to find a unifying principle among the various presentations, but does not bear out his expectation that one will emerge from the symposium.

The contributions vary in value and are difficult to review as an entity for, although all are concerned with some aspect of mythology as applied to psychoanalysis, only a few adhere to the topic of "personal myth."

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