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Kulish, N. (2015). Battling the Life and Death Forces of Sadomasochism: Clinical Perspectives. Edited by Harriet I. Basseches, Paula L. Ellman, and Nancy R. Goodman. London: Karnac Books, 2013, xxiv + 294 pp., $44.95 paperback.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(1):162-167.
(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(1):162-167
Battling the Life and Death Forces of Sadomasochism: Clinical Perspectives. Edited by Harriet I. Basseches, Paula L. Ellman, and Nancy R. Goodman. London: Karnac Books, 2013, xxiv + 294 pp., $44.95 paperback.
Review by: Nancy Kulish
This book presents the accounts of the psychoanalytic treatments of four individuals who seem to seek out pain in their relationships with others and who also cause others pain. Their intense sadomasochistic fantasies and modes of relating were played out with their analysts, whose experience with these patients the editors characterize as “battling the life and death forces of sadomasochism,” a phrase they have chosen as their title. The four psychoanalysts who present their cases—Paula Ellman, Nancy Goodman, Andrea Greenman, and Richard Reichbart—have for many years shared their experience with difficult cases with one another, finding help in a safe setting and in being able to discuss the painful countertransferences that inevitably arise with such cases. Here the cases are presented clearly, without jargon and with extraordinary openness, each followed by discussion by four sets of distinguished analysts: Alan Bass, Jack and Kerry Kelly Novick, and Marianne Robinson; James Grotstein, Margaret Ann Hanly, and Terrence McBride; Steven Ellman, Shelly Rockwell, and Léon Wurmser; and Sheldon Bach, Harriet Basseches, and Leo Rangell. Clinicians who read this book will be able to identify similar struggles and experiences and will find inspiration, help, and hope in these analysts’ work and in the variety of ideas raised by the discussants.
In their introduction the editors outline themes and issues that run throughout the cases: all have issues of control and struggle with conflicts around domination and submission; all wrestle with affect regulation or, as the editors put it, “too muchness” (p.
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