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Scott, W.C. (1993). The Electrified Tightrope: Michael Eigen, edited by Adam Phillips., Jason Aronson, Northvale NJ, 1993. US$30.00. Reviewed by W. Clifford M Scott.. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 1(2):149-153.
(1993). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1(2):149-153
The Electrified Tightrope: Michael Eigen, edited by Adam Phillips., Jason Aronson, Northvale NJ, 1993. US$30.00. Reviewed by W. Clifford M Scott.
Review by: W Clifford M. Scott
Not for a long time have I been so envious and admiring when reading a new book. The title, The Electrified Tightrope, of this startling and informative book is not discussed by either the author or the editor, but the idea of a shocking tension, a conflict between poise and catastrophe, is there from the beginning. Eigen illustrates over and over again that when a person says or does something new, or startling, to someone who is listening and watching with sympathetic understanding there may be a thrilling new step in growth, development, insight, and understanding, and the rewards to both analyst and analysand are very great indeed. The simple request for help, and to be treated differently from the way they have been treated previously, challenges the ability of the treater (the therapist) to do this in a new way which he discovered during his own development and training. Like so many of those who are now exposing their work in the current proliferation of writing about psychoanalysis, Eigen's development and training and the way he became an analyst were unorthodox. His writing is exceptional.
Freud wrote that analysis is first a new way of investigating people, second, a way of helping individuals to understand their complaints and problems and to discover more healthy resolutions; and third, a body of new knowledge about human growth, development, and functioning. Eigen writes about psychoanalysis not only as a talking cure but as a writing cure which helps to organize experience and contains the voice that “speaks from the depths of one's aloneness to the aloneness of another”.
After interviewing Eigen for the BBC, Adam Phillips encouraged him to put his papers together and publish a book; when Eigen hesitated, Phillips agreed to do it for him. (Phillips' own book, Winnicott, Fontana, 1988, summarizes Winnicott's work in a more succinct and critical way than any other I have read.) The Electrified Tightrope represents the most recent 30 years of Eigen's work. Twenty papers in ten journals and two chapters in two separate books published between 1975 and 1989 form the body of the work.
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