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Moscato, F. Solano, P. (2012). Seeing and Being Seen: Emerging from a Psychic Retreat John Steiner London: Routledge, 2011, 196 pp.. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 20(1):182-187.

(2012). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 20(1):182-187

Seeing and Being Seen: Emerging from a Psychic Retreat John Steiner London: Routledge, 2011, 196 pp.

Review by:
Francesca Moscato

Paola Solano

Clarice Starling. He kills women …

Lecter. No! That is incidental. He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.

Clarice Starling. No. We just …

Lecter. No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don't you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don't your eyes seek out the things you want?

—Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs

In Seeing and Being Seen: Emerging from a Psychic Retreat, John Steiner continues his explorations of the pathological organizations of defences in narcissistically fragile patients, begun in his well-known Psychic Retreats. Although this topic is not an easy one to tackle and write about, Steiner keeps a clear, logical organization with well-developed major points and effectively catches the reader's attention. He brings considerable and varied clinical experience to his topic, providing vivid clinical examples throughout the book, so that readers can gain a deep understanding of the difficulties analysts face in the treatment of patients with narcissistic organizations.

In this work, Steiner analyzes the anxieties and challenges confronted by narcissistic patients as they begin to emerge from their retreats and to experience the feeling of being seen. Gaze fosters feelings of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, smallness, and inferiority that lead to resentment; the wish for revenge and, in the end, a struggle for dominance may occur. The analyst must pay attention to these feelings in order to better understand patients' dependence on their defensive systems and to help them discover new possibilities and potentials to cope with reality.

Through the use of considerable and varied clinical material, Steiner provides us with a step-by-step description and analysis of the feelings and obstacles that these patients encounter emerging from the retreat. Fresh ideas are creatively intertwined with previous contributions by Freud, Klein, Rosenfeld, Bion, Segal, Joseph, Loewald, Britton, and others in order to develop a deeper understanding of the patient's experience, and to help the analyst “find the words” that can help the patient to feel understood and safe. He has laid out a Kleinian approach to resistance that is up-to-date, inclusive, and detailed.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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