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Layton, L. (1999). A Review of Pillar of Salt: Gender, Memory, and the Perils of Looking Back: Janice Haaken. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 1998. 332 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(4):712-718.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(4):712-718

Female Trouble: The Perils of Narrating Women's Distress

A Review of Pillar of Salt: Gender, Memory, and the Perils of Looking Back: Janice Haaken. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 1998. 332 pp.

Review by:
Lynne Layton, Ph.D.

I AM UNDOUBTEDLY NOT THE ONLY CLINICIAN who has been unsure how to proceed when a female client says she has just read The Courage to Heal by Bass and Davis (1994) and, after reviewing the symptom list, thinks she must have been sexually abused — although she has no memories of it. Generally, such clients want to embark on a search for memories; they wonder if I, or someone else, might do hypnosis with them. Once taken by the idea that they may have been abused, they are likely to interpret such things as their sadomasochistic dreams and sexual fantasies as proof of having been abused.

For me, the uncertainty about how to proceed stems from at least two historical sources. I am aware that for most of its history, the mental-health profession practiced denial about the occurrence of sexual abuse and incest, suggesting that so-called memories of sexual trauma were, in fact, oedipal wishes or expressions of oedipal conflict.

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