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Schwartz, A. (2008). Exceptional Candor: A review of Notes from the Margins: The Gay Analyst's Subjectivity in the Treatment Setting, by Eric Sherman. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2005, 176 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 44(1):154-157.

(2008). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 44(1):154-157

Exceptional Candor: A review of Notes from the Margins: The Gay Analyst's Subjectivity in the Treatment Setting, by Eric Sherman. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2005, 176 pp.

Review by:
Alan Schwartz, M.D.

In the Introduction to Notes from the Margins, Eric Sherman describes his work as “a book about what it is really like to work as a psychoanalyst, and specifically as a gay psychoanalyst” (p. 1). With great facility and eloquence, he brings the reader into the consulting room with him. As he openly and unabashedly discloses in the illustrative work the emotions he experiences, it is possible to feel many of those emotions along with him and his patients and to identify with the very real experience of conducting therapy with authentic, if not always lovable, patients.

Before saying anything further, I must note that despite this book's having “gay analyst's subjectivity” in the title, its relevance is universal. While I do not want to diminish the uniqueness of the experiences described of being a gay analyst working with patients of various genders and sexual orientations, let alone attitudes about masculinity, femininity, relatedness, and sexuality, the experiences Sherman describes of wrestling with openness, self-disclosure, shame, countertransference, secrecy, anonymity, boredom, and the like are most certainly universal. This is a book that analysts of all genders or sexual orientations will find immensely helpful both in its accessible illustration of a relational approach to working with patients and in its capacity to make acceptable a variety of experiences that few authors have so openly and comfortably admitted to. Sherman's work and his attention to his own psychology reflect adherence to Jacobs's (1993) idea that “the inner experiences of the analyst often provide a valuable pathway to understanding the inner experiences of the patient” (p. 7).

The format of the book is simple: Sherman opens with a chapter that establishes the historical context for appreciating the value of attention to the analyst's subjectivity. He then puts his ideas into practice in the subsequent chapters describing his work with seven very different patients. In the clinical chapters, he describes his thinking, attention to his experience, and both intentional and unintentional use of his feelings, as well as his ability to learn from the outcomes of some of those experiences.

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