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Peltz, R. (2009). The Broken Connection — On Death and the Continuity of Life By Robert Jay Lifton, New York: Basic Books, 1983. 495 pp.. Fort Da, 15(2):95-104.

(2009). Fort Da, 15(2):95-104

Book Reviews

The Broken Connection — On Death and the Continuity of Life By Robert Jay Lifton, New York: Basic Books, 1983. 495 pp.

Reviewed by
Rachael Peltz, Ph.D.

Lost and Found: Psychohistory and the Expansion of the Psychoanalytic Frontier

Last spring (2008) I had the privilege of interviewing psychohistorian, political activist, and psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Lifton is best known for his brilliant research and writing about the most disturbing and extreme social situations of our era, including Chinese thought reform, Hiroshima, Nazi doctors, Holocaust survivors, Vietnam, terrorist cult groups, and the Iraq War. Much of what we know about the study of trauma and its vicissitudes can be traced to Dr. Lifton's profound writings. His work also offers invaluable conceptual tools for the psychoanalytic clinician seeking to approach the psychohistory of everyday life. In preparation for the interview, I became aware of some of Dr. Lifton's other, more conceptual writings, including The Life of the Self (1976), The Broken ConnectionOn Death and the Continuity of Life (1983), and The Protean SelfHuman Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation (1993), to name a few. I chose to review The Broken Connection in the hopes of introducing this exemplary book to our local psychoanalytic community for future use in coursework and syllabi.

The title of this book refers to the lack of theory within the large corpus of depth psychological writings that addresses the human need to find meaning and “life-continuity” in the awareness of death throughout the lifespan. This is the “connection” that Lifton maintains is “broken.” Dr. Lifton told me he was compelled to write The Broken Connection after completing his research and writing about survivors of Hiroshima in Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (1968).

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