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Levinson, N.A. (1993). Female Identity Conflict in Clinical Practice: By Doris Bernstein. Edited by Norbert Freedman & Betsy Ditsler. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson. 1993. Pp. 197.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1286-1288.
(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:1286-1288
Female Identity Conflict in Clinical Practice: By Doris Bernstein. Edited by Norbert Freedman & Betsy Ditsler. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson. 1993. Pp. 197.
Review by: Nadine A. Levinson
The late Doris Bernstein was a talented and original psychoanalytic thinker, a sensitive clinician, and a revered teacher of both psychoanalytic theory and process. The editors, Norbert Freedman and Betsy Ditsler, have done an admirable job integrating her life work for this IPTAR Monograph.
Written over the last thirty years, this collection of essays reflects Bernstein's commitment to the concept of a gender-specific view of the clinical process. Her writings are contemporary; we encounter a language of object relations, a rhetoric about the evolution of the self, as well as a discourse of something 'wonderfully of old'. What is old is Bernstein's emphasis on the importance of uniquely-female body experiences for the formation of female identity.
Bernstein systematically examines the regressive effects of early female genital sensations and their impact on female character, superego formation, and the mastery of adult modes of functioning. She does so by using impressive clinical examples of women, and she reveals her genius by weaving together a revitalised meaning in the links between bodily sensations and instincts, psychic reality, and the impact of the relationship with both the mother and father on psychic outcomes, gender configurations, and sexual identity. Unquestionably, Bernstein's expositions stand in contrast to most contemporary psychoanalytic writings, which underrepresent the instincts and denude the mind of the vital role of the body.
The theoretical framework and organisation of the book is summarised in Chapter 1, 'Gender-specific attribution of identity', co-authored by Bernstein & Freedman, wherein the developmental, structural, and object-relations threads contributing to the central thesis, of the pervasiveness of gender on every aspect of mental functioning, are sketched.
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