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Johns, J. (1994). Before I was I: By Enid Balint. Edited by Juliet Mitchell and Michael Parsons. London: Free Association Books. 1993. Pp. 245.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:419-422.
(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:419-422
Before I was I: By Enid Balint. Edited by Juliet Mitchell and Michael Parsons. London: Free Association Books. 1993. Pp. 245.
Review by: Jennifer Johns
This book is Enid Balint's own voice. In the year approaching her 90th birthday, she has published a volume of collected papers covering different fields over the last 40 years. The majority of these are her contributions to psychoanalysis; some are from her other interests. In some ways this publication of her work indicates a change of stance, as her previous publications were the product of team-work—she tells us that we owe this collection of a lifetime's wisdom to the encouragement of colleagues, notably Gregorio Kohon, her editors Juliet Mitchell and Michael Parsons, and to her publisher, Bob Young of Free Association Books.
Balint trained as a psychoanalyst in Britain following the Second World War, having discovered, while organising centres for distressed civilians during the Blitz, that practical answers were not enough; human problems around difficult relationships were often the more immediate, with the need to talk being paramount. (In addition, after the war she set up the Family Discussion Bureau, later the Institute of Marital Studies, in association with the newly founded Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.) Influenced by Rickman and Winnicott, Balint also learned from both Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, despite the polarisation between the two, and joined the 'Middle Group', now the Group of Independent Psychoanalysts, becoming a training analyst. Her interest in marital work continued to develop, as did her interest in the work of primary physicians; and, together with her husband Michael, Enid Balint created general medical practitioner groups—'Balint Groups'.
In the rich selection of work published here it becomes clear that, whatever she is involved in, Balint always works and thinks with a stance gained from her experience and training as a psychoanalyst.
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