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Katz, W. (2015). Cupid's Knife: Women's Anger and Agency in Violent Relationships by Abby Stein Routledge, New York, 2014; 186 pp. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(6):1695-1698.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(6):1695-1698

Cupid's Knife: Women's Anger and Agency in Violent Relationships by Abby Stein Routledge, New York, 2014; 186 pp

Review by:
Wendy Katz

In Cupid's Knife, Abby Stein draws from a wide range of theoretical fields, including Sullivanian and contemporary interpersonal psychoanalysis, critical pedagogy, feminist and gender studies, and anthropology, to develop a complex account of a vexing individual and social problem: women who engage in violent relationships. Stein focuses on the underlying emotional factors influencing women to become involved in, and to emerge from, such relationships. Her account is one that situates individual experience squarely within its mutually influential relation to cultural and political contexts. Stein presents psychoanalytic ideas clearly for the benefit of clinicians and other professionals who work with abused women, addressing frequent misunderstandings about their motives and characters.

Stein's main point is that women who become victims of domestic violence and emotional abuse are best understood as individuals whose access to their own anger and aggression has been systematically closed off. This is reiterated throughout the book and illustrated abundantly with material from clinical and research interviews. Furthermore, Stein argues that this closing off of emotions occurs through the mobilization of dissociative defenses established over the course of their development as a response to complex intertwining environmental pressures. Such women are left unable to make adaptive use of their own aggression in recognizing, assessing and responding to harmful relationships, and, therefore, they are more likely to seek out love objects who embody their own disavowed experience.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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