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Rose, J. (2016). Understanding Dunblane and other Massacres by Peter Aylward Karnac, London, 2012; 240 pp; £23.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(2):534-538.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(2):534-538

Understanding Dunblane and other Massacres by Peter Aylward Karnac, London, 2012; 240 pp; £23.99

Review by:
James Rose

This book is a study of the intrapsychic causes leading individuals to perpetrate violent acts of a murderous nature. It comprises a series of papers recently given to conferences concerning the application of a psychodynamic approach to think about the understanding of these acts and how this understanding might be used to think about the treatment of those convicted of these acts. The book addresses issues to do with both the psychoanalytic understanding of individual perpetrators and the implications, practical and political, for how society responds to them. It therefore has a number of agendas and by implication a number of potential audiences ranging from professionals, the interested non-professional to policy makers at national government level.

At the heart of the book is a plea for a creative response to acts of what seems to be senseless violence. The author argues that there has been a tendency to react to these violent acts in a paranoid way, which leads to what he calls a failure to triangulate or perhaps, in plainer words, to think creatively. In his view, creative thinking relies on a triangular space akin to the space characteristic of the depressive position as described by Klein (1946). One might see this space as resulting when a good enough relationship to the parental figures as individuals and as a couple has been achieved. This, as he sees it, makes it possible to have satisfying relationships and indeed a capacity for creative thought. When one of the points of the triangle collapses, there is then a reversion to the straight line of the dyad characteristic of the paranoid - schizoid position. In making this analysis, he draws on the work of Gerald Wooster and Ignacio Matte-Blanco (1975). In particular, he draws on the concepts of asymmetry and symmetry developed by the latter.


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