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Glucksman, M.L. (2000). The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process: Stanley R. Palombo, International Universities Press, Madison, CT, 1999, 395 pp., $65.00. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 28(4):729-731.

(2000). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 28(4):729-731

The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process: Stanley R. Palombo, International Universities Press, Madison, CT, 1999, 395 pp., $65.00

Review by:
Myron L. Glucksman, M.D.

This extraordinarily scholarly book examines the psychoanalytic process from the perspectives of both complexity and coevolutionary theory. In so doing, the author, Stanley Palombo, M.D., approaches psychoanalytic treatment from an entirely different framework than have others. Palombo views psychoanalytic treatment as a process of continuous reorganization of various components of the ego into higher levels of complexity within a non-linear paradigm. He proposes that the psychoanalytic process is similar to other biological and physical systems in which evolution brings about change. In studying evolutionary change, Palombo actually spent time at the Sante Fe Institute with a number of scientists, including Stuart Kauffmann, Murray Gell-Mann, and others. In drawing the analogy between psychoanalytic treatment and coevolutionary theory, Palombo states that in both cases interactive systems self-organize to adapt to one another. The psychoanalytic process is coevolutionary because the analysand and analyst coevolve or collaborate for the purpose of facilitating and reorganizing systems of belief, feeling, and behavior within and between each other. Palombo also draws an analogy between psychoanalytic treatment and the theory of complex adaptive systems. Using examples from mathematics, biology, and chemistry, Palombo explores complexity theory and how change occurs in these systems. These changes take place by means of phase transitions, which serve to increase levels of organization.

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