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Glucksman, M.L. (2002). Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream?: A Study of Psychic Presences: James S. Grotstein, M.D., The Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ, 2000, 336 pp., $57.50.. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 30(2):315-317.

(2002). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 30(2):315-317

Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream?: A Study of Psychic Presences: James S. Grotstein, M.D., The Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ, 2000, 336 pp., $57.50.

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

This book is a pageant of mythology, religion, philosophy, metaphysics, and linguistics, brilliantly intertwined for the purpose of understanding the mystery of the self, the unconscious, and the treatment process. According to Grotstein, psychoanalysts do not fully appreciate the remarkable sophistication and virtuosity of the unconscious. Nor have they adequately addressed the complexity, nonlinearity, and multidimensionality of the self. In carrying out this Herculean task, the author utilizes concepts introduced by his psychoanalytic mentors, Klein, Bion, and Mason in order to construct a uniquely creative metapsychology of the mind. He uses this metapsychology to explore various topics including: dreams, the self, subjectivity, internal objects, the unconscious, and the curative process. In order to appreciate Grotstein's paradigm of unconscious mentation, it is necessary to understand his particular vocabulary. For example, he introduces the term “preternatural psychic presences” in describing the chimerical images of our internal object landscape. Another concept, “O,” refers to unmentalized, unarticulated experiences of the mind that are painful and alien to the analysand. It is the role of the analyst to help the analysand undergo a metamorphosis or transformation so that unknowable, alien “O” can then become personally understood, accepted, and integrated. Additional idiosyncratic terminology employed by Grotstein is found in his theory of dreaming. Borrowing a term from Bion, “alpha function” (which corresponds to Freud's primary process), Grotstein proposes that the data of experience, “beta elements,” undergo an “alpha-betization” (transformation) from sensory experience into dream imagery. Alpha function utilizes “metonymy” (displacement), synecdoche (condensation), “metathesis” (displacement and condensation), and metaphor.

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