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Gillman, R.D. (1984). The Mind in Conflict: By Charles Brenner, M.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1982. 266 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 53:445-450.
(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:445-450
The Mind in Conflict: By Charles Brenner, M.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1982. 266 pp.
Review by: Robert D. Gillman
Widely known as a conservative psychoanalyst, Charles Brenner presents in this book a collection of innovative theoretical ideas. The theoretical advances are not, however, isolated or arbitrary. Rather, Brenner integrates them within traditional structural theory and standard psychoanalytic technique. Case vignettes illustrate their clinical usefulness. Nor are his conclusions a surprise to those who have followed his writings in separate articles over the past ten years. Here they are unified in a book which should be read widely by analysts and non-analysts alike.
The style is clear, logical, and concise. Brenner is a teacher: each chapter contains exposition, discussion, and a review and summary. He prefers repetition to obscurity.
At a time when there is so much emphasis in psychoanalytic writing on developmental issues, it is refreshing to have Brenner's cogent account of the role of conflict and compromise formation in human psychological functioning. Never a reductionist, he tolerates the complexity and uncertainty characteristic of the workings of the mind.
One of Brenner's advances is to divorce with one bold stroke the theory of instinctual drives from Freud's somatic theory that drives are a frontier between mind and body. "Psychoanalysis is a branch of psychology… It is the study of one aspect of cerebral functioning by the method best suited for the purpose… Like every other scientist, a psychoanalyst is an empiricist, who imaginatively infers functional and causal relations among his data, avoiding, if possible, generalizations … that are incompatible with well supported conclusions from other branches of science" (pp. 4-5). Drives are generalizations about the "conscious and unconscious wishes of patients as disclosed by the psychoanalytic method of observation" (p. 21). By seeing the drives as a construct based on observation of drive derivatives, the analyst can consider the variables of motivational forces on the basis of psychoanalytic evidence alone without recourse to physiology.
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