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Larsson, B. (1987). Theater of the Mind. Illusion and Truth on the Psychoanalytic Stage: By Joyce McDougall, New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1985. 301 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:693-697.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:693-697

Theater of the Mind. Illusion and Truth on the Psychoanalytic Stage: By Joyce McDougall, New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1985. 301 pp.

Review by:
Bo Larsson

The development of an analyst involves not only a lifelong process of internalization of experiences of self and of others but also a continual incorporation of psychoanalytic theories and clinical experiences. Most important, however, is the activity of integration that leads to the creation of what Joyce McDougall might call a neopsychoanalysis, the unique theoretical edifice that every analyst has to build for himself in the same way that every philosopher must build his own philosophy. McDougall's Theater of the Mind may be read as a journal of the construction of an impressive psychoanalytic edifice by an extremely creative and passionate analyst. It is difficult to decide what makes reading her book more fascinating: the originality of the edifice, the unconventional use of material, the degree of integration, the author's obvious fascination with the "theaters of the mind," or her talent as a writer.

McDougall explicitly pays homage to her most admired teachers, Melanie Klein and Sigmund Freud. The book is replete with references and allusions to the work of Freud, following Lacan's motto: back to Freud. She tends to reinterpret Freud's concepts in a tradition typical of French analysts, although her position rarely conveys the feeling of superficiality which a linguistic reading of Freud often produces. Sometimes you do wonder if she is playing with words, not mainly to deepen her concepts but rather to make links between Freud's mechanistic, biological, and physiological metaphors and her own dramatic ones derived from her personal vision of the unconscious as a theater. Gone is the mental apparatus. What the analyst is watching is a stage, where the I is simultaneously the playwright, the director, and the actors, at the same time that it struggles between wishes to conceal and to reveal the dramas of infancy and childhood.

Linking Freud's theory of the stages of the libido with her own theatrical metaphors, McDougall conceives of the categories of neuroses, perversions, psychoses, and "psychosomatoses" as inventions by the subject in a static or ec-static state.

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