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Peltz, M.L. (1990). Halo in the Sky. Observations on Anality and Defense: By Leonard Shengold, M.D. New York/London: The Guilford Press, 1988. 184 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:123-130.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:123-130

Halo in the Sky. Observations on Anality and Defense: By Leonard Shengold, M.D. New York/London: The Guilford Press, 1988. 184 pp.

Review by:
Morris L. Peltz

Anxiety and anal defenses make the anal world a dark, forbidding universe entered through a tight ring (projected and idealized by a perverse patient as a "halo … in the sky"). Shengold's compelling essays, cast within structural theory, open the door to this nether land, illuminating it anew. Much of the ground is familiar, but Shengold shows it to have a power and structure that is not sufficiently appreciated. Anal phase defense development, according to the author, is the scaffolding upon which subsequent defense development adheres—resulting in cohesion, strength, and mastery in health; perversion, loss of identity, and murderous rage in disease. Readers familiar with the author's work over the last twenty-five years can be assured that rich new veins are mined and processed within this slender volume.

Shengold introduces his book, which contains seven chapters and a concluding coda, by outlining his conceptual framework and its relationship both to established psychoanalytic thought and to his own unique contribution to the study of anality and defense. "I am trying in this book to contribute something toward the basic psychoanalytic concept of defense, which I see as an aspect of the even more basic concept of body ego" (p. 3). Shengold affirms his conviction that the core of the ego is a body ego infused and given structure by the drives. Only after the body ego is established can a psychic ego develop. Shengold reiterates the view that the earliest defense is the psychologically based stimulus barrier. Other defensive precursors emerge from the body ego as well, for example, "negation (I spit out, which leads to projection) and affirmation (I swallow it, which leads to introjection)" (p. 16). But it is during anal phase development—when drives and ego greatly mature and differentiate—that Shengold begins his ontogeny of defense. For him, "the psychological birth of the human being [is metaphorically conceived] as an anal birth" (p. 32).

As the anal phase achieves dominance, and as early sensorimotor intelligence becomes more complex, discrete defensive operations become possible. Defensive displacements and reversals are the consequence of libidinal shifts from the mouth to the anus.

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