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Esman, A.H. (2000). Soul Murder Revisited: Thoughts About Therapy, Hate, Love and Memory: Leonard Shengold, M.D. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, (1999). 328 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 69(1):155-157.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(1):155-157

Soul Murder Revisited: Thoughts About Therapy, Hate, Love and Memory: Leonard Shengold, M.D. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, (1999). 328 pp.

Review by:
Aaron H. Esman

The tumult and the shouting over “recovered memories” appears to be dying, but the issue of child abuse and its pathogenic effects lives with us still. Taking his cue from Ibsen and Schreber, Shengold has, preeminently among “mainstream” psychoanalysts, elaborated the concept of “soul murder” as a metaphor for the infliction by adults upon children of sexual and aggressive traumatization, as well as massive affective deprivation and neglect. In a series of communications, of which this book contains the latest, Shengold has laid out patterns of character deformation seen in psychoanalytic work with adults with histories of such abuse, and has defined a clinical approach which, at least in some instances, he has found helpful in ameliorating these baleful consequence.

What distinguishes Shengold's work from that of others who have staked out this field of interest is his judiciousness, his lack of dogmatism, his sensitive awareness of the nuances of individual development, and, not least, his elegant, lucid, and persuasive literary style. All these virtues are evident in this volume, which comprises, along with refinements in his theoretical views, a group of clinical studies and some remarkable psychobiographic essays on literary figures who, he contends, have been childhood victims of “soul murder.”

It should be noted that Shengold's views on the subject are formulated in terms of classical Freudian psychoanalytic theory. For him, both the violence of the abusing parent and the conflicted rage of the abused victim are expressions of an instinctual drive with corporeal origins.

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