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Poland, W.S. (2000). The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, And Culture: Nancy. J. Chodorow, Ph. D. New Haven/London: Yale Univ. Press, 1999, 328 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 69(3):555-564.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(3):555-564

The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, And Culture: Nancy. J. Chodorow, Ph. D. New Haven/London: Yale Univ. Press, 1999, 328 pp.

Review by:
Warren S. Poland

In a work of unusual breadth, Nancy Chodorow examines the sources of subjectivity, lucidly addressing both internal and cultural bases of individual meanings. Rooted in both contemporary psychoanalysis and cultural anthropology, she is able to address the way inner and outer forces combine in the construction of individual meanings. With her allegiance always to starting from experiential evidence rather than theory, she develops themes too often obscured in more segmental studies.

Two specific ideas crucial to psychoanalysis, yet rarely formulated, shape this work: (1) That meaning is the basic unit of analytic work and theory; and (2) That clinical analytic experience must be examined in terms of singularity, the particularity that makes each specific experience unique. These principles are so important, so crucial to the advance of analytic thinking, as to command close attention.

Coming from her pioneering work in feminism and having moved on to cultural anthropology, Chodorow has now formally studied and become a clinical practitioner of psychoanalysis. It would be hard to imagine anyone better positioned to address the simultaneous influences of inner psychodynamic and outer cultural contributions to the formation of personal subjectivity.

It is the development of personal subjectivity, of what might be termed self-definition or perhaps the creation of one's personal idiosyncratic voice, that is the object of this study. It has been said that the advancement of science comes from the slow erosion of the tendency to dichotomize. This is precisely the attitude that has led Chodorow to note the infinite varieties of masculinities and femininities that accord better with reality than do the images of “the masculine” or “the feminine.”

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