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Rizzuto, A. (1996). A Woman's Unconscious Use of Her Body by Dinora Pines New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994, 256 pp., $25.00.. Psa. Books, 7(3):411-414.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Books, 7(3):411-414

A Woman's Unconscious Use of Her Body by Dinora Pines New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994, 256 pp., $25.00.

Review by:
Ana-María Rizzuto, M.D.

Dinora Pines, a British psychoanalyst, presents in this small and beautiful book her papers from 1972 to 1991 on the psychoanalysis of women as well as two chapters on menopause and old age. Pines was first a medical doctor and dermatologist whose keen observations of the unspoken language of bodily symptoms led her to understand the human and psychodynamic components of physical illness in her woman patients. After analytic training, she observed in her practice the specific experiences of women in the analytic situation, in particular those experiences related to the development of female identity and its vicissitudes during the life cycle.

Pines's special gift is her ability to listen, be it to words spoken in the analytic encounter or to the unspeakable pain present in what is said not with words but with the body. Her collection of papers emphasizes “the importance of benevolent and compassionate listening, no matter what the analyst's theoretical orientation” (p. 6). Such listening may alleviate the pain of shameful self revelation and “may help to replace rage with compassion” (p. 7).

Pines observed that “bodily expressions of unbearable feelings were more common in woman patients” (p. 5). These expressions may include the “uses and abuses of pregnancy” and sexual activity as ways of avoiding conscious conflict or as attempts to solve deep doubts about sexual identity. A woman's exclusive and unique experience of pregnancy colors her entire life, regardless of whether she conceives and delivers her offspring or remains childless. For some women, children, real or desired, are conceived and remain psychically alive even when they have actually died or have faced the metaphoric death of never having been engendered. Pines demonstrates with poignant and painful examples the survival power in the maternal psychic of the ghostly children long left behind in real personal life.

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