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(1992). An Interview with Joyce McDougall. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(1):97-115.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(1):97-115

An Interview with Joyce McDougall

Muriel dimen and adrienne harris interviewed Joyce McDougall in a conversation ranging across the topics of psychosomatic illness, psychoanalytic practice, the status of sexual and physical abuse, and the concept of hysteria, both classical and contemporary. As all who are familiar with Dr. McDougall's work in Plea for a Measure of Abnormality, Theaters of the Mind, and most recently Theaters of the Body, can attest, her thoughts and interests move freely and vividly among matters of theory and practice; her conceptual developments always very thoroughly grounded in clinical work.

PD: You describe so movingly your psychosomatic or polysomatizing patients—their despair and hopelessness, the intransignece of their symptoms, their resistances. At one time this group of patients would not, perhaps, have been accepted for psychoanalysis or would not have been regarded as analyzable. Do you see them as presenting particular difficulties at the beginning of an analysis?

JM: I don't think of “psychosomatic patients” as a group apart. Everybody somatizes at certain times: patients … and analysts as well. I tried to state this clearly in my last book, Theaters of the Body. Even polysomatizing patients seek analysts for quite other reasons than their physical symptoms. I would not take someone into analysis because, for example, he said he suffered from gastric ulcers. I think most analysts would ask, “Why don't you consult a gastroenterologist?” The patient may then reply, “Well, I've been told it's psychosomatic.” This happens frequently these days, but psychosomatic symptoms do not in themselves constitute a genuine demand for therapy. If someone came to analysis complaining about, let's say, phobias or severe inhibition or state of anxiety or depression and truly wants to discover the cause of such suffering, I regard that as an authentic demand for knowledge about what is going on inside oneself.

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