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Lefer, J. (2015). Facing Cancer and the Fear of Death, by Norman Straker, Jason Aronson, New York, 2013, 156 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 43(4):682-685.

(2015). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 43(4):682-685

Facing Cancer and the Fear of Death, by Norman Straker, Jason Aronson, New York, 2013, 156 pp.

Review by:
Jay Lefer, M.D.

This “must read” book containing clinical monographs and therapeutic techniques for working with patients dying of cancer, is two books in one: a paradigm and a system of psychoanalytic approaches when facing a patient dying of cancer. The clinical chapters place the psychodynamic psychiatrist into an interpersonal dome that balances participation and observation. The “surgical,” classical psychoanalytic system does not work with patients living within the existential anxiety and terror of facing death.

Straker, a psychoanalyst at the bedside (Lefer, 2006), writes that “reports of treatments of dying patients by psychoanalysts are very limited in psychoanalytic literature.” The patient is living in the present; past and future time is no longer objective time. The patient is living in subjective time and the “here and now.” The analyst needs to be “flexible.” The goal is terror management.

I recalled listening to a paper given by Jacob Arlow. While treating an internist, Arlow had suffered a myocardial infarction. When he fell to the floor, the internist diagnosed his condition and called for an ambulance. While riding in the ambulance, Arlow said to himself that this experience would make an excellent paper. He studied his own dissociation from the events. The conclusion of the paper was that his experience with a near death event spoiled the transference. Dr. Theodore Lidz was in the audience and exclaimed, “Dr.

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