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Wood, H. (2020). The challenges and mysteries of sexuality. Psychoanal. Psychother., 34(1):56-64.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 34(1):56-64

The challenges and mysteries of sexuality

Heather Wood

Completing a book is always an achievement; producing two in quick succession is an admirable feat. Rosine Perelberg has published two collections, one (Sexuality, Excess and Representation) a collection of her own papers, and the other (Psychic Bisexuality) an edited collection of papers by French and British psychoanalysts. One excellent paper (Love and melancholia in the analysis of women by women) is in both volumes, and there are some common elements to the introductions to both books. Perelberg is a social anthropologist by background and an eminent psychoanalyst. Both books convey her passion for scholarship, her commitment to the centrality of sexuality in psychoanalytic theory, and her skill and intuition as a clinician.

The authored book (Sexuality, Excess and Representation) is the more accessible of the two, enabling readers to immerse themselves in her distinctive way of thinking and working. Every chapter in this book is interesting, but Chapter 2, ‘On excess, trauma and helplessness’, includes a clear elaboration of her theoretical position. She draws attention to a crucial difference between Freud’s topographical model (conscious, preconscious and unconscious) and his later, ‘structural’ model (id, ego and superego): the structural model allows the possibility of a drive that does not have representation. If drives are at the root of psychic activity and there is excitation in excess of what can be tolerated by the individual ego and the unconscious strategies developed to deal with it, ‘We are in the domain of what lies at the limit of representation and has to be communicated in other ways’ (p. 74). This may result in an ‘excess’ of excitation, ‘an overload charge on the mind … whose derivatives have to be sent back to the unconscious’ (p. 62), presumably through repression.

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