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Strean, H.S. (1978). The Age of Sensation. Herbert Hendin. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1975. xxii + 354 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 65(2):345-346.

(1978). Psychoanalytic Review, 65(2):345-346

Book Reviews

The Age of Sensation. Herbert Hendin. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1975. xxii + 354 pp.

Review by:
Herbert S. Strean

Psychoanalysis is on the move! Not only are more and more analysts using their knowledge and skills to treat people in psychological trouble, but their insights are being applied to politics, education, social work, drama, literature, history, and many other disciplines. A subspecialty, applied psychoanalysis, is rapidly evolving and having an impact on both analysts and nonanalysts.

Herbert Hendin, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and Director of Psychosocial Studies at the Center for Policy Research in New York City, is a pioneer in the application of psychoanalysis to the study of contemporary society. He is the author of the award-winning Suicide and Scandinavia and another widely praised book, Black Suicide. In this book, Age of Sensation, he has made an enormous contribution, and anybody interested in how social forces and intrapsychic dynamics converge, particularly where and how they intersect on the college student, will be moved by Hendin's lucid style and interesting findings.

By selecting four hundred college students who were “non-patients” and paying them for participating in five interviews where free association, dream analysis, and understanding of transferential material were used, Hendin provides us with an illuminating and penetrating study of the deep wishes, anxieties, major defenses, strengths, and conflicts of college students.

Hendin's findings are an enormous cause for concern. Suicidal preoccupation is high, depression is common, the drug problem is proliferating, impotence and frigidity are frequent, homosexuality is popular, and there is much enmity between young men and women. Many young people find themselves increasingly driven toward defensive maneuvers that can allay depression, stave off impotence, or check rage. College students are very frightened of emotional intimacy, Hendin reveals, and their feeling of vulnerability enters into many of their other interactions, including study and work. Work is often used as a barricade and protection, as are drugs and certain forms of extreme political activism.

Throughout the study the modal college student emerges as very frightened to feel. Particularly is he threatened by feelings of love, warmth, and the kind of sexuality that fuses tenderness and eroticism.

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