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Stensson, J. (2007). The Sensitive Self. By Michael Eigen. Wesleyan Unversity Press, 2004, 196 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(2):345-347.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(2):345-347

The Sensitive Self. By Michael Eigen. Wesleyan Unversity Press, 2004, 196 pp.

Review by:
Jan Stensson, FIL.LIC.

In the 1950s the Swedish-Finnish author, Tito Colliander, published Samtal Med Smärtan (Talk with the Agony), evoking a three-year period during which he suffered severe pain. The book displays a deep spiritual kinship to experiences Michael Eigen presents in The Sensitive Self. Eigen continues to extend his investigation of the human psyche in crisis throughout a growing body of work, both illuminating and gripping. He mixes musings over thoughts of psychoanalytic ancestors that have meant most to him (in this book, the writings of Freud, Lacan, Bion, and Winnicott), together with his exploration of work with people in deep agony. Two interviews with Eigen add further insight to the themes of The Sensitive Self.

In Swedish we have an expression, which I assume exists in many other languages, “You read the Bible as the devil.” Eigen's mode of reading psychoanalytic literature suggests he does not look for faults and deficiencies, but emphasizes what he finds clinically valuable in each author. He does not promulgate a new theory. Rather, he depicts what appears to make sense in a holographic way, that is, in a multidimensional reality. The fundamentalist or ultra-conservative reader may feel frustrated, inasmuch as he will not find his usual marks in predictable places. That which is taken for granted transforms unexpectedly through new dimensions, offering new meanings, which render the reading rich, but also arduous. After a few pages, so much of human life unfolds that we must pause and take time for assimilation.

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