Michael Eigen, Author . Wesleyan Univ. $35 (120p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6530-3 ISBN 0-8195-6531-8

Eigen (Toxic Nourishment)—a psychoanalyst, psychologist and associate clinical professor of psychology at New York University—offers an account of the role of ecstasy (the emotion, not the drug) in psychoanalytic treatment from the standpoint of both the patient and the therapist. According to the author, the psychoanalytic process of re-experiencing past emotions in the presence of another person facilitates consciousness of an ecstasy that pervades life experiences, from the most mundane day-to-day activities to matters of faith. Unfortunately, the specific relationship between ecstasy—as distinct from joy, delight or mere pleasure—and psychoanalytic introspection and analysis remains far from clear. Meandering through literary sources ranging from Plotinus and the Bible to Freud, Eigen gives examples of such ecstatic moments as the "ecstasy-agony" of a patient during the inception and collapse of repeated romantic relationships. The use of literary sources as a backdrop to the portrayal of ecstasy in psychoanalytic treatment, while providing the text with an air of profundity, only serves to conceal the trite message that ecstasy is central to psychoanalytic self-discovery because it lies at the heart of what it means to be human: "I avow the ecstasy of being alive is the core of our existence, and... we do best when we... work to make it something... that brightens the day." Written for a general audience in a quasiliterary, stream-of-consciousness style, this book may be enjoyed by those who favor a spiritual approach to psychoanalysis. For readers who prefer sound evidence or cogent thinking, this treatise on ecstasy will disappoint. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
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