Haunted by Parents

Leonard Shengold, Author . Yale Univ. $35 (257p) ISBN 978-0-300-11610-6

Distinguished psychoanalyst Shengold (Soul Murder ) explores the "importance of early parenting as a source of health and of pathology," drawing on his own work with patients and on the lives of Wordsworth, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Leonard Woolf and Henrik Ibsen, among other literary luminaries. Shengold focuses specifically on the issue of resistance to change, or what he terms "clinging to beginnings," which, he argues, stems from powerful psychic ties to parents—what he calls "haunting." Beginning with a fascinating essay on how Dr. Benjamin Spock's tyrannically eccentric mother shaped the future child care expert, Shengold explores artistic representations of the mindof the child and of nature as a marker of time. He continues with the homily "change means loss" and describes how motifs of the passing seasons and of gardens—in writing and in dreams—can operate as expressive metaphors for feelings about expectation, change and nurturing in relation to powerful childhood experiences. Notably absorbing chapters focus on Edna St. Vincent Millay's complicated relationship to her parents and on the childhood sources of Leonard Woolf's unusually "maternal," nurturing marriage to Virginia Woolf. Shengold's self-avowedly meandering style may frustrate some, but patient readers with a strong interest in the impact of childhood loss and abuse, and in the possibilities of metaphor, will find ample subtly suggestive food for thought. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/13/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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