I have always been a reader and books have played an important role in shaping me as a person and as a psychotherapist. So in no particular order of importance, here are ten books that have stayed with me and in both subtle and not so subtle ways helped to shape my thinking about what I do.
1. Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis — the basic text for my second course in psychology in college, taken when I was a sophomore. Whether it was the ideas of Freud or the genius of the professor, Irwin Kremen, this book and course grabbed me and really got my interest in psychotherapy and in the workings of the mind going.
2. Man and His Symbols — Carl Jung. I discovered this book while browsing in the Gothic Bookshop at Duke sometime when I was a junior in college. I was fascinated by the ideas, though I didn’t understand a lot of them.
3. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden — also read while I was in college. I count myself lucky to have encountered these books n my college years when psychoanalysis and depth psychology was still the dominant mode. This novel set me to browsing the shelves of the library reading all kinds of books about psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.
4. August — I still recommend this novel by Judith Rossner to friends. The novel focuses on the relationship between a psychoanalyst, Dr. Lulu Shinefield, and a young troubled woman, Dawn Henley, from the beginning of their therapy together through to its termination. And because it gives us perspective from both sides of the couch, I think it is really unusual.
5. The Words to Say It– Claudia Cardinal. Around 20 years ago, a patient gave me this book. It is a fictionalized report of the author’s seven years in psychoanalysis and gives a sense of that process.
6. The Treatment – Daniel Menaker’s novel about Jake Singer and his analysis with Dr. Morales, a wild and passionate analyst. Though Dr. Morales behaves as likely no analyst would, his passion and willingness to engage Jake in the way he does captures the excitement that I find at the heart of this work.
7. Schizoid Phenomena, Object-Relations, and the Self – Harry Guntrip. Through the 70’s and 80’s I read widely in psychoanalysis, object relations, Jungian psychology. I would look at the bibliography of any book I liked and find as many of those books that sounded interesting to me and read them. This gave me an intensive education that I couldn’t have gotten any other way. This book, with its awkward title, was one I I’ve gone back to a couple of times.
8. Psychotic Anxieties and Containment: A Personal Record of an Analysis With Winnicott – Margaret Little. This little book, just 129 pages, was terrific for giving me a deep sense of what it is to be a wounded healer. Not many analysts or therapists write about their own wounds and madness. Margaret Little gives a tremendous gift in this account of hers.
9. Women Who Run With The Wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I go back to this book again and again, drawn by different fairytales and her analysis of them. To my mind, this is one of the best books based on Jungian principles and most accessible to the general public.
10. Of Two Minds: An Anthroplogist Looks at American Psychiatry – T. M. Luhrman. An interesting look at the split in psychiatry between those who lean to brain and those to mind.
Of course in the process of writing this list, another dozen or so books sprang to mind. I’ll save them for another day.
Summer is the time for slowness. I have been reading a lot but not writing much, though I expect to remedy that in the next little while. Meanwhile, here is a lovely quote about therapy from Freud:
“Nothing takes place between them except that they talk to each other. The analyst makes use of no instruments— not even for examining the patient—nor does he prescribe any medicines. If it is at all possible, he even leaves the patient in his environment and in his usual mode of life during the treatment…The analyst agrees upon a fixed regular hour with the patient, gets him to talk, listens to him, talks to him in his turn and gets him to listen… It is as though he were thinking: ‘Nothing more than that?… ‘So it is a kind of magic,’ he comments: ‘you talk, and blow away his ailments.’ Quite true. It would be magic if it worked rather quicker. An essential attribute of a magician is speed—one might say suddenness—of success. But analytic treatments take months and even years: magic that is so slow loses its miraculous character.”