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Altman, M.L. (1989). The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. Christopher Bollas.

New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, xii + 283 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 76:625-627.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Review, 76:625-627

The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. Christopher Bollas. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, xii + 283 pp.
Miriam L. Altman
In The Shadow of the Object, Christopher Bollas attempts to elucidate some particular features of the Object Relations School's theoretical positions and to substantiate them with rich clinical descriptions. His connections to Winnicott, Heiman, Bion, Little, Milner, and Khan are acknowledged as well as evident. Language is very important in this book. Bollas has an extremely evocative style. However, some of his use of words creates difficulties. In his introduction, Bollas notes that he has learned from his work with the autistic child how to listen to the unspoken. The silence and cries of the child must be heard. Bollas describes this child's manner: He lodges himself inside the other, compelling the other to experience the breakdown of language (and hope and desire). (p. 3). Bollas expounds on his title and clarifies the purpose of the book: the human subject's recording of his early experiences of the object is the shadow of the object as it falls on the ego, leaving some trace of its existence in the adult (p. 3). The treatment process at least partly deals with the emergence into thought of early memories of being and relating. The reliving through language of that which is known but not yet thought (what I term the unthought known), is the subject of this book (pp. 3-4). Inherent in our field is a problem in the language that psychoanalysts use to delve into theory and treatment issues. On the one hand, there is a proliferation of jargon that in itself does not further contribute to our overall understanding of the material. Some of the new terms that are introduced are variations on already used terminology. Other new vocabulary reflects the author's personal associations to ideas that have been labelled and
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named by earlier writers. In contrast to this is the frequent use of terms whose meanings differ throughout the literature. Various authors may use the same terms to signify different concepts. Even the same author may intend different meanings when the same terms are used at different times. Sometimes it would appear that a score card is needed to decipher some of our professional language. The complexities in our field make it hard to avoid falling into one or both of these errors. Both of these issues arise in Bollas's book. Bollas uses a variety of standard psychoanalytic terms and assigns somewhat different meanings to them (ego, subject, self). He does try to be clear by defining these words in his introduction as he will later apply them (pp. 7-10). However, Bollas's greater tendency is to err in the first-noted direction: He introduces a variety of new terms (such as unthought known, transformational object, trisexual, normotic illness, and extractive introjection). In many instances, he could easily and preferably make use of existing terminology to describe the phenomena that he presents. Elaboration on these already grappled with concepts would be more profitable in broadening the reader's understanding than coining new words and phrases for each of his ideas. For example, is the term, unthought known as defined by the author and already noted in this review, really distinctly different from the repressed, or perhaps from denial? As a further instance, Bollas describes the normotic illness, which he suggests is a term that can be applied to a particular kind of person who has for the most part escaped our attention (p. 136). He then goes on to note that Joyce McDougall's intelligent and searching account of what she calls the antianalysand (in Plea for a Measure of Abnormality) may very well be a description of the person I term a normotic (p. 136). In that case, it does not seem diat making use of the term normotic is at all clarifying. The implication of the new vocabulary is that the author is addressing a new phenomenon rather than elaborating on that with which we are already familiar. There may be a greater implication of originality when these new terms are used, but the frequent introduction of terms implying new concepts is dismaying. A complementary weakness in this book is the frequent use of bold type in an inconsistent fashion. Sometimes the bold type is used for an important concept; at other times it seems to be used almost for a randomly selected word or phrase. The overall effect of this is one of disjointedness. The most interesting portion of this book deals with the issue of coun-tertransference. The clinical vignettes that are presented in this section, indeed in the book as a whole, reveal how intuitive and perceptive a clinician Bollas is. He describes his own inner processes in response to the
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patients' presentations. Bollas works from the stance of allowing himself to be used as a finely tuned instrument in order to enable himself to achieve the deepest possible understanding of his patients. This is the richest and most valuable portion of the book. Bollas goes beyond merely being aware that for differing reasons and in varied ways analysands re-create their infantile life in the transference in such a determined and unconsciously accomplished way that the analyst is compelled to relive elements of this infantile history through his coun-tertransference (p. 200). Bollas expresses his belief that it is crucial that the clinician should find a way to make his subjective states of mind available to the patient and to himself as objects of the analysis even when he does not yet know what these states mean (pp. 200-201). Further, Bollas suggests that on rare but significant occasions the analyst may analyse his experience as the object of the patient's transference in the presence of the patient (p. 201). Bollas proceeds to explore this somewhat controversial position with both theoretical and clinical material, offering rationales for those instances when he engages in this open self-analytic behavior with his patients. This presentation would be of interest to a range of clinicians: those who operate from the same position, those who prefer a more classical stance, and those who fall between. The need for the analyst to make the greatest possible use of his self without fear of exhibitionism is underlined by Bollas: We have failed to allow ourselves the full development of a psychoanalytic sensibility, which means the inclusion of ourselves as animated objects within the field of the analysable. We have lost pleasure in being bewildering to ourselves and in using a state of mind to sustain a capacity that Freud developed when he began his self analysis. If our lives with our patients are lived in necessary seclusion, isolated from public view by virtue of the necessity of confidentiality, we can still explore mental phenomena and the puzzlement of being human by using ourselves as objects of examination. (pp. 238-239) Many psychoanalysts see the countertransference as enabling them to comprehend more fully the deepest experience of their patients but would rather do their self analysis in privatenot burdening the patients with the analyst's own inner processes. This book offers the presentation of the object relations' approach as well as a forthright exposition of the author's own style and philosophy of working with patients.
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Article Citation
Altman, M.L. (1989). The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. Christopher Bollas. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, xii + 283 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 76:625-627
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