A COLLECTION OF RECENT ENGLISH-LANGUAGE PSYCHOTHERAPY BOOK REVIEWS
Complied under the direction of Jacqueline A. Carleton Ph.D. for the IJP (July 2014).
Ammaniti, M. & Gallese, V. (2014). The birth of intersubjectivity: Psychodynamics, neurobiology and the self.
Caby, A. & Caby, F. (2014). The therapist’s treasure chest: Solution-oriented tips and tricks for everyday practice.
Gignoux, J., (2013). An Insistence on life: Releasing fear of death to fully live.
Rechtschaffen, D. (2014). The Way of Mindful Education.
Rinpoche, A. & Zangmo, A.C. (2013). The Tibetan Yoga of Breath.
Ruden, R.A. (2011). When the Past is Always Present.
Stein, A. (2014). Cupid’s Knife: Women’s Anger and Agency in Violent Relationships.
M. & Gallese, V., 2014, The birth of intersubjectivity: Psychodynamics,
neurobiology and the self.
Reviewed by: Mona Zohny, Hunter College
In the introduction of Ammaniti and Gallese’s
The Birth of Intersubjectivity, intersubjectivity is defined as the
process by which humans understand each other’s minds through continuous and
reciprocal interactions and exchanges typical of human beings from their first
days of life (xv). This book focuses primarily on the intersubjectivity of the
parent-child relationship, with emphasis placed on the mother as the primary caregiver.
The Birth of Intersubjectivity is ideal for clinicians who specialize in
relational trauma, attachment disorders or child psychotherapy as well as
Chapter One addresses the authors’ multidisciplinary
approach to intersubjectivity, integrating aspects of cognitive neuroscience,
developmental psychology, philosophy and psychoanalysis. Ammaniti and Gallese
are interested in looking at the human experience in terms of both neural
mechanisms and interpersonal interactions. They discuss the role that the
mirror neuron system plays in observational learning in infants
Chapter Two, “On Becoming Mother”, focuses primarily
on the mother-infant relationship. The authors first discuss parenting from an evolutionary perspective.
They take a psychoanalytic approach outlining the physical, psychological and
emotional changes that occur during pregnancy in the mother, while touching
upon the psychological and emotional changes in the father. The authors provide
vignettes of interviews with pregnant clients, which portray three distinct
maternal representations that reflect different relationships between the
mother and her unborn child. Despite the play on words in the title, Ammaniti
and Gallese argue that intersubjectivity is “born” upon the conception of a
In Chapter Three, the authors discuss
maternal-fetal attachment, providing an overview of the research on this
subject. The development of a caregiving system during pregnancy is also
explored. The establishment of this system is “guided by maternal
representations of the baby inside [the mother]”. The authors also explore the
new state of mind that pregnant mothers develop, “the capacity for concern for
the baby and the pregnancy”. The chapter is concluded with a discussion of
maternal preoccupations and fears, specifically in the last trimester of
Chapter Four, “Coparenting During Pregnancy
and the Postnatal Period”, shifts the focus to a “three-person psychology” that
includes the interactions of both the mother and father with their child. They
explore coparenting from both a systemic and psychoanalytic perspective. The
authors discuss the different subsystems that are involved in a
mother-father-child relationship and how this shapes the interactions between mother
and child and father and child during early infant development, describing
several studies pertaining to this topic. They also offer a psychoanalytic
interpretation of Giorgione’s painting,”The Tempest”.
Chapter Five, “Neurobiological Basis of
Motherhood”, turns the focus back to the mother, explaining the hormonal and
neurobiological changes that occur during pregnancy and the post natal period.
The authors describe the role of oxytocin in promoting caregiving behaviors in
mothers as well as the reward system that is established in the mother. The
authors present research on both animals and humans. They discuss the
similarities between maternal love and pleasure and romantic love.
Chapter Six, “The Primary Matrix of
Intersubjectivity”, speaks more to the establishment of intersubjectivity
between the mother and child as well as the development of the attachment bond.
The authors discuss this preverbal connection which occurs as a result of the
infant’s innate attraction to human face patterns. They point out that the
processing of visual emotional information occurs in the right hemisphere of
the infant’s brain, which leads to increased activity in the mother’s right
hemisphere, which is also processing this nonverbal, emotional communication.
In this way, the “…attachment bond… [between mother and child] is not only
psychological but neurobiological and bodily rooted” (126). The authors also
discuss the mutual regulation between the mother and child. One example they
present is the mutual regulation during feeding when the infant pauses between
“bursts of 4-10 sucks” and the mother’s intuitive response (jiggling the baby)
causes the infant to continue nursing. The explanation provided is that this
pause in feeding is a way for the infant to involve the mother in its patterns
and create a “turn-taking interaction” so that both mother and infant share
“rhythms and regulations” (130). The authors discuss current research on the
establishment of mother-infant attachment bonds, hypothesizing that the
“imitation of facial expressions and sharing of body rhythms “ is what leads to
a healthy connection. They conclude this chapter by pointing out the close
bidirectional relationship between attachment and intersubjectivity.
In Chapter Seven, the authors discuss the
effects of parental stress on their child during pregnancy, infancy and
childhood. They discuss studies which involve mothers who have experienced
stress or trauma, such as a natural disaster, and its impact on their children
during childhood. However, the authors point out that “the effect of maternal
antenatal stress on children, especially the state of fear, can be moderated by
a positive postnatal upbringing, and a secure bond with parents” (153). The
concluding chapter, Chapter Eight, provides a review of the major concepts
discussed throughout the book as well as a brief discussion on the impact of
interventions that can be implemented through different “ports of entry to the
parent-child system” in order to improve attachment bonds.
The Birth of Intersubjectivitytakes a unique perspective on intersubjectivity in the context of the
parent-child relationship. Ammaniti and Gallese combine research and theory
from psychoanalysis, developmental psychology and neuroscience in a logical and
cohesive manner. The vignettes provided throughout the book serve to illustrate
the different concepts discussed. The analyses of paintings in Chapters Six and
Seven demonstrate the mother-child relationship in a wonderful and creative
Ammaniti, M. & Gallese, V. (2014). The
birth of intersubjectivity: Psychodynamics, neurobiology and the self. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Hardcover, 236 pp. Bibliographical references and
Keywords: attachment, intersubjectivity,
neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology, motherhood
& Caby, F. (2014). The therapist’s treasure chest: Solution-oriented
tips and tricks for everyday practice.
by: Mona Zohny, Hunter College.
Caby specializes in pediatrics, systemic psychotherapy and child and adolescent
psychiatry and is currently a Professor of Social Pediatrics at The University
of Emden/Leer. Filip Caby is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and head of
the child and adolescent psychiatry clinic at Marienkrankenhaus Hospital in
Germany. In their book, The Therapist’s Treasure Chest, translated by
Jenny Piening, the authors have gathered a multitude of interventions designed
to be used with children, adolescents and their families in therapy. The
authors have gathered these techniques through their own training and experience
as well as the experience of other professionals. This book is a practical tool
designed to help therapists deal with a multitude of issues that come up in everyday
practice. The “tools help you make progress in your day-to-day work and to
solve psychological problems that have not yet become entrenched.” (56)
serves as an overview of both the theoretical framework that the authors use
and how to approach the therapeutic conversation. They take a systemic,
solution-oriented and resource-focused approach to therapy. This means that
they view both the client and therapist as part of a system in which the
behavior of each participant is influenced by that of the other. They are also
focused on helping clients recognize the possibility of many solutions and want
to help them discover their skills or “resources” in coming up with a solution.
The authors provide several examples of effective questioning techniques and
suggest the use of humor to help patients feel more comfortable and willing to
open up. They provide several case examples that help illustrate the concepts
in this section.
Two, “Interventions”, describes dozens of therapeutic techniques. Each
intervention follows the same format: idea, method, tips (in which the authors
offer creative variations of the technique), indications, contraindications
(when it doesn’t work) and the setting (individual, couple or family therapy).
Some techniques are designed to be used in the consulting room while others can
be implemented by the client at home. The authors provide detailed descriptions
of the purpose and application of each intervention along with case examples in
which the technique is successfully implemented. Some interventions involve drawing;
others involve the client externalizing a problem through acting it out with
puppets or imagining a conversation with the disorder or behavior problem.
Three, “Indications: What Works Best When?”, focuses on different disorders and
behavioral problems clients may have and lists the interventions (found in Part
Two) that can be used by therapists to help their clients find a solution. The
issues addressed here range from anxiety to sibling rivalry and from
intellectual disabilities to nail-biting. The disorders and behavioral problems
appear in alphabetical order. The authors provide a brief description of the
problem and then list the suggested interventions, followed by general
suggestions and/or a case example.
Four offers solutions to particularly challenging situations that a therapist
typically has to deal with. These situations range from expressions of
hopelessness from the client such as “Things are never going to improve!” (294)
to arguments in the consulting room. In each scenario, the authors provide a
list of helpful responses that a therapist can use to help the client deal with
his or her problem. They also provide brief explanations regarding the
scenarios in which each response would be most effective.
Therapist’s Treasure Chest is a valuable resource for therapists working with children and their families. The interventions in this book are both
creative and practical. The format of the book makes it easy for readers to
search for solutions to specific issues or browse through interventions to use
in their practice. The authors offer variations for each skill and encourage
readers to make adjustments in their own use of these techniques. The case
examples provided throughout the text help to illustrate how these
interventions can be implemented effectively.
& Caby, F. (2014). The therapist’s treasure chest: Solution-oriented tips
and tricks for everyday practice. New York: W. W.
Norton & Co.
Paperback, 345 pp. Select bibliography and index included.
psychotherapy, professional practice, clinical psychology, psychiatry, family
therapy, child and adolescent therapy.
J., 2013, An Insistence on life: Releasing fear of death to fully live.
Reviewed by: Mona Zohny, Hunter College
At some point in our lives, all humans are
forced to face the notion of death. An Insistence on Life: Releasing Fear of
Death to Fully Live is a collection of stories that demonstrates various
ways of dealing with death. The anecdotes in this book have been gathered and
relayed by Jane Hughes Gignoux, an ordained certified Celebrant who has spent
years studying healing and consciousness. She offers many workshops and courses
about death, which several of the stories in the book are derived from. This
book is ideal for anyone grappling with the concepts of life and death. In the
Preface, Gignoux states that “life and death are inextricably connected to one
another. Their dance is never ending, and the melody is pure love” (xvii).
The book consists of seventeen stories. Each
chapter begins with a different segment of poetry that sets the tone for the
story. Gignoux relays stories beginning from her experiences volunteering as a
play therapist in the 1980’s for HIV/AIDS pediatric patients at Harlem Hospital.
Some of these stories are about people accepting their own death while other
focus on the experiences of people coming to terms with the death of a loved
one. The title of the anthology was inspired by a friend of Gignoux who
described her experience at the memorial of a loved one, stating that her
friend’s house “’was filled with life. There was an insistence on that.”
In “The Missing Piece,” Gignoux tells the
story of Alice and Harold, a couple from New York. Harold fulfils a lifelong
dream as a lyricist by creating a cabaret show based on some of his favorite
pieces of American music from the early 20th century. Months later,
he is diagnosed with lung cancer. Ten years prior, Alice was also diagnosed
with cancer and after a year and a half of medical and spiritual treatment she
was declared cancer-free. Although Harold followed a very similar treatment
plan, he does not survive and passes away one year later. Alice struggled to
understand why she was able to defeat her cancer and her late husband was not.
After attending one of Gignoux’s workshops, “Exit Plan” For People Who Love
Life”, Alice has a realization that her husband was ready to make his “exit”
after his successful cabaret show since he had “manifested his one remaining
important dream and was ready to move on”. This helped her come to terms with
“Changing the Story” is about an infant,
Cecilia that was born in Harlem Hospital and living in the HIV/AIDS pediatric
ward with no family involvement. Cecilia’s doctor once mentions to Gignoux that
they refer to Cecilia as their “little baby with no personality”. Gignoux
replies that it could be that Cecilia hasn’t made up her mind about “staying”
and presents an analogy of arriving at a party where you do not know anyone and
debating about whether or not to enter or turn back. A few days later,
Cecilia’s vitals were unstable and the doctors manage to stabilize her but
within a few days her vitals went down again. Her doctor made the choice not to
intervene and “let [Cecilia] go” (45). Gignoux points out here that “insisting
on life” does not mean controlling it, and that life “has its own greater
wisdom” which must be respected.
“Community” is the story of a family coping
with the sudden death of their son, Greg, with the help of their friends and
loved ones. While the parents struggled to decide on a burial procedure, the
community worked together to aid in preventing the house from being
overwhelmned with guests as well as contacting funeral homes and retrieving the
official death certificate. This reduced the anxiety of Greg’s parents and
enabled them to have an uplifting memorial to celebrate their late son’s life.
Throughout the book, one of the major themes
is the idea that releasing the fear of death does not necessarily mean that one
can control it. Gignoux points out that one of the “…challenge[s] we all
encounter in the face of death is the reality that there is absolutely nothing
anyone can do to change it.” (48). The acceptance of this statement by people
throughout each of these stories is directly related to the transformation to a
more peaceful state of mind.
An Insistence on Life is
an inspirational anthology of moving and poignant stories that portray the
acceptance of death as a way to embrace life. The stories cover a range of
contexts in which death must be faced and provide alternative ways of doing so.
The people in these stories all come from unique backgrounds but share the
desire to embrace both life and death in order to live more fulfilling lives.
Gignoux, J., (2013). An Insistence on Life:
Releasing fear of death to fully live. New York: FoulkeTale Publishing.
Paperback, 117 pp. No bibliographical references included.
Keywords: life, death, collection
Rechtschaffen, D. (2014). The Way of Mindful Education.
Reviewed by: Alexa D’Angelo, Hunter College
" 'Tis in ourselves that we are thus and thus.
Our bodies are our gardens in which our wills
(William Shakespeare, Othello)
a time of increased state testing and common-core chaos, Daniel Rechtschaffen
shares an alternative approach to education. The Way of Mindful Education joins the mindfulness movement
currently taking place across the globe, emphasizing the importance of mindful
exercises, for both educators and students. Rechtschaffen claims that we expect
high levels of attention and focus from students, but do not teach children how to focus (10). It is this oversight
that the book attempts to correct. The
Way of Mindful Education highlights the need for mindful education, while
offering sample curricula and exercises for a mindful classroom. Rechtschaffen
has supplied all the tools a teacher would need to begin to apply to her/his
classroom setting, and cultivate a mindful learning experience. This book is
written primarily for educators, however anyone working with children could
benefit from its teachings.
Rechtschaffen begins by illustrating the importance and effectiveness of
mindfulness on the human brain. Mindfulness, allows our brains to react in a
controlled and healthy manner, rather than in a “default manner, which often is
a knee-jerk reptilian reaction”(33). He explains how students improve in
attention based tasks, through mindfulness (34). It is this mindful attention
that could potentially change the way in which children absorb information and
recognizes that a mindful education is entirely dependent on the mindfulness of
teachers. In other words, teachers must practice what they preach! Part II asks
teachers to focus on themselves and increase their own mindfulness through
exercises of stillness and quiet retreats(41). The author offers a short
anecdote in support of this idea describing a mother, bringing her son to
Mahatma Gandhi and asking him to tell her son not to eat so many sweets. Gandhi
tells the woman to bring her son back in two weeks. When they return Gandhi
tells the boy about the harmfulness of eating too many sweets. Why did he make
them wait two weeks? Because he was, at the time, eating too many sweets
himself (46). With this said, the book asks teachers to take time to focus
their attention inward in the hope of developing a mindful attitude, which they
will inevitably pass onto their students (41). Through the cultivation of
embodiment, attention, heartfulness, interconnectedness and emotional
intelligence, teachers can better identify what is needed to creative a
positive, mindful classroom (86). These tools could prove useful not only for
the wellbeing of one’s student’s, but for the well-being and consciousness of
teachers have explored and expanded their own mindfulness, they can introduce
their classroom to mindful teaching. Part II addresses the application of
mindfulness into the classroom. One section refers to “working with diversity
and inclusion”, and emphasizes that mindfulness techniques must be presented
with cultural knowledge in order for them to be accepted and understood by
students of differing cultural backgrounds(107). This section, while brief,
illustrates that the multidimensional effects mindful education could contribute
to students of differing socioeconomic backgrounds. This section is an
important tool that could potentially help with the socioeconomic disparities
among young students (108). The practice of mindful education could also help
with biases teachers hold, and allow for open dialogue among student’s coming
from difficult neighborhoods and areas.
IV offers a myriad of different exercises for teachers to implement in their
classrooms in the hopes of creating a mindful and productive learning environment.
The exercises range from stillness practice, to journal entries and dialogue
prompts, along with drawing and writing activities (161). These simple
activities are used to introduce mindful playing, eating, moving, breathing
etc., in a manner that is engaging and exciting for students. One example
offered in Part IV, asks students to scan the sensations of their body and
focus their awareness on how they are feeling (159). The task of looking inward
can generate a great deal of inner calm and mindful focus. This exercise can be
done with all different age groups by changing the duration of the exercise and
the manner in which it is presented. Part IV also offers sample scripts to
guide teachers through their introduction of mindful exercises to students of
varying grades (184).
The Way of Mindful Education encourages
educators to improve their classroom experience using the various tools and
exercises provided. It not only allows teachers to recognize an increasing need
for mindful education, but also offers comprehensive and attainable methods as
to how to go about introducing mindful education to their students. This book
could greatly improve the academic experiences of children of all ages and
Rechtschaffen, D. (2014). The Way
of Mindful Education. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Hardcover, 318 pp., Index,
Resources, References included.
Keywords: Mindful, Education,
Mindfulness Movement, Teachers, Students, Attention
Rinpoche, A. & Zangmo, A.C. (2013). The Tibetan Yoga of Breath.
Reviewed by: Alexa D’Angelo, Hunter College
Rinpoche and Allison Choying Zangmo collaborate on The Tibetan Yoga of Breath, offering insight and experience in
relation to the importance of the breath. Rinpoche and Zangmo begin by offering
examples of the “otherworldly” abilities of the great Yantra, Yogi masters,
while emphasizing that their power stems from breathing techniques, and control
of the breath (xii). The book focuses heavily on the positive effects of yogic
breathing on physical, mental and emotional health. It also touches upon the
negative effects of improper breathing on our health, while offering
suggestions to change our pattern of breathing. While this book is written to
benefit and guide those interested in yogic breathing, it could easily generate
an interest in the topic for a wider audience. The Tibetan Yoga of Breath, offers breathing techniques that require no additional time, only inward attention during one’s daily routine.
negative impact of improper breathing is clearly outlined in the first few
chapters of the book. The reader is presented with two types of breathing:
thoracic and abdominal (6). Thoracic breathing is described as taking place in
the upper lungs, while abdominal breathing, takes place in the lower lungs and
abdomen. These two types of breathing absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide
at different efficiency rates (7). While abdominal breathing exchanges oxygen
and carbon dioxide in a manner that is highly productive and efficient,
thoracic breathing (or shallow breathing) does not make this exchange as
efficiently. An abundance of thoracic breathing can negatively impact the process
of absorbing oxygen, and our pH balance, along with our cell functioning (8).
We are offered a scientific argument, backed by Western medicine, as to why we
should consider the application of yogic breathing in our daily lives. These
chapters do an excellent job of weaving the holistic, breathing methods of the
Tibetan Yogi masters, with the world of Western medicine and science.
breathing can offer peace of mind, through the control of the breath. The book
illustrates how one is capable of responding with less agitation to external
stimuli, through a conscious, inward focus on the breath during times of
disorder or conflict. By slowing the breathing, and subsequently taking fewer,
deeper breaths, the flow of air can calm the mind in those few breaths. The
first chapter offers a metaphor that embodies the idea of how mindful breathing
and one’s emotional state coexist, “Each time a gust of wind blows over the
ocean, ripples and waves cause movement and agitation on the water’s surface.
However, when the air is calm, so is the water”(17). This metaphor allows the
reader to visualize yogic breathing as a method of relaxation for the mind and
book goes on to confront neuroses, anxiety and depression. Stating that the
Yoga of Breath can reduce these experiences over time. Buddhism acknowledges
the neurotic mind as a product of self-attachment, rather than uncontrolled
thoughts and emotions. In other words, the Buddhists believe that neuroses are
characterized by a preoccupation with the self, along with a lack of concern
and care for others (20). However, Buddhists also believe in the inherent
goodness of all people, implying that the state of neurosis is not necessarily
The key to mental and emotional health,
according to The Tibetan Yoga of Breath, is
the balance of the five elements (Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Space). An
imbalance of one of these elements will negatively affect the individual. The
authors explain the positive effects of wind energy on anxiety, which they
explain as an imbalance of the wind element stimulating the sympathetic nervous
system (46). Fewer breaths, as learned by wind energy training, can ease the
manifestation of anxiety and consequently the physical symptoms that accompany
anxiety. The power of the breath also holds true for depression, which can be
positively impacted by conscious or voluntary breathing (47). While the
physical effects of yogic breathing have been scientifically supported by
Western medicine, as is stated throughout this book, the impact of yogic
breathing on the mental and emotional processes remain unproven by Western
science. However, the book offers empirical evidence from many Yantra yogis
among others, in support of their claim.
The second half of the book offers clear
instructions as to how to practice wind-training techniques. We are given a
step-by-step guide to the Nine Cycles of the Breath, accompanied by several
images to enhance our understanding of the practice (64-65,71). With these
instructions and visuals, a deeper understanding of the practice is offered.
This half of the book has several exercises that endeavor to enhance the
readers understanding and experience with the breath. Part II is entirely
composed of the application of the breath to life’s varying circumstances. The
authors attempt to ease the fear of impermanence, and suffering, along with the
cultivation of healing and kindness. Part II aptly applies the breathing
techniques to everyday life in a manner that is comprehensive and manageable.
The Tibetan Yoga of Breath, effectively and clearly outlines the positive
effects of yogic breathing on our overall health and wellbeing. It does so
through both a holistic and Western lens, utilizing the experiences of the
Yantra, Yogi masters, along with science. Through the examples and exercises,
the book allows us to experience the effects of the controlled or elongated
breath while reading about their endless effects on our mind, body and
A. & Zangmo, A.C. (2013). The Tibetan
Yoga of Breath. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Paperback, 132 pp., References and suggested further reading included.
Keywords: Yoga, Breathing, Mindfulness, Healing, Body,
Ruden, R.A. (2011). When the Past is Always Present.
Reviewed by: Alexa D’Angelo, Hunter College
Ronald A. Ruden offers biological explanations and therapeutic techniques
for the treatment of traumatization in When
the Past is Always Present.
He expounds at length on the biological
mechanisms that occur during the process of trauma encoding, and later offers
techniques to reverse the trauma and consequently bring balance to the brain
and emotions. This book is intended for therapists, as well as those suffering
from trauma and looking to self-administer helpful, healing techniques.
Ruden begins his book by introducing a third pillar to the already
existing psychological treatments: psychotherapy, and psychopharmacology. He
proposes psychosensory therapy, as a method for treating traumatization (5).
Emphasizing the utilization of human touch, psychosensory therapy uses the
emotion linked to the trauma, in conjunction with a strategic application of
human touch, to reverse the cognitive imbalance resulting from the
traumatization (5). Psychosensory techniques treat the traumatization as a
mind-body interaction rather than solely focusing on the mind and brain.
Two addresses the role emotions play in our daily lives, along with the role of
emotions in trauma. Ruden introduces three different scenarios through which we
experience emotions. He categorizes these groups as, reactive, routine, and
reflective (9). Ruden identifies reactive emotions as our instinctive emotions
that exist alongside our most primitive needs such as, food, safety and sex.
These emotions are controlled by our limbic system and are primarily concerned
with our survival (23). These emotions are also the mechanism through which we
evaluate a potential threat, in other words, our fight or flight mechanism. The
second emotional grouping is our routine emotions (10). These are quite simply
our everyday emotions. Ruden explains that we can experience approximately
thirty emotions a day. These emotions are not traumatizing or permanent but are
passing emotions throughout the course of the day (10). The third category of
emotions is identified as our reflective emotions. He identifies our reflective
emotions as conscious emotions that originate in our pre-frontal lobe. He
explains that only reactive and traumatic emotions can be encoded and thus
traumatize an individual.
Chapter Five, Ruden explains how a traumatic emotional response is encoded in
an individual brain (41). He begins by defining the “four conditions that need
to be met for an event to be encoded as a traumatic memory”. The first is
identified as an event that elicits emotion (41). This first condition, as
previously mentioned, can be either a reactive or a reflective emotion. The
next cited condition refers to the meaning attached to the event. In other
words, the event must hold a specific meaning to the individual experiencing it
(43). The brains chemical “landscape” characterizes the third condition (45).
Ruden expounds further about the chemical “landscape” of the brain throughout
the chapter. The fourth condition, which is identified as an important aspect
of the traumatization of an emotional event, is the perception of
inescapability (48). In order for the event to encode as a trauma, the
individual will experience the event as imminent. Along with these four
conditions, Ruden identifies an increase in norepinephrine and cortisol as
indicative of a traumatization.
Chapter Six offers an explanation of the
aftermath and possible manifestations of trauma. Ruden identifies phobias,
panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and several other psychological
issues, as possible consequences of a traumatic event (61). He continues,
explaining that an individual need not experience a trauma first hand in order
for it to encode as traumatization (95). One can experience a trauma simply by
hearing about a trauma, thus experiencing its effects second-hand and creating
a traumatic imbalance in the brain as a consequence.
proposes “Havening” as a method to treat traumatization through the utilization
of human touch and the re-exposure of a traumatically encoded emotion (95).
This combination can help alleviate the trauma as it exists as an imbalance in
the brain. Ruden explains the biological process of the reversal of the
traumatization in Chapter Eight. Chapter Eight also includes a helpful guide to
Havening, which could be easily applied by a therapist (109). However, if one
is reading the book in the hopes of “Self-Havening”, Ruden has supplied a guide
that does not require the assistance of another individual (113). These tools
could prove very useful for an individual struggling with a traumatizing event.
fills the remainder of the book with anecdotal examples of trauma, along with
several appendices intended to guide therapists though their use of
psychosensory trauma techniques. Ruden’s appendices offer suggestions for
therapists, along with circumstantial specifics relative to differing issues a
therapist may be working with.
When the Past is Always Present offers
an extensive amount of information on the causation and manifestation of
trauma. Ruden has created a technical guide to understanding the mechanisms of
trauma, along with a manual of psychosensory techniques. Through his many
examples and step-by step instructions, one can feasibly perform psychosensory
techniques on his/her patients, as well as self-administered havening
techniques. Ruden’s text could also prove useful as a resource for students
looking for a comprehensive explanation of the biological mechanisms that
accompany an encoded trauma, as well as a window into possible trauma
Ruden, R.A. (2011). When the Past
is Always Present.New York: Routledge.
Hardcover, 210pp. Index Included.
Keywords: Trauma, Psychosensory,
Touch, Therapy, Traumatization.
Stein, A. (2014). Cupid’s Knife: Women’s Anger and Agency in Violent
Reviewed by: Alexa D’Angelo, Hunter College
"You fit into me - Like a Hook into an Eye - A fishhook - An open eye." (Margaret Atwood, Power Politics)
Stein explores the nature of women in abusive relationships in Cupid’s Knife: Women’s Anger and Agency in
Violent Relationships. Despite the title, Stein expounds upon emotional,
verbal and physical abuse in relationships, focusing her lens on women’s power
and aggression in violent, romantic relationships. Through her work with a
patient (Phoebe), Stein explores themes of attachment, love, debasement,
control and anger in relation to women in violent relationships (31). This book
is written for the benefit of a professional working with or studying domestic
violence and/or toxic relationships, including, but not limited to, psychoanalysts,
psychotherapists, and students.
makes it a point to focus on women in volatile relationships, rather than
attempting to offer anger management to abusive men, claiming that women have
been continuously overlooked with respect to the topic (2). She begins her
lengthy introduction by offering anecdotal examples, highlighting the differing
manifestations of early trauma in later life, for both genders. Stein explains
that while men often repeat childhood trauma through repeated actions or behaviors
that diffuse early trauma, women confront early trauma by recreating their role
of victim, through their romantic relationships (6). Stein focuses
predominantly on the passivity of abused women, while simultaneously attempting
to understand women’s suppressed anger in oppressed relationships.
While John Gottman identified “contempt”
as a key ingredient in the inevitable destruction of a relationship, Abby Stein
addresses the “utility of contempt” in a somewhat different manner (29). Stein
recognizes that women in violent relationships struggle to access their
aggression and power when faced with domestic abuse (31). Women are often only
able to access their inner aggression after a lover perpetrates violence upon them. However, women can sometimes utilize
their anger “when long dissociated contempt finally explode(s)”, eliciting
their emotional reaction (31).
four discusses “masochism as medium”, delving into questions of masochism and
learned helplessness (77). Like Seligman and Maier’s dogs, Stein recognizes a
pattern of learned helplessness among women involved in recurring romantic
relationships, characterized by violence and passivity. Much like the dogs who
were not able to cease their electric shocks, and were consequently uninspired
to experiment with jumping over the shuttle-box barrier, women who have been
repeatedly abused in relationships appear to stagnate in their abusive
environment (78-79). Stein identifies this lack of flight as a product of
women’s attachment rather than self-inflicted pain, otherwise known as
“masochism”. Furthermore, Stein offers a biological explanation for the pattern
of women clinging to abusive partners, by stating that, “the female tendency to
befriend those who would do us harm, (can be blamed) on the estrogen
potentiated neuromodulator oxytocin”(83). Oxytocin accounts for the female
impulse that inspires women to attach to their threat as potential protection,
rather than escape the threat (as men do)(83). This idea offers a biological
explanation for the culturally acknowledged “bad boy” appeal, which many women
seem to respond to. Consequently, as women experience frequent abuse from
partners, they become increasingly less likely to escape, so the abuse
refers to her client, Phoebe, throughout the book, as an example of a woman
perpetually stuck in abusive relationships, and unable to access her inner
aggression and anger (2). Phoebe’s controlling relationship, is characterized
by manipulation, control, one-sided trust, and promiscuity, or as Phoebe calls
it, “man-whoring”(31). Phoebe is placed into an important cultural context as
Stein identifies her “post-feminist” validations, using cultural phrases like
“manning up”, and “friends with benefits” as reasoning for remaining in an
abusive relationship (2). Phoebe uses these seemingly feminist reasonings to
validate her transference of blame from her abuser onto herself. Through
Stein’s depiction of Phoebe, the reader gets an inside look at the dysfunction
that surrounds an abusive relationship. Phoebe’s story elicits as much
frustration as it does sympathy from the reader. Stein allows us to see exactly
how difficult it is for women to remove themselves from toxic and dangerous
romantic relationships, through several examples from her clinical practice.
boldly sheds light and insight relative to the topic of women’s agency (or lack
thereof) in abusive relationships. Through her integration and understanding of
childhood trauma, cultural context, theories of helplessness (and helpfulness),
and masochism, we are offered a schema for understanding abusive, romantic
Stein, A. (2014). Cupid’s Knife:
Women’s Anger and Agency in Violent Relationships. New York: Routledge.
Paperback. pp.186. Index and
Keywords: Psychoanalytic, Women,
Relationships, Domestic Violence, Abuse, Anger, Helplessness.
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