Women’s Bodies in Psychoanalysis by Rosemary Balsam. 2012, New York: Routledge Reviewed by Arlene Kramer Richards
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But Women’s Bodies in Psychoanalysis has a cover that is a perfect metaphor for the contents within. An old fashioned, actually medieval looking letter O frames a pregnant young woman in medieval dress walking in the belly forward stance and resting one arm on her swollen abdomen. This is the body Balsam is talking about in the book. Her idea that the little girl envies her pregnant mother’s body is developed and illustrated with clinical material throughout. Her homage to Freud and her respect for more modern female psychoanalysts’ ideas are apparent in every chapter.
While she has clearly read and respected the relationalists, for example, she denies the claim that everything in the therapeutic relationship is created between therapist and patient equally. Her anecdotes of therapy uniformly illustrate what the patient brings to the session. None show what the therapist brings. It is a strong belief that parental attitudes and especially parental criticism and denigration are pathogenic. Observation of parental bodies is very important in these cases as well. And attention to the effect of parental bodies on development is the major contribution of this author and this book.
Her contribution to the mosaic of theory of female development is buttressed by this text. And her modest refusal to elevate it to the level of a comprehensive theory is nuanced and charming.
Arlene Kramer Richards