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Number 1: Spring 2008

Review: Speaking from the Belly

Sylvia Cohen

However interspaced with the narratives are theoretical discussions which I found difficult to evaluate in terms of the readership of the book. The very aspect of the book which is so delightful makes for a difficulty in how to pitch the theory. Although some of the discussion locates itself around fairly sophisticated discussion–that of transferential work for instance–it is written as if for a lay reader with an explanation of fairly fundamental concepts. This may of course be an attempt to bridge a readership which is divided in terms of its theoretical knowledge, and in that sense it is probably reasonably successful, if a little confusing at times. There are, though, two things within the theoretical sphere which I want to address. One is the notion of opposing ‘…a human intervention’ to a ‘primarily analytic one’ as if the two are mutually exclusive.(p108) Perhaps this was not exactly the intention, but nonetheless, there is no discussion of the possibility that both kinds of intervention might be human, or that what the writer calls ‘human’ might actually be an analytic act.

The issue of asking patients’ permission to use their material is quite correctly problematised, but it could have been explored just a little further. Haynes asks, ‘whose permission is being requested?’ (p119) And then goes on to concretise the question. Although she does indeed continue the discussion in terms of possible transferential ramifications, the initial question might be more cogent psychoanalytically if it asked who we think is responding when a patient gives or withholds permission, and who we (or they) think they are responding to.

These are minor quibbles though. It is refreshing to read a psychoanalytic book with an imaginatively unusual structure written in a clear, open style which invites the reader into the narrative with great generosity.