The Stuff of Dreams: Fantasy, Anxiety and Psychoanalysis, Kirsty Hall, London: Karnac. ISBN 978-1-85575-496-6

‘Our Boys Go In’–The Sun carried a headline as the war in the Falklands finally began. I was a teenage boy at the time living in former Yugoslavia and of so many things that I remember about that time one stands out–I was a real Anglophile within a regime that despised the old empires. So, in the conversations about world events I was on the side of Britain–Thatcher’s Britain that is. An uncle of mine found this a challenge and we argued for a bit–he put forward all the familiar arguments that you have heard against that old British war and I argued in favour of it. Then again, I was only a kid.

Well, the reason I told you all of this even though my task is to review Kirsty’s new book is just good old free association. The first time I read the book I felt like shouting, ‘Yes, yes. Our Boys Go In.’, meaning that after a ghastly proliferation of countertransference-driven drivel that is being published in the fields of counselling/psychotherapy/psychoanalysis it is refreshing to read something that does not shy away from thought. Something educated. Something not so Lacanian that you cannot follow the argument unless you really enjoy it. A good introduction to the debates between the different schools.

Then I took a closer look at The Stuff of Dreams: Fantasy, Anxiety and Psychoanalysis and started having problems with it. There are many and I have to limit myself to one or two and hope that the metonymic slippage works for the reader too in engaging with this. So let’s see: the word “hall” which Kirsty herself uses to clarify how distinctions in meaning come to constitute a language. It also happens to be Kirsty’s surname and distinguishes her from other people. (p.41-42) My link is All, Hall, Whole, Hole. To some of us our specificity matters and it is naïve to claim, as Hall does, that when a structure has been put in place you can supplement words without affecting the meaning. The imaginary scenarios in italics at the beginning of each chapter are another case in point. The singularity of each person is constitutive unless you really believe that they are all the same when you turn off the lights, that is once they have been diagnosed or ‘recognised’ as hysterics, obsessionals, perverts and psychotics. Few people are that promiscuous. It is even more naïve to assume that the presence of ‘meaning’ is of prime importance to the enterprise of psychotherapy. I dare say it is even dangerous as Baudillard might put it.