"Soul Murder Revisited" by Leonard Shengold

Soul Murder Revisited Thoughts about Therapy, Hate, Love, and Memory Leonard Shengold

Publication date:
10 Sep 2000
Yale University Press
340 pages: 203 x 133mm


Since the publication of Dr. Leonard Shengold’s highly acclaimed book Soul Murder in 1989, issues of child abuse have become the subject of much public debate. Now Dr. Shengold offers his latest reflections on the circumstances in which the willful abuse and neglect of children arises and on the consequences of this abuse, providing compelling examples from literature and from clinical material.

Dr. Shengold describes various types of child abuse as well as techniques of adaptation and denial by soul murder victims. He explores the psychopathology of soul murder, addressing such issues as instinctual drives, aggression and sexuality, love, and narcissism. In a chapter on sadomasochism, he relates the story of Algernon Swinburne—who may have been a victim of soul murder—and he tells about Elizabeth Bishop, who, like Swinburne, has been able to use artistic creativity to transcend the damage sustained by early childhood trauma. Finally he offers suggestions about therapy for the abused and neglected, emphasizing the need to restore the power to care about and love others in order to ameliorate soul murder’s narcissistically regressive effects.

"No one writes about the dark side of the psyche the way Dr. Shengold does. The description of the unconscious of his subjects is extraordinary."?Alexandra Harrison, Boston Institute of Psychoanalysis

?This book should be mandated reading for all of us concerned with the relationship between childhood traumata and adult lifetime functioning in both its personal impact on individual lives and its formative role in some of our greatest cultural expressions.??Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D., training and supervising analyst, San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, and professor emeritus and former chair, department of psychiatry, University of California San Francisco, School of Medicine

"Leonard Shengold offers what may be the capstone to an impressively accumulating series of books on the nature and vicissitudes of the severe traumatization of children at the hands of caretaking adults as discerned in the interplay between clinical examples drawn from his lifetime psychoanalytic practice and instances culled from the lives and creative works of a host of major novelists and poets (some of the true geniuses of the western literary world). This is a broad interface that Shengold negotiates with consummate skill and knowledge. It should be mandated reading for all of us concerned with the relationship between childhood traumata and adult lifetime functioning in both its personal impact on individual lives and its formative role in some of our greatest cultural expressions."?Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D., Training and Supervising Analyst, San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, and Professor Emeritus and Former Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine

?With this volume Shengold ?revisits? his discussion of child abuse begun in Soul Murder. Like the earlier volume, this one is unique in a number of ways. . . . [This] book should appeal to a variety of readers outside of medicine and psychology. Indeed, those unschooled in psychoanalytics may think they have ingested more literary analysis than psychology and will find Shengold?s interpretations, inferences, and language usage provocative.??Choice

?Chapters on Swinburne, Proust, and Elizabeth Bishop and discussion of Oedipus, Kipling, ring symbolism, and narcissism will interest readers who enjoy applications of psychoanalysis to literature.??Library Journal

"If the last book you read on psychology was written by Freud or Jung, you ought to check in with Shengold, one of the unsung pioneers."?Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[Soul Murder] is a much-needed antidote, a book that offers quiet but richly layered meditations on the causes and consequences of early damage. . . . This titular sequel combines clinical observations and reflections on biography, literature and art to explore the topography and the treatment of the abused self without psychopolitical polemics. . . . Shengold?s sensitivity and compassionate intelligence are evident on every page. . . . In acknowledging the uncertainties and ambiguities of his somber subject, Shengold gives us necessary insights into the origins and permutations of pain, and suggests something of the possibilities and the difficult fascination of psychoanalytic work."?Eva Hoffman, New York Times Book Review

?What distinguishes Shengold?s work from that of others who have staked out this field of interest is his judiciousness, his lack of dogmatism, his sensitive awareness of the nuances of individual development, and, not least, his elegant, lucid, and persuasive literary style. . . . Soul Murder Revisited is a ringing testament to the continuing value of classical psychoanalytic principles in both clinical and extraclinical approaches to the understanding of human development, behavior, and creative achievement. Shengold?s capacity for empathy and his ability to translate clinical observations into theoretical constructs are richly demonstrated in this work. It is strongly recommended to all who care about such matters.??Aaron H. Esman, Psychoanalytic Quarterly

"Shengold has added significantly to our understanding of child abuse by weaving a rich tapestry of his literary explorations and profound clinical observations as a practicing psychoanalyst. In this fascinating volume, the author fully engages the reader in an illuminating, provocative translation of how violent, depricational experiences for long periods of childhood are evident in the inner lives, the writings and the behaviors of adults. Shengold, a creative scholar and expert psychoanalytical clinician, is also a superb writer and an imaginative, inclusive thinker."?Albert Solnit, Sterling Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics and Psychiatry and Senior Research Scientist at the Yale School of Medicine and Child Study Center