Book Review of “Demons in the Consulting Room: Echoes of Genocide, Slavery and Extreme Trauma in Psychoanalytic Practice edited by Adrienne Harris, Margery Kalb, and Susan Klebanoff. London and New York: Routledge, 2017, 224 pp.

by Jane Hanenberg

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

“In every nursery there are ghosts. They are the visitors from the unremembered past of the parents; the uninvited guests at the christening. The intruders from the past have taken up residence in the nursery, claiming tradition and rights of ownership. While no one has issued an invitation, the ghosts take up residence and conduct the rehearsal of the family tragedy from a tattered script.”—Fraiberg, S., Adelson, & E. Shapiro, V., 1975, p. 387-8.

Demons in the Consulting Room: Echoes of Genocide, Slavery and Extreme Trauma in Psychoanalytic Practice emerged from the work of a consultation group and their project to understand the presence of the transmission of trauma through the analytic relationship. In therapeutic relations, trauma and its sequelae do not diminish over time. The effects of the inheritance of intergenerational and historical trauma are palpable but often indescribable. They are at once present and unknown. Like the ghosts in the nursery, trauma endures, and it creates a configuration akin to a generational and historical repetition compulsion. These are the qualities of the demons which this book investigates.

Hans Loewald (1960) famously characterized the work of analysis as the work of turning “ghosts into ancestors.” In these chapters, ghosts come alive to claim “the blood of recognition.” In their task to deepen their understanding of this phenomena, the editors and writers devote the first half of their book to clinical descriptions of psychoanalytic work with patients whose lives are affected by severe trauma. The second portion consists of essays which address the breaches of historical and cultural memory in the face of such trauma. These narratives, which contribute social as well as personal meanings to the volume, both mirror and magnify the clinical portion of the book. All of the contributions are both deeply affecting and personally meaningful. Each chapter presents an opportunity to witness the daunting and complex endeavors of co-existing with demons and ghosts, be it through transference or the recognition of a disavowed history <…>

American Imago, 76(2), 274-278, Summer 2019.

Link to Online Publication [the fulltext of review as well as the book are available in the library].

About the Author

Jane Hanenberg, EdD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst at Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, where she has regularly taught classes about dreams and child development. She has presented and published papers about adoption fantasies in adolescence, the development of female adolescence as it is represented in the literature of young adults, and the fairy tale as a contemporary developmental metaphor. She is a parttime Lecturer in psychiatry (psychology) at Harvard Medical School, where she provides training and supervision to interns.

Previous Posts:

Paola M. Contreras, PsyD (2019). Working with the Human Trafficking Survivor: What Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Medical Professionals Need to Know. In Working with the Human Trafficking Survivor: What Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Medical Professionals Need to Know, edited by Mary C. Burke. Routledge, pp. 61-80.

Rodrigo Barahona, PsyaD (2019). Unlaid Ghosts: A Discussion Of Maria Grazia Oldoini’s “Abusive Relations and Traumatic Development: Marginal Notes on a Clinical Case”.
 Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 88:2, 277-295.

Sarah L. Lusk, PhD (2019). A Psychoanalytic Approach to the Complexity of Understanding and Treating Patients with ADHD Beyond Childhood: The Experiences of Two Psychoanalytic Candidates. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 72:1, 61-70.

Anthony D. Bram, PhD, ABAP, FABP (2019). The Subjective Impact of Separation and Divorce on a Latency-Aged Child and His Analysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 72:24-32.

Anna Ornstein, MD (2019). Six Million and One: a documentary. In Cinematic Reflections on the Legacy of the Holocaust: Psychoanalytic Perspectives, edited by Diana Diamond and Bruce Sklarew. Routledge, p. 40-50.

Click here to see a full archive of featured papers. All articles can be requested from the library.