- The Symptom Is Not the Whole Story: Psychoanalysis for the Non-Psychoanalyst
"My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky."—William Wordsworth
Daniel Araoz's book is a poignant love story told in a pragmatic way. In straightforward, comprehensible language, Araoz conveys his passionate belief in the value of psychoanalytic thinking, particularly in understanding the historical and metaphorical meaning of symptoms. Dismayed by the mystique and misinformation surrounding psychoanalysis, Araoz firmly believes that a basic understanding of psychoanalytic principles can greatly enhance the work of mental health workers and counselors who, thus far, may have been trained only in symptom eradication. Aware that some will accuse him of sacrilege, Araoz sets out three main objectives for his book: (1) to demystify the unconscious; (2) to explain the basic tenets of psychoanalysis; and (3) to make these applicable both to the average (nonanalytically trained) therapist as well as to lay people.
Born in Argentina in the 1950s, Araoz lived in an era and a culture when people from all walks of life read and discussed psychoanalysis. He believes that understanding psychoanalytic principles is the right of everyone and provides a "new way of being in the world . . . a method of self-transformation, growth, and enrichment" (185). Becoming familiar with unconscious feelings allows people to perceive the world more accurately and to develop more authentic relationships. Clinically, if a patient and therapist resolve a problem without considering its unconscious roots, it is likely to recur in another form.
Araoz writes in a comfortable, down-to-earth, conversational manner, revealing himself as a warm, principled, intelligent man. His nonproprietary approach to psychoanalytic knowledge suggests an open, generous spirit. He wants therapists to have the skills to help as many people as possible and does not appear threatened by expanding the profession. He also demonstrates a flexible approach to therapy. Therapists should "be inquisitive without being intrusive" (14) and "suggest" to (59) or "invite" [End Page 587] (61) their patients to consider an idea, rather than being dogmatic. At the same time, Araoz holds firm to fundamental beliefs. He repeatedly asserts that therapists must not attempt "second level" or "deep" analysis (xxii) without psychoanalytic training and having undergone their own analyses. Therapists must also continually recognize their countertransferences. He accepts individual differences in therapists' styles, as long as core traits of empathy, respect, and authenticity are present.
One of this book's great strengths is Araoz's self-awareness and willingness to disclose his own feelings. From his insight into his transferential reaction to an unfamiliar male dental assistant to his explorations of his multiple anxieties when meeting with an affluent, possibly suicidal new patient, Araoz's exposure of his human vulnerabilities provides valuable role modeling for the reader.
Araoz divides his book into two sections: "The Fundamentals" and "Points of Clarification." The first section starts by asking the very practical question, "How Can You Use Psychoanalysis?" and then proceeds to cover key topics including the unconscious, the structures of the mind, defenses, anxiety, and transference. The second section contains two chapters on essentials in technique ("The Working Alliance, Interpretation, and Resistance" and "Acting Out and Working Through") and a miscellany of other topics including "Philosophy and Metapsychology" and "Psychoanalysis and the Good Life."
Araoz's explanations of the unconscious, drives, the repetition compulsion, defenses, transference, countertransference, resistance, acting out, working through, and couples therapy are generally well written and show extensive knowledge. His definitions of the id, ego, and superego and his exposition of the relations among conflicts, anxiety, and defenses are, for the most part, well articulated and comprehensible. Araoz's discussions are further enriched by numerous clinical examples and practical suggestions. Interspersed with theoretical explanations are questions such as "What does this mean in practice?" (25, 194) and "What is the practical use for you of all this?" (207), which return the discussion to a functional level. Chapter summaries also help clarify the most salient points.
Despite Araoz's clarity in presenting many fundamental psychoanalytic concepts, his...