Entering Night Country Psychoanalytic Reflections on Loss and Resilience
None of us will escape the experience of personal loss, illness, aging, or mortality. Yet, psychoanalysis seems to shy away from a discussion of these core human experiences. Existential vulnerability is painful and we all avoid this awareness in different ways. However, when analysts fail to explore the topic of mortality, their own and their patients, they may foreclose an important exploration and short-change patient and therapist. Entering Night Country focuses on the existential condition, and explores how it penetrates professional lives, analytic work, and theoretical formulations.
Each chapter explores this topic, shifting the lens from analytic process, to include theoretical assumptions, and professional communities. Stephanie Brody shows how the analytic process is a journey, no less profound than the epic journeys depicted in the classic literature of Homer and repeated in the patient’s own heroic and painful stories. Weaving literary references into the clinical experience of psychoanalysis, Brody reveals the transformative power of the analytic process for the patient and for the analyst. By relating the ancient past to our current struggles, psychoanalyst and patient together are guided to a destination, a life of meaning in the universe of possibilities.
Clinical vignettes and personal reflections intersect with motifs from the epic poems and fantasy fiction, where the despair of loss and trauma do not extinguish the wish for change and the search for intimacy. Entering Night Country highlights the common themes that arise for patient and analyst as any person entering an unknown territory. It is intended for psychoanalysts, psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapists, and mental health clinicians. It will also be accessible to those outside the clinical profession, even to individuals who have little understanding of psychoanalysis.
Introduction. The Subtle Art of Psychoanalysis. Pearl Fishers. On the Edge. The Oldest Stories in the World. The Other Third. Brunelleschi's Dome. Entering Night Country. Termination. Omnipotent Illusion. The Immortal Wound
Psychoanalysis is a voyage through paradoxical, transitional space, real and unreal, personal and professional, serious and playful, hyper-real and make believe, exhilarating and mournful. In this extraordinarily well-written and deeply moving book, Stephanie Brody guides the reader on a feelingful and evocative journey through liminal psychoanalytic space searching for the pearls of change and meaning and pausing long enough to take in the poignancy of each existential moment of vulnerability and loss. - Lewis Aron, Ph.D. is director, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis
This is an unusual and deeply rewarding book. Although psychoanalysis was, in a sense, founded on myth (Oedipus) and on narratives (free association) Stephanie Brody takes us on a new, deep and intense voyage through many mythic narratives. This is not tourism. It is more like battle, ordeal, service to ideals of care, and witnessing.
This is an exquisitely written book. It is a pleasure to read and so to encounter with grace and kindness the hard stories of our clinical work. As in the stories in classical myth, a clinical journey is full of trap doors, knives, cuts, battles, and ordeals of loss and suffering. The analyst must risk deep disruption along with, though also differently from, the analysand.
We need more writing like Brody’s. We need to be able to speak to others in our field about the demands of this work and above all of its unpredictability. This would be part of our individual self-care as healers. This book also calls out to our field, as a group, to be better able to hold the complexity of the analyst’s state. - Adrienne Harris, New York University
This beautifully written book offers a highly personal account of the experience of being a psychoanalyst, deeply committed to confronting death, separation, and the intrinsic impermanence of life. The author illuminates her multifaceted thesis with a myriad of thoughts and images drawn from classical and modern literature and with brilliantly vivid, succinct vignettes from her clinical experience. Entering Night Country invites readers to share the author’s reflections and to extend them with their own. A marvelous read. - Anton O. Kris, MD, Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst, Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and Professor of Psychiatry, part-time, Harvard Medical School.
"In this creative and astute book, Stephanie Brody has constructed a work of art in itself. She offers readers the wisdom of classic and modern literature (opera included!) among which we find Homer, Neruda, Bellini, Bizet, Pullman and Lucretius. She extracts their words and applies them to the existential challenges of loss, illness, limit and mortality, all evidenced in everyday analytic work. If that were not enough, she does so with adept linguistic facility, metaphoric skill, poeticism, making the reading a delight despite persistent themes of death and other existential agonies"
Andrea Celenza (2016) Revista di Psicoanalisi
"Brody’s marvelous book, Entering Night Country: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Loss and Resilience, with its poetic writing, its breadth of knowledge, and depth of feeling addresses the analyst’s experience of coming face to face with the "awareness of life’s limitations" – of vulnerability, alienation, loss and death ….. With elegance, grace and the fortitude to face her own mortality, Brody addresses the most essential topics of the psychoanalytic endeavor: the desire to heal and the elements that can thwart us, the inherent limitations in every clinical encounter, the grief and mourning that lie within each of us, and the inevitability of loss …. Every psychoanalyst should wander through the dark crevices, the shadowy corners, and the light-filled spaces that are revealed within the pages of Entering Night Country.
….Ultimately, Brody’s book is about how analyst and patient together begin to genuinely grapple with the reality of their mortality. Brody’s book is a remarkable exploration of the liminal spaces between the known and the almost-known aspects of the mind, between the patient and the analyst, between language and symbol, between spoken and unspoken, and ultimately, between life and death. The beauty of her writing, the scope of her knowledge, the wisdom, empathy and awareness that this volume contains, are stunning."
Anne Adelman (2019) The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 88:1, 212-219