1st Edition

Illusion, Disillusion, and Irony in Psychoanalysis

By John Steiner Copyright 2020
    180 Pages
    by Routledge

    180 Pages
    by Routledge

    Illusion, Disillusion, and Irony in Psychoanalysis explores and develops the role of illusion and daydream in everyday life, and in psychoanalysis. Using both clinical examples and literary works, idealised illusions and the inevitable disillusion that is met when reality makes an impact, are carefully explored.

    Idealised phantasies which involve a timeless universe inevitably lead to disillusion in the face of reality which introduces an awareness of time, ageing, and eventually death. If the illusions are recognised as phantasy rather than treated as fact, the ideal can be internalised as a symbol and serve as a measure of excellence. Steiner shows that the cruelty of truth needs to be recognised, as well as the deceptive nature of illusion, and that relinquishing omnipotence is a critical and difficult developmental task that is relived in analysis.

    Illusion, Disillusion, and Irony in Psychoanalysis will be of great use to the psychoanalyst or psychotherapist seeking to understand the patient’s withdrawal into a phantasy world, and the struggle to allow the impact of reality.

    Acknowledgements  Credit lines  Foreword by Jay Greenberg  Introduction  1. The Garden of Eden Illusion: Finding and Losing Paradise  2. Learning from Milton: The Dangerous Gap Between the Real and the Ideal  3. The Brutality of Truth and the Importance of Kindness  4. The Use and Abuse of Omnipotence in the Journey of the Hero  5. Disillusion, Humiliation, and Perversion of the Facts of Life  6. The Unbearability of Being Feminine  7. The Sympathetic Imagination: Keats and the Movement in and out of Projective Identification  8. The Impact of Trauma on the Ability to Face Disillusion  9. Learning from Don Quixote  10. Reconciling Phantasy and Reality: The Redeeming Nature of Irony  References  Index


    John Steiner is a training analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Society, and the author of Psychic Retreats (1993) and Seeing and Being Seen (2011). He has also edited and written introductions to The Oedipus Complex Today (1989), Papers by Hanna Segal (1997), Essays on Herbert Rosenfeld (2008), and Melanie Klein’s Lectures on Technique (2017).

    "This latest book of John Steiner is a rich collection of essays on themes that he has developed since his ground-breaking concepts of pathological organisations and psychic retreats. He has, in this book, enlarged on the emergence in the course of development, of an awareness of the loss of an ideal world. He draws on great clinical experience and wide and deep reading of literary sources, which makes his complex thinking, engaging, entertaining and a pleasure to read."

    Ronald BrittonDistinguished Fellow British Psychoanalytical Society 

    "The need to withdraw into a world of illusion, to create our own personal Garden of Eden is, Steiner shows us, ‘precisely what many of our patients do and the same is true of course for all of us since we are all patients and all have serious problems with reality.’ Nothing is simply Lineas in Steiner’s vision; everything is both one thing and another, best appreciated by those of us who are capable of embracing an ironic vision. It is irony that allows us simultaneously to empathise with our analysands and to observe them from our perspective as outsiders. Steiner moves gracefully from Sophocles to Milton to Ibsen, Keats, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and many others. At each stop we find ourselves surprised and enlightened by the way he develops his theme in the context of works that are long familiar to us."

    Jay Greenberg, Training and Supervising Analyst, William Alanson White Institute; Editor, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly

    "Arguably the core of this book is Steiner’s discussion of Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, which is the subject of the first two chapters and is woven throughout many of the others. Its importance lies in its poetic rendering of what Steiner views as one of the fundamental psychological (recurrent) events of human life: the loss of an ideal state brought on through sometimes painful recognition of reality. One of the chief virtues of Steiner’s book is his illumination of some essential Kleinian motifs at the core of Milton’s text, which, in his discussion, renders them readily understandable to the uninitiated while also demonstrating their universality."

    Neal Vorus is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst New York City who specializes in adults, adolescents, and children, and has been in private practice since 1998. To read this review in full, please see the following: Vorus, N. (2021) Illusion, disillusion, and irony in psychoanalysis, by John Steiner, London, England, Routledge, 2020, 180 pp, $39.95, 9780367467012. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 102:826-831