Illusion, Disillusion, and Irony in Psychoanalysis: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Illusion, Disillusion, and Irony in Psychoanalysis

1st Edition

By John Steiner


192 pages

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Paperback: 9780367467012
pub: 2020-05-25
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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 recognized as phantasy rather than treated as fact, the ideal can be internalized as a symbol and serve as a measure of excellence. Steiner shows that the cruelty of truth needs to be recognized, 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.


"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 Britton FRCPsych, Distinguished 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 both one thing and another in Steiner’s vision and this is best appreciated by those of us who are capable of embracing an ironic vision. It is irony that allows us simultaneously to empathize 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."

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

Table of Contents

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

About the Author

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).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health