2nd Edition

Sex, Death, and the Superego
Updating Psychoanalytic Experience and Developments in Neuroscience

ISBN 9780367439729
Published September 23, 2020 by Routledge
160 Pages

USD $38.95

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Book Description

This second edition of Ronald Britton’s personal reappraisal of psychoanalytic theories is based on further clinical experience, further study of current neuroscience and continued reflection on the relationship of brain and mind, selfhood and self-awareness, belief and knowledge, and certainty and uncertainty.

Divided into three parts – "Hysteria," "The ego and superego," and "Narcissism" – this new edition adds content on brain, mind and self, the death instinct and a discussion on the biological, psychological and sociological basis of gender. It suggests that our increasing knowledge necessarily produces a dissolution of our coherent concepts of mind and brain, and that during this phase of creative dissolution we need to reassess what we know and what we don’t know. Fundamental to the book is the notion that human beings have to live with probability but that we long for certainty, and create it for ourselves.

This book will be of great interest to psychoanalysts in clinical practice and academia, as well as other mental health professionals and those with an interest in psychoanalytic theory.

Table of Contents

Introduction PS(n+1);  Part 1: Hysteria;  1. Hysteria I: Anna O: getting in on the act;  2. Hysteria II: Sabina Spielrein, sex, death and psychoanalysis;  Afterthoughts: on the concept of the death instinct 3. The erotic counter-transference;  4. Phallic idealisation in women; Afterthoughts: on sex and gender;  Part 2: The ego and the superego;  5. The concept of the ego;  6. Emancipation of the superego;  7. An "internal saboteur" masquerading as a superego;  8. Humour and the superego;  Part 3: Narcissism;  9. Libidinal and destructive narcissism;  10. Narcissistic problems in sharing space;  11. PS(n+1): Brain, mind and self

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Ronald Britton trained in neurology, child and adult psychiatry, and psychoanalysis before becoming Chair of the Children’s Department at the Tavistock Clinic and President of the British Psychoanalytical Society. He received the "IPA Outstanding Scientific Award 2013" and the 2013 Sigourney Award for "Outstanding Achievements in Psychoanalysis". His particular interests outside psychoanalysis have been literature, philosophy and physics.


"As always, reading Ronald Britton is a mental treat. In this new edition he updates his views with more clinical evidence and reflection and his current interest in neuroscience. As he puts it, ‘It is clearer to me now that the scientific context from which psychoanalysis first emerged has changed radically and that it needs to take account of it.’ The book is packed with clinical insight, his superbly articulate way of making theory relevant and his mastery of language and turns of phrase. It’s essential reading for anyone who wants to practice real psychoanalysis." Professor David Tuckett, Department of Science, Technology and Public Policy, University College London, Fellow, Institute of Psychoanalysis, London

"Ronald Britton’s papers over the past 30 years have been beacons of clarity and creativity. He has reformulated Kleinian thinking in the same paradigm shift way that Bion did 60 years ago. I have learnt more from his writings than any other member of our Society writing today." Professor Peter Fonagy, Fellow, Institute of Psychoanalysis, Professor of Psychoanalysis, and Director, Mental Health Programme, University College London

"Ronald Britton’s work demonstrates an independence of thought that to me exemplifies one of his finest ideas, namely the emancipation of the ego from the dominance of the super-ego. The ego judges what ‘is’ while the super-ego is concerned with what ‘should be.’ As a leading thinker of his generation Britton exemplifies his own emancipation as he escapes from the tyranny of conventional thinking to break new ground. This is shown in abundance in this important book, now skilfully updated." Dr. John Steiner, Distinguished Fellow, British Psychoanalytical Society