1st Edition

The Enigma of Desire Sex, Longing, and Belonging in Psychoanalysis

By Galit Atlas Copyright 2016
    196 Pages
    by Routledge

    212 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Enigma of Desire: Sex, Longing and Belonging in Psychoanalysis, introduces new perspectives on desire and longing, in and outside of the analytic relationship. This exciting volume explores the known and unknown, ghosts and demons, sexuality and lust. Galit Atlas discusses the subjects of sex and desire and explores what she terms the Enigmatic and the Pragmatic aspects of sexuality, longing, female desire, sexual inhibition, pregnancy, parenthood and creativity.

    The author focuses on the levels of communication that take place in the most intimate settings: between mothers and their babies; between lovers; in the unconscious bond of two people— in the consulting room, where two individuals sit alone in one room, looking and listening, breathing and dreaming. Atlas examines the ways in which different languages, translations and integrations focus on birth, death, sexuality, and human bonds.

    In The Enigma of Desire each chapter opens with a narrative, a therapeutic story which illustrates both the analyst’s and patient’s desires and the ways these interact and emerge in the consulting room.  This book will be of interest to anyone who is interested in the intricacies of sex and desire and of great appeal to psychoanalysts, therapists and mental health professionals.




    1. Introduction: Desires, Mothers, and Others

    Part I. Enigmatic and Pragmatic

    2. Ella: The Enigma of Desire

    3. Ben and Leo: Excited Idiot

    4. Danny: Ghosts and the Maternal Skin

    Part II. Enigmatic Knowing

    5. Celine: Breaks in Unity

    6. Tomaz and Ron: The Enigmatic Language

    7. Karen: Words and Silences

    8. Galit: Sex, Lies, and Psychoanalysis

    Part III. The Unknown

    9. Sex and the Kitchen: The Mystery of Female Desire

    10. Jo, Simone, and Those We Don’t Yet Know: Three Pregnancies and Psychoanalysis

    11. Sophie, Sarah: Dreams, Enactments, and the Enigmatic Future

    Epilogue: Death



     Dr. Galit Atlas is a psychoanalyst and clinical supervisor in private practice in Manhattan. She is on the faculty of the New York University Postdoctoral Program for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and NIP and lectures throughout the United States and Internationally.  She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on gender and sexuality. Dr. Atlas is on the board of directors of the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association.

    Clinically astute and theoretically provocative, The Enigma of Desire recaptures the realm of sexuality for relational psychoanalysis. Atlas offers an illuminating, original construction of sexuality as located in the tension between enigmatic and pragmatic dimensions, deftly putting into play the binaries of known and unknown, seen and unseen, internal and external as well as oedipal and pre-oedipal experiences of the body. Charged with the passionate intensity of early maternal experience that has often been desexualized, Atlas’s complex and creative narratives bring theoretical constructs to larger life while offering clinicians a model of sensitive, nuanced work. - Jessica Benjamin, Supervisor and Faculty, New York University Postdoctoral Psychology Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy; author of Shadow of the Other.​

    In The Enigma of Desire Galit Atlas challenges us to consider not only the "pragmatic" mother and infant of infant research, but also the enigmatic mother and infant, hidden, mysterious, unknown. "… some things can be heard only from inside – not through the actual observed interaction … but rather in the enigmatic-unseen zones of the internal mind" (p. 17). The co-creation and co-regulation of desire is a topic that deserves more attention in psychoanalysis. Galit Atlas offers us an outstanding statement. - Beatrice Beebe, Ph.D. Clinical Professor of Psychology (in Psychiatry), College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University