The Enigma of Desire: Sex, Longing, and Belonging in Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Enigma of Desire

Sex, Longing, and Belonging in Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition

By Galit Atlas


180 pages

Look Inside
Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9781138789609
pub: 2015-10-20
SAVE ~$10.99
Hardback: 9781138789593
pub: 2015-10-26
SAVE ~$41.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315764764
pub: 2015-10-16
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


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.





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

Table of Contents

  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


About the Author

Dr. Galit Atlas is a psychoanalyst and clinical supervisor in private practice in Manhattan. She is on the faculty of theNew 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.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

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