The Hero in the Mirror: From Fear to Fortitude, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Hero in the Mirror

From Fear to Fortitude, 1st Edition

By Sue Grand


226 pages

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In times of stress, trauma and crisis—whether on a personal or global scale—it can be all too easy for us to externalize a larger-than-life figure who can assuage our suffering, a Hero who comes to the fore even as we recede into the background. In taking on our collective burden, however, such an omnipotent Hero can actually undermine us, representing as it does the very same characteristics we fail to note in one another. By granting the Hero to power to set things right, we seem to deny it to ourselves, leaving us temporarily lightened but ultimately helpless.

In response, Sue Grand deconstructs the myth of the Heroic and argues for the "ordinary hero," a more realistic figure with the same limitations, concerns and fears as the rest of us, but who nonetheless stands up for the greater good in the face of danger, despair and villainy. From the foundation of relational psychoanalysis, Grand incorporates cultural and ethical considerations in her examination of what this ordinary hero might look like, a trip that takes us from the consulting room to right outside our front doors, from the heart of a "civilized" nation to the myriad war-torn regions dappling the globe, both past and present. Along the way we meet individuals whose encounters with adversity range from the mundane to the catastrophic, and learn how they struggle against the dubious concept of the Hero looming large in their lives. Recounting this journey in finely-tuned yet imminently accessible and enjoyable prose, Grand demonstrates that the best place to ultimately find the ordinary hero is within each other: The hero is us.


"This brilliant and passionate book debunks all the myths we have about the Hero - beyond fear, beyond evil, beyond us, soon to be arriving to our rescue. It is a call for the new hero - ordinary, struggling with insecurity and fear, life-affirming, in process. This is the hero I trust and long for: the one that lives in each of us, the one we make in our gathering, in our activism, in our struggle. The Hero in the Mirror is nothing less than a call for a new consciousness and a new way of being." - Eve Ensler, activist and playwright, The Vagina Monologues

"Wide-ranging and thought-provoking, The Hero in the Mirror is a book for our time. In the world of traditional heroes, everyone loses; trapped by the cultural imperative that constructed them, heroes are denied intimacy and tenderness, while those who idealize them diminish themselves by denying their own capacity for agency and courage. From the most personal to the most political, from childhood fantasies to psychoanalytic impasses, Grand redefines what it means to be heroic. This is a hopeful book, a call for a collectivity of small heroes who will resist the false comfort and polarization of the heroic cycle with ordinary goodness. Sue Grand leads the way." - Ghislaine Boulanger, Ph.D., author, Wounded by Reality: Understanding and Treating Adult Onset Trauma

"Sue Grand has given us a series of compelling meditations on the lure and the risk of heroism. In these generous, personal, and creative clinical stories, I was particularly struck by the links between heroism and intergenerational transmission of trauma. This book is a gift to our profession." - Susan Coates, Ph.D., coeditor, September 11: Trauma and Human Bonds

Table of Contents

Introduction. Part I: Annihilation and the Psychesoma: Failed Courage, False Courage, Real Resistance. Heroic Fantasms: Infections of Terror in the Analytic Hour. Manic Courage: Violence, Displacement, and the Borrowed Phallus. Unsexed and Ungendered: Asserting Truth and Reconceiving Speech. Part II: Violent Contrast, Activist Narratives. Terrorism and Group Violence: The Destruction and Restoration of the Name. Genocide: Sacrifice and the Absurd. Ethical Force, Obscurity, and the Veil. Terrorism, War, Genocide: The Search for Embodied Writing. Conclusion.

About the Author

Sue Grand, Ph.D., is faculty and supervisor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, where she holds a specialization in trauma as well as family and couples. In addition, she is faculty at the Mitchell Center for Relational Psychoanalysis, the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis, the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, and the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California. She is an associate editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and author of The Reproduction of Evil (Analytic Press, 2000), and has a private practive in New York City and Teaneck, NJ.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

Founding Editor:

Stephen Mitchell

Editor Emeritus:

Lewis Aron

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 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 A. 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, feminism, queer theory, sociocultural studies 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 Adrienne Harris, 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. Committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts, 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 promoted new voices across the generations. Mitchell was later joined by the late Lewis Aron, also a visionary and influential writer, teacher and leading thinker in relational psychoanalysis.

 Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, those that extend and develop that tradition, and works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast them with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts, along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision. Our aim is to enable a deepening of relational thinking while reaching across disciplinary and social boundaries in order to foster an inclusive and international literature.   

Learn more…

Subject Categories

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