1st Edition

Women's Bodies in Psychoanalysis

By Rosemary M Balsam Copyright 2012
    224 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    224 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Why has the female body been marginalised in psychoanalysis, with a focus on female problems and pains only? How can we begin to think about body pleasure, power, competition and aggression as normal in females?

    In Women's Bodies in Psychoanalysis, Rosemary Balsam argues that re-tracing theoretical steps back to the biological body's attributes is fruitful in searching for the clues of our mental development. She shows that the female biological body, across female gender variants and sexual preferences, including the 'vanished pregnant body', has been largely overlooked in previous studies. It is how we weave these images of the body into our everyday lives that informs our gendered patterning. These details about being female free up gender studies in the postmodern era to think about the body's contribution to gender – rather than continuing the familiar postmodern trend to repudiate biology and perpetuate the divide between the physical and the mental.

    There are four main areas explored:

    • clinical contributions on female development
    • assessments of past and present psychoanalytic theories in relation to the body
    • inner portraits of gender building blocks
    • a conscious and unconscious focus on the potentially procreative female body.

    Women's Bodies in Psychoanalysis will be of particular interest to psychodynamic, psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic practitioners, teachers, students, feminist academicians, college undergraduates, graduates and faculty in women's studies and gender studies.

    Rosemary Balsam is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine; Staff Psychiatrist, Yale University Student Mental Health and Counselling Services; Training and Supervising Analyst, Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis.

    Introduction. A Language of Silence? Women Talking. The Vanished Pregnant Body. The Pregnant Mother and her Daughter’s Body Image. Childbirth. Childbirth in Vivo. Sisters and Brothers. Mothers and Daughters. Sons and Mothers: Fathers as Daughters’ Infant Caretakers. Implications for Theory.


    Rosemary M Balsam

    "Balsam expects that the full recognition and inclusion of the female sexed body will have an important effect on psychoanalytic theory. I found it added a dimension in my day-to-day awareness of possible meaning in my work with patients. Although the title refers specifically to ‘Women’s Bodies in Psychoanalysis’ the book speaks to a much wider audience." - Malkah Notman, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis

     explicate female psychology. For several decades, brave, thoughtful, and mostly female analysts have been revising his misconceptions and blind spots. These women are smart, articulate and sometimes even respectful of the early psychoanalytic efforts to understand feminine developmental pathways. Among these revisionists, no voice is more vibrant and intelligent than that of Rosemary Balsam. In the company of other creative observers, Balsam explores and maps the vastly variegated terrain of female development. This important book brings together updated versions of many of her articles and book chapters written from 1996 to the present on the subject." – Ruth R. Imber, Ph.D., Contemporary Analysis

    "With rich clinical stories, clear thinking and fresh perspective, Rosemary Balsam explores fascinating new areas in psychoanalysis. The reader is drawn in to this book immediately and to the questions it raises. It opens the possibility for the field of a developmental theory of mind and for deeper understandings of female patients.” - Dr. Nancy Kulish, Department of Psychiatry, Wayne State Medical School, Michigan Psychoanalytic Center

    “Addressing the primal anxiety aroused by the pregnant maternal body, this unique book sets out to explore the effect on psychoanalytic theorizing of the omission, exclusion or erasure of both the 'plasticity' of the female body, and its 'magical' reproductive capacity. The author exposes deficits in developmental theory that have arisen from occlusion of this quintessential but dreaded icon of female bodily maturity, sexual and procreative powers.” - Professor Joan Raphael-Leff, UCL/Anna Freud Centre, London

    “In listening for the body in its female presence, Balsam offers a book rich with creative thinking and clinical insight.  Clinical illustrations provide fertile ground for a deepening appreciation of how the many facets of female bodily life profoundly animate the lives of women.” – Dr. Dianne Elise, Associate Editor, Studies in Gender & Sexuality, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, San Francisco

    "For years, Rosemary Balsam's central ambition has been to conduct an 'overhaul of the understanding of the female body' in psychoanalysis. She has imagined building up to 'a new cohesive and encompassing theory of sex and gender' on this foundation. And she is right. Heeding her imperative --pay attention to the female body! --is crucial for any real theory-wide revisions in psychoanalysis. In this book, she has responded to her own clarion call brilliantly." - Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Psychoanalyst and Historian, Toronto

    "Rosemary Balsam's study of the place, and erasure, of the female body in psychoanalysis is ... a timely addition to feminist scholarship that focuses on meanings of the body, as well as to the interdisciplinary explosion of interest in the role of the body more generally ... Balsam's efforts are not only of importance to feminist scholars and therapists. While understanding the role of the body may be particularly urgent within feminist scholarship, it has broader implications for all of us." - Dr. Fiona Giles, University of Sydney, Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia