World, Affectivity, Trauma

Heidegger and Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis

By Robert D. Stolorow

© 2011 – Routledge

136 pages

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Paperback: 9780415893442
pub: 2011-04-14
US Dollars$27.95

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About the Book

Stolorow and his collaborators' post-Cartesian psychoanalytic perspective – intersubjective-systems theory – is a phenomenological contextualism that illuminates worlds of emotional experience as they take form within relational contexts. After outlining the evolution and basic ideas of this framework, Stolorow shows both how post-Cartesian psychoanalysis finds enrichment and philosophical support in Heidegger's analysis of human existence, and how Heidegger's existential philosophy, in turn, can be enriched and expanded by an encounter with post-Cartesian psychoanalysis. In doing so, he creates an important psychological bridge between post-Cartesian psychoanalysis and existential philosophy in the phenomenology of emotional trauma.


“There is much to learn, much to like, much to ponder, and a few things to question in this slender, full-to-the-brim volume. To some degree, it feels as though its author, Robert Stolorow, has provided us a majestic coda to a long symphony—his exploration of intersubjectivity, trauma, and related subjects over many years—in which a few grand themes from previous movements return with crystal clarity and emotional conviction. The title itself has a kind of Mahlerian sweep—World, Affectivity, Trauma—that turns out to come directly from Heidegger, the Other with whom Stolorow is in deep conversation. In his first sentence, Stolorow announces his aim here: “to show how Heidegger’s existential philosophy enriches post-Cartesian psychoanalysis and how post-Cartesian psychoanalysis enriches Heidegger’s existential philosophy” (p. 1)… Stolorow builds, over several chapters, our understanding of Heidegger’s concepts and their relation to psychoanalysis. He is a masterful guide, taking us through dense terrain and over slippery slopes…. [Especially] compelling is [Stolorow’s] discussion of affect, and his contention that psychopathology has everything to do with affect states that could not be integrated… Stolorow’s broadening of Heidegger’s concept of Being-toward-death into Being-toward-loss beautifully integrates the critical relational dimension and its power in childhood and throughout our lives…[Stolorow] never fails to engage us.”—M. Gerard Fromm, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association

"Stolorow’s conversational style and willingness to spend considerable time explaining Heidegger’s dense prose makes for a remarkably accessible text, especially in light of the highly interdisciplinary nature of his topic…. Stolorow’s work is commendable for at least two reasons. First, he manages to make clear numerous aspects of a notoriously confounding text by one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. And second, he brings Heidegger’s work to life by putting it in dialogue with contemporary psychoanalytic theory and practice. His application of Heideggerian phenomenology to his own theories of post-Cartesian psychoanalysis is certainly enriching, and he provides previously unavailable insights into the experience of traumatic loss."Anthony Vincent Fernandez, Human Studies

"Robert Stolorow’s innovative contribution to psychoanalysis … exemplifies where post-Kohutian self psychology has got to in the form of ‘contextualism.’ World, Affectivity, Trauma is a brief and eloquent resume of this perspective. As with Trauma and Human Existence (2007), the theoretical argument in this case is inextricably linked to autobiographical reflection … The aim is to rethink psychoanalysis, in the light of Heidegger’s dismantling of the philosophic tradition, as a form of phenomenological inquiry and … to ‘awaken’ the being there of attunement…. [Stolorow’s] therapeutic appropriation of Heidegger rests on the translation of loss into an authentic mode of being towards death, the idea of loss as a traumatic experience, or shattering episode, that reveals to us beings as a whole and the nothing [das Nichts] that underlies them…. Accordingly, the therapeutic appropriation of contextualism aims to ‘radicalize’ psychoanalysis, but also to revise and augment Heidegger." Steven Groarke, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis

"In World, Affectivity, Trauma: Heidegger and Post-CartesianPsychoanalysis … Stolorow presents a thoughtful and clarifying explication of Martin Heidegger, one of the seminal philosophers of the twentieth century, and a compelling meditation on the experience and healing of emotional trauma. [The book] explores, with care and precision, both Heidegger’s relevance for psychoanalytic understanding of trauma, and the potential enrichment that psychoanalysis might offer to Heidegger’s philosophical account of human existence…. In Stolorow’s philosophically adept hands this notoriously difficult, often opaque, and sometimes visionary text [Being and Time] comes alive and becomes more accessible…. A short, compact book about a dense and complex topic, World, Affectivity, Trauma is full of insights about trauma, temporality, and Heidegger’s life and work."—Jeffrey B. Rubin, The Psychoanalytic Review

"Robert Stolorow’s World, Affectivity, Trauma is a significant exploration of the philosophical foundations of what Stolorow calls ‘post-Cartesian’ psychoanalysis. Radical in its rejection of the traditional subject/object dichotomy, suspicious of the conceit of an isolated, all-knowing mind standing apart from its ‘object of study,’ and alert to the myriad ways in which archaic mechanistic conceptions of mind/body have infiltrated traditional analytic metapsychology, Stolorow aims to ground psychoanalytic theory on the radical contextualism of Heidegger’s existential phenomenology…. Stolorow’s approach to Heidegger is emotionally and clinically engaging and compelling. His open … descriptions of his own experiences with traumatic loss allow the reader to vividly understand what is at stake experientially and clinically in Heidegger’s concepts of anxiety and Being-towards-death [and the] fracturing of subjective temporality that can follow in the wake of trauma."—Daniel E. Greenberg, Contemporary Psychoanalysis

"Thankfully, Stolorow takes the reader who is not professionally engaged with philosophy through this labyrinth [Heidegger’s arcane formulations] in everyday language that conveys what is essential without sacrificing Heidegger’s meaning…. In his Janus presentation of the relation between Heideggerian insights and psychoanalysis he manages to integrate the theoretic with the clinical and does so in a unique manner. By sharing his own life’s experiences, in particular the love for his wife and the psychological trauma he experienced as a result of his wife’s untimely death, [he allows] the reader … to experience along with the author not only his dreams but also the range of his feelings from anxiety to despair that efface the obscurity of Heidegger’s philosophical terms while at the same time contextualizing the meaning of the author’s experience in the here and now."—Jerome Appelbaum, The American Journal of Psychoanalysis

"World, Affectivity, Trauma: Heidegger and Post Cartesian Psychoanalysis is surprisingly easy to read and flows smoothly from topic to topic. Stolorow’s self-disclosure is brave, lending a transparency, depth and weight seldom afforded by psychoanalytic writers. It is succinct and, most important to me as clinician, has practical import for working with persons suffering from trauma. This book, I believe, can stand on its own as a precise and brief review of Heideggerian philosophy. " – The Humanistic Psychologist

"In his important new book, Stolorow brings his acumen, training, and insight to bear on the fundamental interaction between psychoanalytic practice and theoretical reflection. As a psychoanalyst and philosopher, Stolorow is well placed to chart a path that bridges the worlds of clinical practice and philosophical thinking—disciplinary worlds that are too often seen as separate or opposed…. Stolorow takes his readers on a journey that seamlessly combines the disciplines of psychoanalysis with philosophy, and in the process breaks down the boundaries that have long stood in the way of a productive exchange of ideas and practice. This is a notable achievement that speaks to the veracity of Stolorow’s writing and to his ability to render comprehensible complex theories and concepts. I encourage practitioners who traditionally shy away from philosophy to read this book. In contrast to Heidegger, his philosophical mentor, Stolorow writes in a highly readable manner. This is noteworthy, since Heidegger’s work has long been considered especially difficult for Anglo-American readers not familiar with the tradition of continental philosophy. Stolorow provides his readers with an accessible introduction to many of the key ideas in Heidegger’s early philosophy, principally as laid out in his magnum opus, Being and Time. Stolorow’s clear and precise prose, his mastery of the subject matter, and the wealth of clinical experience and personal reflection make this an excellent interdisciplinary guide to the worlds of contemporary psychoanalysis and philosophy…. In summary, this brief book succeeds admirably at fulfilling its aim of demonstrating that Heidegger’s existential philosophy enriches post-Cartesian psychoanalysis and that post-Cartesian psychoanalysis can, in turn, enrich Heidegger’s existential philosophy."Roger Frie, The International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology

"In this short and readable book, psychoanalyst and philosopher Robert Stolorow demonstrates how Heidegger's existential philosophy enriches modern psychological thought and how contemporary psychoanalysis enriches Heidegger's existential philosophy. Stolorow and his collaborators have developed a contemporary post-Cartesian version of psychoanalysis known as intersubjective-systems theory, which is distinguished by its emphasis on phenomenology, hermeneutics, and contextualism, and that illuminates the rich relationality of authentic existing. Stolorow brilliantly elucidates the use of Heidegger's philosophy and places his fall into Nazism within the context of an examination of the salient themes that dominated Heidegger's personal psychological world, including the theme of emotional trauma, and of how these motifs left their imprint on both his philosophy and his version of Nazism. We are left with both an enriched understanding of the mutual influence of philosophy and psychoanalysis and insight into the personal subjectivity underlying all systems of thought. One can no longer be interested in either modern philosophy or psychoanalysis without a thorough familiarity with Robert Stolorow's contributions." - Lewis Aron, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, USA

"For 35 years, Robert Stolorow has set about the task of restoring psychoanalysis to its rightful existential base. In this book, not only has Stolorow carried this task one step forward, he has brilliantly articulated a radically transformative philosophy of life. This book has implications not only for the reformation of psychoanalysis but for the reformation of our day-to-day relationships, beliefs, and experiences of the world." - Kirk J. Schneider, author, Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy (Routledge, 2007)

"For many years now, Stolorow and his colleagues have greatly advanced our understanding of clinical phenomena through their emphasis on intersubjectivity, contextuality, and a consistently phenomenological vantage point. In this book, Stolorow takes this understanding still further, articulating in new ways how this simultaneous immersion in post-Cartesian philosophy and in psychoanalysis mutually enhances and deepens each perspective and enriches our understanding of our patients and of human behavior and experience more generally." - Paul L. Wachtel, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, CUNY, USA

"How could the most important philosopher of the 20th century have thrown the weight of his thought behind its most horrifying political movement? That haunting question represents a 'wounding of thinking' (in Blanchot's words), a trauma that philosophers are still painfully working through. When the most profound trauma theorist, Robert Stolorow, publishes his work on Heidegger, we should thus all pay attention. As a psychoanalyst and philosopher, Stolorow shows how the phenomenology of trauma and Heidegger's thinking revealingly illuminate one another. Indeed, for all those wanting to understand what the relation between psychoanalysis and existential philosophy will be in the future, there is no more important work than this deeply thought and clearly written meditation on the perils and promise of human finitude." - Iain Thomson, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of New Mexico, USA, and author, Heidegger on Ontotheology (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

"World, Affectivity, Trauma shows how today's psychoanalysis can be deepened and transformed by an encounter with Heidegger's thought - and vice versa. Rather than forcing a philosophical theory onto psychoanalytic practice, Robert D. Stolorow puts his careful readings of Heidegger into dialogue with clinical and personal experience, as well as using his own psychological insights to shed light on Heidegger the man. Stolorow makes the case that when we recognize, with Heidegger, that no one is a worldless, Cartesian mind, we can come to understand emotional and relational problems in a contextual, intersubjective framework. This perspective focuses not on inner drives, but on affects as ways of participating in the world. As Stolorow argues, a Heideggerian understanding of phenomena such as anxiety, trauma, and mortality can help us develop a 'kinship-in-finitude,' an honest solidarity between vulnerable human beings."- Richard Polt, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Xavier University, and author, The Emergency of Being: On Heidegger's "Contributions to Philosophy" (Cornell University Press, 2006)

"The great strength of Stolorow's book is to gradually unveil what trauma really means: the collapse of all meaning; the drastic change in the way we experience space and time; and the terrifying experience of the evaporation of everyday meanings that we take for granted….[T]he reader is richly rewarded by this dense text that elucidates the deep-structure of human existence. The book is a treasure for practicing clinicians of all styles, because it helps us understand some of the most central tenets of human life and the experience of trauma in great vividness and poignancy. But it will also be of great value for a wider educated readership interested in a deeper understanding of the structures of existence and the nature of trauma." - Carlo Strenger, Psychology Today

"Stolorow has become, in my view and those of others, one of the country's pre-eminent thinkers on the subject of trauma…Stolorow is both insightful and compassionate…For those interested in how Heidegger's existential philosophy can enrich psychoanalysis, or those alternatively intrigued by how contemporary psychoanalysis can deepen an understanding of Heidegger's thought, I can recommend World, Affectivity, Trauma without reservation. For both the professional clinician and the motivated general reader, it is a bracing, challenging and, ultimately, deeply rewarding work." - Dennis Palumbo, The Huffington Post

"This excellent, slim volume … is a unique success in that it is accessible to both those unfamiliar with Heidegger and those who have spent decades teaching seminars on his thought… Stolorow injects and supplements what Heidegger omits and abbreviates, by highlighting the psychobiographical affectivity of the world Heidegger worked in … [and] updating Heideggerian existentialism with current debates in psychotherapy…. Stolorow's expansion of Heidegger's conception of relationality [is] original [and] impressive." - Jason Wakefield, Avello Publishing Journal

"[Trauma and Human Existence and World, Affectivity, Trauma] constitute a wonderfully illuminating and creative compendium on the very important topic of trauma." - Muffid James Hannush, Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

"This book excels in three areas: 1) in the introduction of some key constructs in Being and Time, especially as regards the function of anxiety in authentic presence, 2) in the understanding of trauma as a bridge to the discovery and enhancement of authenticity, and 3) in identifying how a therapeutic relationship, be it professional or personal, may provide a "relational home" for working with unintegrated trauma. Additionally, there is an insightful psychobiographical chapter examining Heidegger’s Nazi involvement that goes beyond previous biographies…. Surely, anyone bold enough to wade into the thickets of Heideggerian thought deserves commendation. And anyone who proceeds to understand, which means to translate, Heideggerese into something approaching plain English … deserves our gratitude." - G. Kenneth Badford, Journal of Existential Analysis

"World, Affectivity, Trauma: Heidegger and Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis is surprisingly easy to read and flows smoothly from topic to topic. Stolorow’s self-disclosure is brave, lending a transparency, depth, and weight seldom afforded by psychoanalytic writers. It is succinct and, most important to me as a clinician, has practical import for working with persons suffering from trauma. This book, I believe, can stand on its own as a precise and brief review of Heideggerian philosophy. It would also serve well as an example of top-notch qualitative research. It provides for the beginning and seasoned therapist a ‘space’ for reflection upon the meaning and experience of trauma and, perhaps, opens a portkey to a deeper understanding of the importance of his/her own relationship with trauma…. Stolorow’s effort in giving thought to the traumatic dimensions of existence, by way of blending Heideggerian phenomenology with psychoanalysis, is truly impressive and worthy of attention."Brent Potter, The Humanistic Psychologist

"By putting psychoanalysis onto the scaffolding of Heidegger’s structural ontology, Stolorow has done much good work. We now have an intelligible understanding of what post-Cartesian psychoanalysis looks like, and, with his psychobiographical penultimate chapter analyzing Heidegger, we also get to see just how this contextual psychoanalysis works. Stolorow is a psychoanalyst, but his grasp of Heidegger matches that of most respected Heideggerian scholars. The work explicating the structural and contextual elements of the thinker’s work is alone enough to make the book worth the time it takes to read it. Practitioners of all sorts will find much of value in World, Affectivity, Trauma. Stolorow’s discussion of the temporality of trauma, relationalized through finitude and Being-toward-death, is very enlightening, providing a lot of understanding for any practitioner who deals with clients who have been traumatized and continue to retraumatize themselves. Stolorow’s little book, both practically and theoretically, provides useful information that may be utilized in many different client contexts. It is also simply fascinating as a work of philosophy and psychoanalysis. Both interesting and useful, World, Affectivity, Trauma is a worthwhile read for most any practitioner."—Leslie Miller, Philosophical Practice

Table of Contents

Introduction: Existential Analysis, Daseinanalysis, and Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis. Heidegger's Investigative Method in Being and Time. Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis as Phenomenological Contextualism. Existential Anxiety, Finitude, and Trauma. Worlds Apart: Dissociation, Finitude, and Traumatic Temporality. Our Kinship-in-Finitude. Relationalizing Heidegger's Conception of Finitude. Expanding Heidegger's Conception of Relationality: Ethical Implications. Heidegger's Nazism and the Hypostatization of Being: A Distant Mirror. Conclusions: The Mutual Enrichment of Heidegger's Existential Philosophy and Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis.

About the Author

Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D. is a Founding Faculty Member and Training and Supervising Analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles, a Founding Faculty Member at the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, New York City; and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. He is the author of Trauma and Human Existence: Autobiographical, Psychoanalytic, and Philosophical Reflections (Routledge, 2007) and has coauthored four other books for the Analytic Press: Working Intersubjectively: Contextualism in Psychoanalytic Practice (1997), Contexts of Being: The Intersubjective Foundations of Psychological Life (1992), Psychoanalytic Treatment: An Intersubjective Approach (1987), Structures of Subjectivity: Explorations in Psychoanalytic Phenomenology (1984).

About the Series

Psychoanalytic Inquiry Book Series

Like its counterpart, Psychoanalytic Inquiry: A Topical Journal for Mental Health Professionals, the Psychoanalytic Inquiry Book Series presents a diversity of subjects within a diversity of approaches to those subjects. Under the editorship of Joseph Lichtenberg, in collaboration with Melvin Bornstein and the editorial board of Psychoanalytic Inquiry, the volumes in this series strike a balance between research, theory, and clinical application. We are honored to have published the works of various innovators in psychoanalysis, such as Lachmann, Fosshage, Stolorow, Orange, Sander, Wurmser, Grotstein, Jones, Brothers, Busch, and Lichtenberg, among others. 

The series includes books and monographs on mainline psychoanalytic topics, such as sexuality, narcissism, trauma, homosexuality, jealousy, envy, and varied aspects of analytic process and technique.  In our efforts to broaden the field of analytic interest, the series has incorporated and embraced innovative discoveries in infant research, self psychology, intersubjectivity, motivational systems, affects as process, responses to cancer, borderline states, contextualism, postmodernism, attachment research and theory, medication, and mentalization. As further investigations in psychoanalysis come to fruition, we seek to present them in readable, easily comprehensible writing.

After 25 years, the core vision of this series remains the investigation, analysis and discussion of developments on the cutting edge of the psychoanalytic field, inspired by a boundless spirit of inquiry.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Movements / Phenomenology
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis