This book explores psychoanalytic faith and, more generally, the role of faith in the therapeutic process. In his earlier work, Eigen distinguished faith from beliefs used to organize it, the latter at once bringing people together and creating violent oppositions - belief as a defense against faith. In this new work, Eigen dives into faith experience itself and shares what he finds.
Faith spans many dimensions. The opening chapters focus on variations of faith, beginning with nature, sleep, beauty, goodness, the opening-closing of the human face, and the paradox of the growth of faith through pain and shattering. Accounts of faith in the author’s life lead to creative readings of Winnicott followed by meditations on evil. A chapter is devoted to teaching and learning Bion, who called faith the psychoanalytic attitude (or called the psychoanalytic attitude Faith). Another chapter discusses variants of everyday mystical participation and a climactic moment in the Zohar, a principal part of the Kabbalah. The book ends with interviews involving the author’s development as a psychotherapist-psychoanalyst, his views on mental health and society today, followed by a note on faith-work.
Reviews and Endorsements:
‘A profoundly moving meditation on the psychoanalytic vocation.’
—Mark Epstein, MD, author of Going to Pieces without Falling Apart and The Trauma of Everyday Life
‘Michael Eigen is one of the rare psychoanalysts to have always given due prominence to the role of faith, which, following Bion, he sees as the heart of the psychoanalytic encounter. Deeper than “belief systems”, faith sustains the turbulent test of how “two humans can learn to survive one another”. Eigen teaches by example, the example of open-mindedness, with a generosity of spirit that embraces the vital spark of idiosyncrasy in himself and in others. His idea of faith is not one of transcendence but is deeply rooted in feeling another’s presence on the pulses; and he never loses touch with his sense of wonder at the unfolding of the therapeutic relationship with its telling power to “help people experience their experience, not rush past it”.’
—Meg Harris Williams, artist and author
‘Faith, a powerful volume written by one of today’s most creative psychoanalytic minds, takes the reader on Michael Eigen’s personal and professional journey as a unique psychoanalyst. We are invited to accompany him in his nuanced and creative encounters with Winnicott and Bion, two major influences on his life and work. Michael Eigen is one of the most prolific authors we have, and I find his later writing to be personal, profound, and spiritual. I, for one, treasure the wisdom and experience of such a gifted analyst, who freely shares a lifetime of understanding in such an open and sensitive manner. He is utterly fearless in tackling the most challenging existential situations we face: evil, aloneness, faith, trauma, and survival. Reading Eigen, I not only learn but am also deeply moved and enriched as a human being.’
—Danielle Knafo, author of Dancing with the Unconscious: The Art of Psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalysis of Art
‘We associate faith with religion and, fundamentalism aside, all the major religions today are reforming under our noses, without our being aware of the fact. Old forms of religious or psychological exclusivism have had their day. Faith itself extends through and beyond religions and non-religions. Someone in the book is quoted as coming to the realisation that faith is not the same as belief, but more “like the air we breathe or the ground we walk on”. Faith is intimate and, in this new book, Michael Eigen gets right into the soul. It is a must-read for anyone switched into what is really happening beneath the religious paraphernalia and “systems” thinking we are all caught up in, including psychology. Eigen’s voice is warm, wise, and knowledgeable, and the book is written in a way that anyone at all curious about faith and life can pick it up get into it.'
—Matthew Del Nevo, Catholic Institute of Sydney and author of The Work of Enchantment
About the Author:
Michael Eigen is a psychologist and psychoanalyst. He is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis at New York University, and a Senior Member of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. He is the author of a number of books, including Toxic Nourishment, The Psychoanalytic Mystic, Feeling Matters and Flames from the Unconscious.