Totem conveys spirit, a sense of the sacred. Freud attempted to get under the totem and explore psychic forces and pressures below the surface. Jung opened further depths in exploration of the sacred. Engagement with a sense of mystery that permeates existence lives in many quarters, including art, music, religion and depth psychologies.
This book is an extended reverie, reflection, confessioand encounter with psychic reality, a profound intertwining of multiple dimensions of existence. Psychotherapy spans all dimensions of life, often drawing on capacities we did not know we had. Anything may enter a session and help or harm at a given moment. Under the totem psyche is speaking. Can we hear and transmit it, and to what extent, with what quality?
The method of this book is fragmentary. Different facets of experience emerge, recede, reappear, while others enter. The emphasis is on feeling and imaginative reflection. A good deal draws on therapy sessions and ongoing dialogues with workers who have touched the author, including Bion, Winnicott, Freud, Jung, Klein, Buber, Suzuki, Milner, Wittgenstein, and Wertheimer. The writing grows from love of the psyche, its difficulties and gifts, what we sense as well as the vastness beyond sensing, a love affair ongoing for nearly sixty years of work and acts of shared faith.
Reviews and Endorsements:
'What a great pleasure it is spending timeless time with Michael Eigen as he weaves his internal world and external world into a rich and thought-provoking meditation. This book is filled with mystery, wonder, imagination, keen observation, and profound respect for the way each of us goes about making a path of our own.'
- Thomas H. Ogden, M.D., author most recently of Reclaiming Unlived Life: Experiences in Psychoanalysis and The Hands of Gravity and Chance: A Novel
'If, as Michael Eigen claims, writing is indeed a form of singing, this book is a paean to psychoanalysis. Drawing on a lifetime of work in the field, Eigen has little interest in the bromides and platitudes that have come to dominate supposedly evidence-based practices in psychotherapy. Instead, we are offered a wisdom of practice accumulated from deeply human and deeply humble existential encounters with fellow humans, as well as from Eigen’s dazzlingly erudite mind. What Eigen practices is a psychoanalysis of unfathomable depths and an embrace of the beauty and pain of human existence. He situates this beautifully in a practice of faith, spirituality, and radical openness that he suggests is fundamental to true human contact. Perhaps one of the greatest beauties of psychoanalysis is the privilege placed on wisdom of elders, and Eigen’s book is a gift of just such wisdom. It is an inspiration to all of us to stay the course, however insufficient our efforts at human healing may feel.'
- Michael O'Loughlin, Adelphi University and Co-chair of Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society
'Michael Eigen offers us further invitation into the mystery at the heart of the human experience that is, at its core, also at the heart of the psychoanalytic journey. The aesthetic of Eigen's writing is such that that if one allows oneself, one might be deeply touched and transformed through that process.'
- Marilyn Charles, Austen Riggs Center, author of Psychoanalysis and Literature: The Stories We Live
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.