"Envy and Gratitude Revisited" Ed P. Roth and A.Lemma

Edited by Priscilla Roth and Alessadra Lemma

The International Psychoanalytical Association, Broomhills, Woodside lane: London 12 8D, United Kingdom.2008. 252 p.

Reviewed by Rise Becker

Priscilla Roth acknowledges a gratitude to Alessandra Lemma for the idea for this book and including her in its realization. Well may we also thank her for this conception and Roth for helping so expertly in its formation. This is a book rendered understandable by her. Her introduction to this edited compilation discusses Klein’s article, locates it in her theory and integrates the different approaches of the contributors. This is an edited compilation of invited analysts from different theoretical position who have read a seminal article and have found something in it to discuss.

Not all of the writers agree with aspects of the paper and some articles focus on newer developments in current Kleinian thinking. However all of the contributors, as with all contemporary psychoanalysts, are indebted to Klein for what were then radical ideas. Roth says:

Reading these thirteen chapters, abounding in thoughts, hypotheses, images, opinions, conclusions all engendered by one short work, one has a sense of how psychoanalysis must have struggled without Envy and Gratitude. It is a measure of Klein’s bequest that so much flows from it –like a bountiful well from which any number of vessels can be filled (Roth et al, p. 18).

There is often the risk when requesting papers from people in a book like this that it seems forced, since the papers may not come from ideas that are uppermost in their minds. Even if someone has a response; developing this into a paper can read as somewhat labored. This book did not feel like that. The reason may be that the issues that the paper by Klein provoked are so germane to psychoanalysis and because the paper reads smoothly as a testament to what psychoanalysis is always attempting to do- navigating unconscious forces. The authors felt free to use the paper as a springboard to discuss their thinking. In so doing we are exposed to new ideas and the thinking of contemporary analysts.

Schmuel Ehrlich was prompted to write in his paper Envy and Gratitude: some current reflections; that he would have preferred a close textual reading in a seminar with colleagues with questions and discussion rather than in the confining frame of the written work. I for one have benefitted from this confining frame being forced on him and the rest of the contributors. Due to this I have been awarded the stimulation of feeling part of an international seminar, given opinions, thoughts and contemporary developments in ideas from senior analysts and teachers in psychoanalysis.

This is a new graduate and candidate’s dream. Here the essential debates are presented and discussed by scholarly thinkers. It inspires one to read or reread Envy and Gratitude. This text offers a foray into the late mind of Klein. It is surprisingly easy to follow unlike some of Klein’s earlier work and Roth’s editorial provides us with a guided tutorial. This is a book that should be recommended to candidates as a secondary text as it focuses on and details important developments in psychoanalytic ideas. But Envy and Gratitude Revisited is by no means an introductory text. It outlines sophisticated arguments focusing on fine distinctions, extends theoretical understanding and offers illuminating thinking engendered by the concept, envy. While many of us will continue to grapple with our positions, this book sets out the complex argument from all sides. Tapping into the debate of senior colleagues and being able to engage with the subtle nuances of the questions around the nature and function of the death instinct; the place of the internal and external, the relevance and implications of when envy emerges; the importance of the objects/analyst’s actual ability to contain and with ideas regarding constitutional factors. As Roth points out, any study of envy will consider defences against it and many authors describe defensive organizations as they emerge in the consulting room. And so she facilitates our learning through defences to triangularity and finally gratitude.

Gratitude she says is not possible without an awareness of separateness of the other. And she suggests Klein, like Bion saw this awareness of a separate bountiful object as a pre-conception. Heinz WeiB describes romantic perversion of the reality of time which protects his patient from an awareness of separateness. Interestingly only one person namely Edna O’Shaughnessy chose to focus on gratitude and she ends her paper wondering of the possibility of retaining enjoyment in the face of transience and loss

Having revisited, Envy and Gratitude Revisited, to write this review I am once again tantalized by the myriad ideas, depth of thinking and subtle observations in the clinical work and literature analyses. For those who did not grab the book hungrily when it came out a year ago I would recommend you do so.