Susan Kavaler-Adler

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The metaphorical construction of Susan Kavaler-Adler’s Anatomy of Regret: From Death Instinct to Reparation and Symbolization through Vivid Clinical Cases (Karnac, 2013) evokes the complexities that have wrought psychoanalysis since its beginning of talking about the mind in the language of the body.   As it subtitle tells us, the anatomy of this book is structured by the case study.

If there is something that informs Alder’s approach to understanding psychoanalysis and how she intervenes in the psychoanalytic encounter, its that where theory fails, the body succeeds. Regret, for Kavaler-Adler, is a bodily experience that orients us in some way to the unconscious consequences of our relationships – of the actions of other bodies in our lives.

In telling the stories of these case studies, Kavaler-Adler performs a kind of surgical suturing of theory along the sinews of loss – the scars left at the site of the aggression of the other. She begins with the important insight that something was at stake in Freud’s theory of mourning and melancholia – something that had to do with the aggressive ties that bind the self to the other and the impossibility of distinguishing the two but leaves Freud here, his theory having already become arrested in the language of the body and the physical laws a theory of the drive drive must adhere to.

In her thinking, Kavaler-Adler stitches Freud to the British psychoanalytic thinker Melanie Klein (and to Object Relation theorists after her) who situates mourning in a developmental context. In doing so, she stiches boundary of the anatomical to the symbolic, through the language of her cases. The Anatomy of Regret serves to articulate an affect theory that is uniquely its own, but for those new to psychoanalysis, or those who want a new way of thinking of psychoanalysis, informs about the theory it draws from in a meaningful way.

Dr. Susan Kavaler Adler is a psychoanalyst in private practice and the founder of the Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an ABBP for Diplomat status from the American Professional Board of Psychology and the Division of Psychoanalysis. For her work analyzing the language of mourning, loss, and regret, through bodily language, in the work of iconic women writers, Dr. Kavaler-Adler was awarded an honorary doctorate of literature.

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