In this beautiful work of reflection and self-reflection, Joyce Slochower wrestles with a seldom acknowledged dimension of being a psychoanalyst - the dialectic between illusions and less ideal realities that complicate the analyst's sense of who she is and of how best to meet her clinical obligations. Psychoanalytic Collisions details the various ways in which the analyst's wishes (both professional and personal) collide with the less-than-perfect actualities of everyday clinical work. The collisions in question are often rooted in the analyst's own illusions: illusions of therapeutic possibility in the face of ordinary human existence or illusions of therapeutic selflessness in the face of one's own "immutably self-centered humanity." Such collisions may complicate nonclinical professional activities such as writing, in which the analyst's desire to develop a personal idiom collides with self doubt and the imagined rebuff of teachers and colleagues. Other collisions coalesce dyadically in the consulting room. They may reflect sharp dissonance between what the patient needs the analyst to feel and what the latter actually feels, as in discrepant experiences of erotic desire. They may grow out of colliding idealizations of analyst and patient, each of the other. And they may arise in the wake of traumatizing life events that destroy the shared illusions on which treatment has rested.
In finely wrought examinations of these eventualities, Slochower is guided by the belief that collisions are intrinsic both to forging an analytic identity and to practicing in a manner consonant with that identity. Psychoanalytic collisions, she enjoins, often cannot be resolved, but they can usually be productively engaged. And the very act of engagement - be it establishing new grounds for collaboration in the wake of real-world catastrophe, or wrestling with clinical impasse grounded in the radically divergent expectations of analyst and patient, or owning up to what Slochower terms "secret delinquencies" - can provide the basis for a vision of the "good enough" analyst in which therapeutic hopefulness coexists with acceptance of the analyst's all-to-human fallibility.