Haunted by Parents

Leonard Shengold, M.D.

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A distinguished psychoanalyst offers a humanistic reflection on the parent-child bond and how it affects our ability—or inability—to change 

In this book the eminent psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold looks at why some people are resistant to change, even when it seems to promise a change for the better. Drawing on a lifetime of clinical experience as well as wide readings of world literature, Shengold shows how early childhood relationships with parents can lead to a powerful conviction that change means loss. 

Dr. Shengold, who is well known for his work on the lasting effects of childhood trauma and child abuse in such seminal books as Soul Murder and Soul Murder Revisited, continues his exploration into the consequences of early psychological injury and loss. In the examples of his patients and in the lives and work of such figures as Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Wordsworth, and Henrik Ibsen, Shengold looks at the different ways in which unconscious impressions connected with early experiences and fantasies about parents are integrated into individual lives. He shows the difficulties he’s encountered with his patients in raising these memories to the conscious level where they can be known and owned; and he also shows, in his survey of literary figures, how these memories can become part of the creative process.  

Haunted by Parents offers a deeply humane reflection on the values and limitations of therapy, on memory and the lingering effects of the past, and on the possibility of recognizing the promise of the future.

Leonard Shengold, M.D., is a training analyst at New York University Psychoanalytic Institute and clinical professor of psychiatry, New York University Medical School. He lives in New York City.

"Dr. Shengold intelligently demonstrates how the nature of parental ties shapes one's life course, how difficult it is to alter it, and how it influences creative activities. Anyone who reads this book will experience what I did—quiet hours of reflection on our own upbringing, our own parenting, and how these have shaped our lives."—Samuel Ritvo, M.D., Yale Child Study Center 

"Readers with a strong interest in the impact of childhood loss and abuse, and in the possibilities of metaphor, will find ample subtly suggestive food for thought."—Publishers Weekly


"The ideas are enlightening and applicable to real-life problems of being ‘stuck’ in unhealthy psychological states. Provocative and challenging. . . . Recommended for large public libraries, therapists, and students of literature and psychology."—Library Journal

"[A] richly evocative book. . . . This moving book is a pleasure to read; it deepens our emotional knowledge of the 'haunted' patient, and our understanding of the nature of the universal struggle that the need for change presents."—Richard Zimmer, International Journal of Psychoanalysis
ISBN: 9780300116106
Publication Date: January 17, 2007
272 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Soul Murder Revisited

Thoughts about Therapy, Hate, Love, and Memory

Leonard Shengold

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