The Story of Sidonie C: Freud’s famous ‘case of female homosexuality’
Ines Rieder and Diana Voigt (Helena History Press, £23)
Sidonie C was, as is now well known, Margarethe Csonka, the only daughter of a prosperous Jewish Viennese industrialist. She was the subject of Freud’s only published work on female homosexuality (in 1920), and her life spanned the 20th century, from 1900 to 1999. Her biographers decided to respect her confidentiality, and gave her the name Sidonie, or Sidi.
Aged 18, Sidi became infatuated with a married woman known to have affairs with both women and men. Horrified, her parents sent her to see Freud. Freud was not opposed to homosexuality – he wrote in his report on Sidi’s case, ‘Psychoanalysis presupposes an original bisexuality in human beings’. But nor was he optimistic about the success of psychoanalysis in converting a person to heterosexuality.
He analysed Sidi for about four months. She found him frankly creepy. His conclusion was, predictably, a simple inversion of his interpretation of male homosexuality: Sidonie was in love with her father, jealous of her mother, and seeking from another older woman the love and approval her mother denied her. He ended the analysis when he realised that she had transferred to him her ‘deep antipathy to men’, and recommended her parents take her to a female analyst.
But this potentially fascinating tale occupies only a few pages of the book. The rest tells the no less fascinating story of Sidi’s life against the backdrop of turbulent 20th-century Europe and America. Perhaps of most professional interest to counsellors and psychotherapists is its cautionary tale of how one of their profession was blinded by his own theories to the reality of the young woman on the couch beside him.
Catherine Jackson is a freelance writer and editor
The Erotic Screen: desire, addiction and perversity in cinema
Thomas Wolman (Phoenix, £26.99)
At first glance, the titles that Wolman studies in this book are surprising choices, with perhaps only two of them being obviously erotic films. However, he explains in his introduction that Hollywood and censorship have, ironically, been regular bedfellows, and that filmmakers, especially earlier in the 20th century, needed to be creative if they wished to explore erotic themes in mainstream cinema. So they filled their movies with sexual subtexts and subliminal erotic symbolism.
Most of the films in this book could be enjoyed at a superficial level, but when Wolman applies his psychoanalytic lens, they are enriched beyond measure. Suddenly moments such as the famous chest-buster scene in Alien become replete with meaning, significance and myriad interpretations.
Wolman clearly sees human sexuality as a complex driving force in life and in film. The combination of scholarship and ingenuity that sees him find the erotic in films such as The Thing from Another World and The Maltese Falcon is admirable. In keeping with Freud, Wolman takes a broad view of erotic to include addiction, greed and alcoholism in movies such as Wall Street and Leaving Las Vegas.
This is a deeply analytic reading of cinema that strips away societal, cultural and narrative veneers to reveal the pulsating heart of the sexual impulse as the agent of action. It makes explicit the unspoken, revealing the role of libido in every layer of the narrative. I can’t help but think the author is someone you’d never catch saying, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’ The book is assiduous in its detail, referencing not only the films themselves but also the impact of deleted scenes, stage notes and even quotes from the creative team.
Nick Campion is a trainee psychotherapist in Derby and a supervisor
The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity: a self-help book for people with psychosis
Erica Crompton and Professor Stephen Lawrie (Hammersmith Books, £14.99)
This practical guide is primarily aimed at those who have experienced psychosis, but it will also be of interest to anyone supporting someone with psychosis, be it as a friend, family member or professional. The combination of journalist Crompton’s lived experience of paranoid schizophrenia and academic psychiatrist Lawrie’s more textual knowledge make this the epitome of co-production.
The style is unusual in that Crompton and Lawrie are in dialogue. Often, Crompton illustrates Lawrie’s explanations with a personal vignette, bringing to life what might otherwise seem quite abstract or hypothetical. For example, ‘It’s the “bizarre beliefs” that Stephen describes which led me to A&E in the spring of 2009... I had stopped taking my medication for longer than a week and had started to believe I was a wanted criminal again.’
Early chapters explain in simple, non-judgmental language what psychosis is and how it is diagnosed and list different types of ‘psychotic disorder’. The stigma that can surround a diagnosis is acknowledged and anti-diagnostic views are touched on, but this is nonetheless a book firmly rooted in the biomedical model.
Other chapters look at the causes of psychosis, including genetics and early environmental factors, as well as triggers, such as illicit drugs and life events.
Finally, chapters on treatment options, outcomes and lifestyle offer valuable practical advice and information, both for those in crisis and those in long-term recovery from psychosis. Alongside topics such as housing, benefits and navigating the DVLA with a psychiatric diagnosis are playful, creative ideas from Crompton for staying well, including gardening, shamanism, keeping pets, dancing and hip-hop.
Emmanuelle Smith is a psychodynamic psychotherapist in training
#MeToo: counsellors and psychotherapists speak about sexual violence and abuse
Deborah A Lee and Emma Palmer (eds) (PCCS Books, £21.99)
What happens when you hear about sexual abuse and violence? This triumph of a book is (largely) by therapists who have experienced abuse, speaking out in light of the #MeToo movement. Congruence charges like a bull through every page, as the authors address the crossover between abuse and a swathe of contemporary issues. In the chapter ‘#MeToo on the Internet’, Tara Shennan talks with Haley Clifford about her own experience. The chapter unpacks how internet abuse can unfold, the psychological manipulation allowing it to flourish and how it is often misunderstood and judged to be less serious than other types of sexual abuse. In other chapters, the relationship between culture and abuse is explored. This is a dynamic portrait of people who have experienced abuse, navigating ways to communicate their experiences. There is tenderness and compassion as the authors reflect together. Randall and Urbach work hard to meet each other and it is a privilege to witness the dialogue unfolding. The sharp light directed on therapy training feels timely and necessary. The chapter by Lee (also a co-editor), as well as others, captures the ‘silence within the profession’. Examples are given of victim blaming, trainees encouraged not to disclose and survivors being discussed in divisive ways. Is there another industry where your suitability for role would be questioned if you disclosed rape? Unsurprisingly, Lee suggests ‘safe enough’ training environments may not be wholly available. As you read this book, I urge you to heed her words and consider, ‘What are you hearing?’ and ‘Where might it be coming from?’
Zorana Halpin is a counsellor
Cultural Awareness in Therapy with Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Adults and Older People: a practical guide
Tavi Hawn (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, £22.99)
This interesting book, which advocates client work through an intersectional lens, aims to educate and guide therapists into considering how best to work from a culturally responsive framework. Specifically focusing on cultural awareness within trans- affirmative practice (trans and gender non-conforming), it is hands-on and invites the reader to challenge themselves on ‘who is left out of “research” that creates “evidence-based practice” to stretch beyond typical practice and working style, and to move to a place of growth… and honestly assess where you are’.
I found the glossary of acronyms and terms and helpful self-reflective exercises and scenarios with questions very useful as I worked my way through the book. These are set alongside facts for the reader to consider, such as the reality of systemic and structural oppression. Bearing in mind the role of power and the challenge of individuals in systems being unaware of their own biases, we are reminded how, as therapists, it is essential to move beyond our own spheres and be open and engaged in active learning to discover what a particular identity means to a particular client.
I can honestly say that I came away from this book feeling I had learnt a lot. A US title, the relevance of sections on working with some of the major cultural groups described in the book (such as 2S or Two Spirit, Native American indigenous people who identify as both male and female) may be limited for those in the UK. However, in terms of working with all marginalised communities, I would highly recommend it.
Caz Binstead MBACP is an integrative therapist working in private practice
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