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Soul Murder [Paperback]


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Book Description

1 Jan 1900 0449905497 978-0449905494 1st Ballantine Books Ed
To abuse or neglect a child, to deprive the child of his or her own identity and ability to experience joy in life, is to commit soul murder. Soul murder is the perpetration of brutal or subtle acts against children that result in their emotional bondage to the abuser and, finally, in their psychic and spiritual annihilation. In this compelling, disturbing, and superbly readable book, Dr. Leonard Shengold, clinical professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, explores the devastating psychological effects of this trauma inflicted on a shocking number of children.

Drawing on a lifetime of clinical experience and wide-ranging reading in world literature, Dr. Shengold examines the ravages of soul murder in the adult lives of his patients as well as in the lives and works of such seminal writers as George Orwell, Dickens, Chekhov, and Kipling. One hopeful note in this saga of pain is that a terrible childhood can, if survived, be a source of strength, as Dr. Shengold finds in the cases of Dickens and Orwell.

Provocatively original in its approach to literature and psychology, unsettling in its vivid portrayal of the darker side of human nature, far-reaching in its conclusions, Soul Murder will stand alongside such works as Alice Miller's The Drama of the Gifted Child as one of the most important studies of the psyche to appear in decades.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett; 1st Ballantine Books Ed edition (1 Jan 1900)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449905497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449905494
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 460,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a map of the badlands 9 May 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I've read this book several times, and find it very useful to understand and to undo the effects of trauma. Shengold speaks to me personally as the one-time member of an abusive family, and professionally as a psychoanalyst who works with people who have been abused. This book is painful to read at times, and is probably better read in small sections at a time, so that it can be felt and digested.
79 of 101 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor 5 Nov 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Although deeply literate, thought provoking, and full of interesting and penetrating observations, formulations, and interpretations, I recommend this book only to those who already well-read in the area of childhood trauma.
My reason is that the book is imbued with a traditional Freudian understanding of the mind. A central statement of the author's view in this matter can be found on page 33, where Schengold refers to the "pathogenic power of fantasy." What a concept! The idea that one's imagination can make one sick! Such ideas have, in my opinion, no basis in fact and no place in a modern work on trauma.
Schengold certainly does not deny the pathogenic power of concrete childhood realities--in fact, that is his emphasis throughout the book and he has much of importance to say about it--but the Freudian taint could still, I think, mislead those who have not thoroughly thought through the issue. For this reason, I recommend this book only to those who are already well-read and well-thought in the area, and can therefore identify and disregard such notions; for such readers, the work is a stimulating gem. (I do not mean this to disparage Freud's contribution to the field of trauma, which was huge--see, especially, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, disregarding his notion of the Death Wish, for a brilliant anticipation of modern concepts of post-traumatic repetition--but other dimensions of Freud's undestanding are insupportable and should be discarded, including some contained in Schengold's book.)
Also, for persons looking for clear and unencumbered penetration into their problems, or for therapists working to devlop a clear and cohesive understanding of the impact of childhood trauma, I consider this work too literary and too abstruse, even aside from it's unsupportable Freudian overtones.
Books that I consider essential works on trauma include: those of Alice Miller (Banished Knowledge and others); J. Konrad Stettbacher (Making Sense of Suffering; don't be put off by the inelegant style, and pay close attention to his ideas on the the notion of a child learning to "fear his own needs"); Jenifer Freyd's Betrayal Trauma; Morton Schatzman's Soul Murder--out of print, but one of the great works in the history of psychology (libraries can get it--will certainly come back into print when the level of understanding about trauma increases among professionals). For a simple-to-read and popular-in-style paperback that nonetheless goes right to the heart of the matter read Susan Forward's Toxic Parents--"unsophisticated" yet profound.
Having read what I've written, I feel that I should reiterate that Schengold's work really has a great deal of penetration and value for some readers. I certainly was educated and stimulated by it.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into the damaging abuse process 27 Oct 2004
By Josephine Thompson Author - Published on Amazon.com
This is a landmark book, many papers written based upon this book are now famous. For those well read in child abuse psychopathology, this book explains how and to what extent the damage is done to children of abuse.

The Title speaks volumes: Soul murder...what more can be said?

This is indispensible for therapists, parents of damaged children

and adult survivors of child abuse.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intensely Freudian 8 Jun 2009
By Robert L. Scherr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I knew when I bought the book that the writer would approach the topic from a Freudian perspective, which I don't necessarily think is always the best but I was willing to check it out. I also didn't know that he was going to be speaking almost exclusively of famous authors through analysis of their writing. It comes off as more of an academic exercise (albeit a skilled one) than one having much to do with me reality in parenting a previously abused child.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for normal people 16 Sep 2007
By Fred Worth - Published on Amazon.com
I gave up on this book. To me it is an intellectual exercise where 1 word is stretched to about 200 words. The author is very much anal (literal) focused and for some reason likes to write about rats. One story, which had nothing to do with anybody who was abused as a child, details how to kill a man by using a rat. Huh?
If you're like me and want to understand the inner healing necessary to get beyond the past then I don't think this book is helpful. If you want to know the inner nuances of Oedipus and Orwell, or need to discuss Freud for some reason then there is some secondary value.
I particularily did not like the fact that he took the book's name from an earlier child abuse book, which I thought was tremendously better written and more to the point.
So, while I consider the time I spent reading this book as wasted and worse, I am glad I got it in the used bin for $5.
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