DUNCAN CARTWRIGHT: Psychoanalysis, Violence and Rage-Type Murder: Murdering Minds. Brunner-Routledge, New York, 2002, 202 pp., paperback, $25.95, ISBN 1-58391-202-9.
Duncan Cartwright is a psychoanalyst who treats violent offenders, and conducts research on them. At a time when many worry about the retreat of psychoanalysis from areas of traditional strength, it is refreshing to see some analysts exploring relatively new territory.
Of course, aggression is far from a new topic for analysis, but as Cartwright points out, the definition of aggression in psychoanalytic works is variable, often meaning intrapsychic aggression rather than physical violence.
Cartwright's book is a well-researched volume of psychoanalytic research on an important topic. Unavoidably perhaps, those therapists who are less well versed in psychoanalytic terminology may find some sections to be difficult. Yet, his case histories and overall conclusions are clear, concise, and important to anyone working with violent offenders, or even concerned about violence.
Cartwright divides the book into three sections. The first explores the psychoanalytic understanding of aggression and violence. The author clarifies the literature, trying to discern for the reader which literature is discussing internal aggression and which is examining actual violence.
In a rather comprehensive view, Cartwright then explores seven psychological aspects of violence. First, he considers object relations, noting that violent individuals may not simply have overwhelming rage toward the mother (as might be expected); rather, rage may be repressed, hiding beneath a veneer of seemingly "normal" object relations. Often, the rage is more related to aggression directed toward, or internalized from the father or another third object. Representational capacity is discussed next, referring to the ability to transfer excitation into emotion, ideas, and intents. Such a capacity may be lacking or impaired in those prone to violence. Next, Cartwright turns to trauma and abuse, noting the important observation by James Gilligan (Violence: Our Deadliest Epidemic and its Causes, 1996, New York: Grosset/Putnam) and others that abuse leading to internalized shame may be particularly related to violence. Cartwright explores the sexual aspects of violence next, reminding us that sadism is both violent and sexual, often with a core of self-destruction. Next, fantasy is certainly a part of many acts of violence, but often missing in rage-type murder, a sudden act of overwhelming violence in a previously nonviolent person. …