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Schopenhauer's Porcupines: Intimacy And Its Dilemmas: Five Stories Of Psychotherapy

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  943 ratings  ·  65 reviews
The classic compilation of psychological case studies from a master clinician and lyrical writer Each generation of therapists can boast of only a few writers likeDeborah Luepnitz, whose sympathy and wit shine in her fine, luminous prose. In Schopenhauer's Porcupines, she recounts five true stories from her practice, stories of patients who range from the super-rich to the ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 24th 2003 by Basic Books (first published March 27th 2002)
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Sergei Moska
Jun 13, 2013 rated it liked it
I can easily see someone giving this five stars. Here's my quick run-down of the pros and cons:

-the writing is very accessible and engaging, yet not condescending
-this is a great account of the experience of the actual practice psychotherapy from the perspective of the (an) analyst
-Luepnitz effectively intersperses interesting and useful bits of theoretical information throughout the text. If you pay attention, you'll know more about some technical elements of psychotherapy after having rea
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really nice book for practicing therapists. I'm a social worker practicing as a therapist in a community mental health agency - meaning, working exclusively with the Medicaid population. Often times, when I read something on therapy praxis from the psychoanalytic perspective (*cough*Yalom*cough*) it's just way too bougie to feel applicable to my caseload. However, I was surprised to find this Luepntiz text doesn't give the same impression. For example, I about !@#$ my pants when I read that Lu ...more
Jul 20, 2015 rated it liked it
A troop of porcupines is milling about on a cold winter's day. In order to keep from freezing, the animals move closer together. Just as they are close enough to huddle, however, they start to poke each other with their quills. In order to stop the pain, they spread out, lose the advantage of commingling, and begin to shiver. This sends them back in search of each other, and the cycle repeats as they struggle to find a comfortable distance between entanglement and freezing.

The book has a cool ti
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It is a profound challenge to share the mysteries and miracles of psychotherapy. In five narratives of long-term therapies, Deborah Anna Luepnitz sheds light on the slow and deep processes involved, for both therapist and patient.
Utilizing the narrative of Schopenhauer's porcupines, she invites us to deeply connect with our own comfort zones and limits, with our own experience of both distance and intimacy.
This personal and accessible book affirms the value and uniqueness of psychoanalytic psyc
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Personally I think it's impossible to read this book without becoming struck by how emotional all of these stories are. Dr. Lueopnitz writes like a novelist who is intricately aware of human suffering. She discusses psychoanalytic theory in a way that is understandable to all, and embraces the experience of the subjectivity of the analyst. Brilliant, I look forward to reading it all again.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Luepnitz tells five stories of patients she has worked with in therapy. All are resounding successes, though all come from wildly different backgrounds. Luepnitz is a traditional Freudian therapist and that bothered me at first. But as I read on, I could see Luepnitz seems to use traditional Freudian techniques to read a patient, much like I read the characters in a book. It was a fascinating read, watching as patients became more and more forthcoming with their problems and difficulties. Do all ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
A solid 3. I liked it, but wasn't struck by it being something amazing. The author, Deborah, is a psycho-analyst, so all the stories are about psychotherapy. I think talk therapy can be immensely helpful to some people, but it would have been nice if there had been just one case where it turned out that it didn't help. I feel like this book paints a very rosy picture of her work.

Still, an engrossing read. Although my life has not been nearly as difficult as some of the clients discussed in the
Ryan Johnson
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved it. 4 Stars.

Again this book and author, re-familiarized myself with some great authors and intellectuals that I voraciously read when younger, which i need to re-read now that the ravages of memory loss will make them and their theories new again.

A must read.
Hanan AL-Raddadi
Reading the stories in the book, I remembered a wonderful quote from the tv show “in treatment” in which Paul Weston’s therapist tell him: “At certain point you have to move past the stories that you've assigned to your life, these steadfast explanations you've settled on. You have to look at yourself again for real answers. You have to take that risk.”
In away, therapy IS about examining your own story and it is not a simple task. I loved the book very much, and I loved how the stories keep gett
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Surprisingly engaging and entangling!

The storytelling and descriptions are not less, not more, than what makes the rhetoric cohesive and captivating to the reader, just at the perfect level. No matter who the character was, or what their story was, I’ve empathized over and over with what characters think or feel, their fears and their justifications. I’ve been excited to the greatest extent, as their story unravels, as if I was actually their psychotherapist( or the patient itself) connecting al
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In Schopenhauer's Porcupines: Intimacy and Its Dilemmas, Deborah Luepnitz presents the theories, intricacies, failings and victories of the analytic process of psychotherapy as she relates the case histories of five diverse patients/subjects. Although her target audience may ultimately be students of psychoanalysis, Luepnitz describes the process of the "talking cure" without pretensions. Even the reader without a background in psychology will find her stories compelling and her analysis easy to ...more
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-the-mind
This book is very telling. People, like porcupines, are in need of close relationships in order to truly thrive BUT ... how close should those relationships be before one feels the prickle and runs away? And what of those relationships that are comforting and prickly at the same time? How do people reconcile those dilemmas? The answer to that is different for everyone; this book explores the answers that 5 people discover through psychotherapy. This book is so very interesting and detailed. High ...more
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book I’ve read in a long time

I chose this book to expand my professional horizons but found personal benefit in every story—both entertainment from the author’s beautiful, smart, and engaging prose, and insight from her deep and broad clinical knowledge and experience.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful case series! As a budding psychiatrist and psychoanalyst myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this both personally and professionally.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I was a sucker for the book when I read the title. The porcupine dilemma is a concept that I think a lot about (the fable, as Freud and Schopenhauer tell it, basically goes: the challenge of human intimacy is a lot like the challenge porcupines face during cold weather. To find warmth, porcupines have to huddle together...but they have sharp spines that can hurt ... so they have to either keep a safe distance to avoid getting hurt/hurting others or find a way to keep the their spines down and ri ...more
John Fredrickson
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, health
This is a very accessible book that relates stories pertaining to five of the author's patients. The stories that she relates are naturally stories of success. Each individual patient's situation is unique and engaging.

There are numerous things to commend the book for. The individual stories themselves are quite different from each other, and the beginning of each presents no clear easy resolution (to the reader now as well as the author then). The author shows a sense of humor as she portrays t
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I could, I would give this book a 10 stars on a scale of 5. This book has five case studies on Psychoanalysis. I have never read any piece of writing written with so much clarity. I totally commend Dr. Deborah for striking so clear to me. I have taken an inspiration from her when it comes to communicating with clarity.
As an aspiring psychologist, and hopefully psychoanalyst, I have learnt a lot from this book. I was surprised at the intelligence and alertness Dr. Luepnitz uses to understand a
Alexandra Chauran
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My therapist recommended this book, so I purchased it for the Kindle. It is very well-written and a fascinating read. It reads like a long advertisement for insight-oriented psychotherapy, but gives lots of food for thought. The highly-personalized, case study nature of each chapter devoted to some peculiar individual helped the author introduce Freudian ideas and her own conclusions about patient behaviour without the author's ideas seeming gross or threatening like in some other psych books th ...more
Wendy Greenberg
May 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Porcupines, craving intimacy and yet needing separation, protection and vulnerability. This thinking provides the underlying metaphor for these tellings of clients in therapy.

I found this a compulsive read and yet the missing elements of therapy exchange which may have spanned years left me wanting.

Fascinating, yet somehow not revealing enough for me.
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books about psychotherapy. It is based on several real life cases that the author has handled. Each case seems like a small novel. Beautifully narrated. One can relate a lot with the people in the stories.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The unexamined life is not worth living!
Jasleen A.
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Insightful. Clear. Beautiful.

This is a book that will make you learn more about yourself as a human, and the lived experiences of others.
Luís  Benedito
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book really is a must-read for all those interested in psychodynamic psychotherapy. I had difficulty putting the book down and the first and last cases were really captivating.
Keith Wheeles
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting series of illustrative case overviews focused on the elusive 'just right' balance of intimacy. Introduced me to some concepts that I was not familiar with.
Chris Muniz
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was my first time reading a book about psychology and psychoanalysis. It seemed as if every patients issues stemmed from a relationship with parent or lack there of. This really puts pressure on anyone looking to raise a family.

Overall the book was interesting and I enjoyed the five different stories. One story even had a close connection with my type 1 diabetes. Would definitely recommend.
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My second time reading this one...and probably not my last. I have heard Deborah Luepnitz present at a conference and found her just as interesting and entertaining in person (as well as pretty darn talented clinically). This book is a series of five cases studies from her practice as a psychoanalyst, with the common theme being the issue of relational "intimacy." In Schopenhauer's original tale, porcupines are described as huddling together against the cold, only to have to move away because th ...more
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
at first, i wasn't sure i believed annice that this would be a book i loved.

however, then i got to the last two case studies. pearl's story, and the way the author worked with her, was inspiring. and then! then we got to emily. and emily broke my heart, but also the way deborah didn't give up on her really meant a lot to me, as a wanna be therapist. i mean, she made sure she had support with herself, getting a supervisor to talk through the issues and she stuck with this woman for over a decade
Jun 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: big-picture, dealing
This is an interesting and instructive account by a talk-therapy psychotherapist of clients she treated over the years, and what she learned. Her central image is that of porcupines who inevitably wound if they get too close to each another. People don’t have quills, but they often came to the author with emotional trauma or difficult history that likewise wounded as they attempted intimacy. I was left impressed with the author’s dedication, especially toward one impoverished woman she saw for f ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it liked it
This book wasn't necessarily what I was expecting, as it deals with all kinds of relationships, not just romantic, but also familiar, etc...But it did teach me a thing or two about psychotherapy by giving me a better understanding (and appreciation) of the language and theory behind it.
Although I wasn't too sure about the book at first, the last two chapters really struck me. I found both The Darwinian Finch and The Sin Eater to be especially rich and insightful investigations into the complexi
Sarah Evan
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
December 2009 -
I just re-read this book and realized it allowed me to decide to enter into the profession of psychology. Her tone makes therapy so accessible and the elements of human nature she describes (and subtly dissects) are key to the subtitle - Intimacy and It's Dilemmas. Now a favorite!

August 2008-
I really liked these five case studies of individuals in psychotherapy who had various issues with intimacy/relationships. I also liked how the author/therapist used analogies and references
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“This etymology puts me in mind of Winnicott’s notion of potential space–that intermediate area between the subjective and objective in which creativity and play occur. Psychotherapy is akin to play, according to Winnicott. Therapy takes place neither inside the mind of the patient nor inside that of the therapist, but in some middle area, in the potential space between them.” 1 likes
“Freud wrote: “The evidence of psychoanalysis shows that almost every intimate emotional relation between two people which lasts for some time–marriage, friendship, the relations between parents and children–contains a sediment of feelings of aversion and hostility, which only escapes perception as a result of repression.” Freud believed that the one exception to this was the love of a mother for her son, which was “based on narcissism,” proving only that he was, among many other things, an Old World Patriarch.” 1 likes
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