‘Unlike the heart … a brain cannot be understood as a static organ. It changes with its history and with every present moment.’
After the birth of her first child, Nicola Redhouse experiences an unrelenting anxiety that quickly overwhelms her. Her immense love for her child can’t protect her from the dread that prevents her leaving the house, opening the mail, eating. Nor, it seems, can the psychoanalytic thinking she has absorbed through her family and her many years of therapy.
In an attempt to understand the source of her panic, Nicola starts to thread together what she knows about herself and her family with explorations of the human mind in philosophy, science and literature. What role do genetics play in postnatal anxiety? Do the biological changes of motherhood offer a complete explanation? Is the Freudian idea of the mind outdated? Can more recent combined theories from neuroscientists and psychoanalysts provide the answers? How might we be able to know ourselves through our genes, our biology, our family stories and our own ever-unfolding narratives?
In this compelling and insightful memoir, Nicola blends her personal experiences with the historical progression of psychoanalysis. In the end, much like in analysis, it is the careful act of narrative construction that yields the answers.
About the Author
Nicola Redhouse is a writer living in Melbourne, Australia. Her work has been published in the literary journals Meanjin, Island and Kill Your Darlings, and in the anthologies Best Australian Stories (Black Inc.) and Rebellious Daughters (Ventura Press). She has been working as a book editor since 2005.
"In Nicola Redhouse’s Unlike the Heart, theoretical questions of psyche and soma are not remote but urgent concerns, intimately bound to her own family’s story and the terrible anxiety she experienced after the births of her children. Intelligent, lucid and knowledgeable, the book itself may be said to embody the discipline of neuropsychoanalysis: It combines the narrative of a single patient with insights from the science of the brain."
"A vital account of a struggle: resolute, intelligent and endlessly interesting."
"In this original, rigorous, poignant yet witty, and personally urgent work, Redhouse puts Freud and his disciples onto the couch – to scrutinise the art, and possibly science, of psychoanalysis, and, even more ambitiously, to find where brain ends and mind begins. This book is a feat of literary and intellectual fireworks."
Lee Kofman, author of The Dangerous Bride
"Redhouse has corralled the ordinary and extraordinary madness of motherhood, the history of psychoanalysis, the efficacy of antidepressants, the future of neuroscience, and the complexities of her uniquely introspective family to create a kind of perfect memoir – one that enlarges the reader’s knowledge and leaves them with questions about their own existence."
Steven Amsterdam, author of The Easy Way Out