Big Ideas/Small Books

By Susie Orbach

Picador USA, Paperback, 9780312427207, 216pp.

Publication Date: March 3, 2009


Esteemed Psychotherapist and writer Susie Orbach diagnoses the crisis in our relationship to our bodies and points the way toward a process of healing.

Throughout the Western world, people have come to believe that general dissatisfaction can be relieved by some change in their bodies. Here Susie Orbach explains the origins of this condition, and examines its implications for all of us. Challenging the Freudian view that bodily disorders originate and progress in the mind, Orbach argues that we should look at self-mutilation, obesity, anorexia, and plastic surgery on their own terms, through a reading of the body itself. Incorporating the latest research from neuropsychology, as well as case studies from her own practice, she traces many of these fixations back to the relationship between mothers and babies, to anxieties that are transferred unconsciously, at a very deep level, between the two. Orbach reveals how vulnerable our bodies are, how susceptible to every kind of negative stimulus--from a nursing infant sensing a mother's discomfort to a grown man or woman feeling inadequate because of a model on a billboard. That vulnerability makes the stakes right now tremendously high.

In the past several decades, a globalized media has overwhelmed us with images of an idealized, westernized body, and conditioned us to see any exception to that ideal as a problem. The body has become an object, a site of production and commerce in and of itself. Instead of our bodies making things, we now make our bodies. Susie Orbach reveals the true dimensions of the crisis, and points the way toward healing and acceptance.

About the Author
Susie Orbach is a psychotherapist and writer. She co-founded the Women's Therapy Centre and Antidote, the organisation promoting emotional literacy and is a visiting Professor at the LSE. She has a practice seeing individuals and couples and consulting to organisations. Her numerous works include 'Fat is a Feminist Issue' (1978), 'Hunger Strike' (1986), 'The Impossibility of Sex' (1999), and 'On Eating' (2002).

Praise For Bodies


"Orbach provides a rich, nuanced context for the present moment, looking through time and across cultures."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"A cogent, relevant look at the contemporary body in crisis."--Kirkus Reviews


"A smart and rich compendium of what is going on within and without our bodies today, its pages informed by Orbach's decades of clinical practice and research."--The Times (UK)


"A timely and powerful polemic . . . on the western obsession with achieving physical perfection."--The Guardian (UK)


"A timely entry in the current analysis of reality versus fiction that seems to be steadily encompassing all facets of American life."--Booklist


Praise for Susie Orbach:

"Virtually all feminist debate on body image and beauty imagery owes its existence to Susie Orbach's enduring formulation."--Naomi Wolf

"Susie Orbach's pioneering work isn't just the first to expose the links between sexual politics and female dieting; it remains the classic work on the subject."--Susan Faludi

"Ms. Orbach extends feminist analysis systematically, convincingly, and movingly to portray the anorectic struggle as a metaphor for our age."--The New York Times Book Review on Hunger Strike