Playing with Dynamite – Estela Welldon

Playing With Dynamite: A Personal Approach to the Psychoanalytic Understanding of Perversions, Violence and Criminality

Part of the Forensic Psychotherapy Monograph Series

Last published Karnac Books (2011)

Estela Welldon brings together a generous selection derived from her many literary gems, in which she illustrates her groundbreaking-and sometimes explosive-studies of female sexuality and perversions, perverse transference, malignant bonding, perverse motherhood, and the impact upon children of viewing domestic violence. Along with these are vivid descriptions of group analytic psychotherapy with forensic patients and, uniquely, of the joint group treatment of incest survivors and perpetrators.

She also outlines the development of forensic psychotherapy as a new field of clinical and academic endeavour and her involvement in this. In a series of interviews with Brett Kahr she describes her professional journey, from being trained by Horacio Etchegoyen in her native Argentina, followed by an eye-opening period at the Menninger Clinic, then eventually to London and a distinguished career at the Portman Clinic.

Praise for Playing with Dynamite

‘Playing with Dynamite is the best possible authoritative work anybody engaged in the stressful and dangerous field of forensic psychotherapy could wish for. Estela Welldon’s depth of insight and intelligent humane responses shine through on every page. She reveals a lifelong history of insight, thoughtfulness, and creativity, illustrated by numerous case histories, references, and technical formulations. This will be the definitive work in the field for the foreseeable future.’
– Anton Obholzer, fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, psychoanalyst, formerly director Tavistock and Portman Clinics, London

‘Describing an experience of racism in the USA where she was working, Estela Welldon, as an aside, comments that her lifelong preoccupation has been with social injustice, itself the cause of much of the violence and deviance we see in the world around us. I believe it is her passion for social justice that informs and transforms her work and makes Playing with Dynamite a profound and profoundly important book.
Through the active passion within the compassion of her extraordinarily extensive clinical work and her determination to grasp it analytically, a very different and crucial perspective transpires. Abused or abuser, criminal or victim, Estela Welldon forces us to understand what is happening in these acts as a first stage in trying to change the fact that we are all participants in the inhumanity of the human species, of what man (and woman) has done and is doing to man and woman and child.’

– Juliet Mitchell

‘Estela Welldon has taught a whole generation of clinicians to question their idealization of the mother-child relation. In this superb new study, she challenges both popular and professional preconceptions about perversion, violence, and crime. Drawing on years of research and clinical practice, she shows us the importance of thinking before blaming, and gives us the clinical and conceptual tools to do so.
A brave and deeply humane work, this invites us to go beyond gut moralism and to enter the minds of those it is always easier to incarcerate than to understand.’

– Darian Leader

‘It is a great pleasure to welcome a new work from one of the most significant writers in the field of forensic psychotherapy. Estela Welldon writes with erudition and humanity about people who are both distressing and distressed. The clinical vignettes are rich and informative; the review includes references both classical and contemporary.

Her use of examples from the worlds of visual art, theatre, and opera will delight and stimulate the reader. I am sure this will be a new classic that no therapist working with offenders will want to be without.’
– Gwen Adshead

‘A rich and persuasive rethinking of received views of perversion and violence, Estela Welldon’s new book will be essential reading not just for therapists but for anyone interested in the motivations of human behaviour.’
– Hanif Kureishi


Sally Stamp in Group Therapy Journal Review (August 2013) can be read as a PDF here.

Gabrielle Brown in Free Associations: Psychoanalysis and Culture, Media, Groups Politics Number 63, October 2012, can be read as a PDF here.

Editions and publications, in reverse chronological order

Karnac Books London, (2011)