DIVISION REVIEW DIVISION A QUARTERLY PSYCHOANALYTIC FORUM A QUARTERLY PSYCHOANALYTIC FORUM
THE CONTINUUM OF MOURNING
MAPPING THE UNDERWORLD
LACAN AND FILM THEORY
NASO | Mills
NOVIE | McGowan & Kunkle
METZL | Kavaler-Adler
THE THERAPIST AS A SUBJECT SOPHER | Kuchuck
NO.4 SUMMER 2012 NO.11 WINTER 2014
KNAFO | Kaplan
PSYCHOANALYSIS’S FOUNDER STRENGER | Phillips
MATHES | MAN LIKE ME
STEINKOLER | KNOWLEDGE
RIDLESS | CARIOU V. PRINCE
DONALD WINNICOTT TODAY ELLMAN | GOODMAN | Abram
R E M I N I S C E N C E
FREUD WITH HUMOR
A Playful Science
GAZTAMBIDE | MELANCOLIA
SEIDEN | A MEDITATION WITHOUT PUNCTUATION
David LICHTENSTEIN, Editor
At a recent conference in Reykjavik, Iceland (Psychoanalysis on Ice) the participants enjoyed a brief debate between Danny Nobus and Otto Kernberg, from London and New York, respectively, on the character of psychoanalytic science. Nobus, a psychoanalyst much influenced by the work of Lacan, had just given a paper invoking Nietzsche’s idea of a gai saber, la gaia scienza, or Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (1974) as the inspiration for psychoanalytic science. Kernberg was not convinced to say the least and argued instead for a scientific approach that would place psychoanalysis firmly in the ranks of the natural sciences and a good neighbor to neuroscience and biology. Indeed, he thought that
Nobus’ vision of a future for the psychoanalytic field that relied upon the art of poetry, as Nietzsche had envisioned for philosophy, would be nothing short of a disaster for our clinical discipline. This instance of the old art vs. science debate regarding psychoanalysis had the virtue of invoking Nietzsche’s formidable text and its principal claim that the way to approach the fundamental questions of living is by bridging the apparent contradictions of reason and passion. It is our view that psychoanalysis is properly located on this bridge. What Nietzsche was advocating in philosophy ultimately found its best expression in psychoanalysis.
Die fröliche Wissenschaft has been rendered a number of ways in English. “Joyous Wisdom” is one possibility, but “gay science”, closely following the Italian, is the more accepted form. Its original significance is the art and science of poetry and song: that skill and know-how that goes into the creation of a poem. That in contemporary usage “gay” has an additional significance only adds to the richness of the phrase. It is a science, a knowing, that is mirthful both in character and in object. It is a passionate science but also the science of passions; indeed, Nietzsche suggests that the Provençal poets of the gaia scienza in fact created the very passions they were writing about and then
Official publication of Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association
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Henry M. Seiden
Marilyn N. Metzl
Anatomy of Regret: From Death Instinct to Reparation and Symbolization through Vivid Clinical Cases by Susan Kavaler-Adler
Ronald C. Naso
Underworlds: Philosophies of the Unconscious from Psychoanalysis to Metaphysics by Jon Mills
Lacan and Contemporary Film edited by Todd McGowan and Sheila Kunkle
Ricardo Ainslie, Steven David Axelrod, Christina Biedermann, Chris Bonovitz, Steven Botticelli, Ghislaine Boulanger, Muriel Dimen, William Fried [REMINISCENCE], Patricia Gherovici, Peter Goldberg, Adrienne Harris, Elliott Jurist, Jane Kupersmidt, William MacGillivray, Paola Mieli, Donald Moss, Ronald Naso, Donna Orange, Robert Prince, Allan Schore, Henry M. Seiden [ON POETRY], Robert Stolorow, Nina Thomas, Usha Tummala, Jamieson Webster, Lynne Zeavin ASSOCIATE EDITORS
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Clinical Implications of the Therapist’s Life Experiences: When the Personal Becomes Professional by Steven Kuchuck
Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst by Adam Phillips
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Donald Winnicott Today by Jan Abram
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Man Like Me
Where Does Knowledge Come From, and Do We Care?
Melancolia bajo un palo de mango: A Review and Critique of “Psychoanalysis in el Barrio”
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Cariou v. Prince: The Art of Negation ON POETRY
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A Playful Science from page 1 bequeathed them to European culture as the roots of the modern idea of romantic love (Nietzsche, 1974). To link psychoanalysis to this culture of troubadours is to suggest that we, too, have given something original to the wider culture, that we, too, have created a unique know-how and its passions even as we have written about them. Kernberg’s rejection of this view appears to be based on a conviction that whatever may be the gifts bestowed by psychoanalysis, their value should ultimately be measured by their contribution to the general body of natural science, not by the creation of a new discourse or poetics. We might never be able to measure love, but we can record and analyze its clinical effects. Psychoanalysis as a gay science rather than a natural science need not be a limited
poetics or an aesthetic embellishment on serious knowledge. Instead, it has all of the serious implications that Donald Winnicott found in the fields of play and transitional phenomena. It is at the root of how life is lived in culture where fact and fantasy, reason and passion, coexist. Why not instead call psychoanalysis the playful science, as that might be the best rendering of Nietzsche’s idea, and not only to pay homage to Winnicott, Lacan, and others who have argued for the centrality of play in the psychoanalytic endeavor, but also to honor an insight that comes from our field in the naming of the field itself. For indeed psychoanalysis in its respect both for paradox and for the surplus or overdetermination of meaning is a science that draws heavily from play in its form and principles. One of the reasons that natural science research often fails to capture the significant variables of the psychoanalytic endeavor is that those variables inevitably have too much play. Their status is too
contextual, too open to the subjective matrix, too “gay”. To limit those variables in order to operationalize them seems to inevitably lose their essential character. In this issue of DIVISION/Review (no.11) Nancy Goodman and Paula Ellman take a turn at this playful science in their discussion of Jan Abram’s book Donald Winnicott Today (Routledge, 2012). Abram’s herself is no stranger to the importance of play and transitional phenomena as the former director of the Squiggle Foundation, a foundation named in honor of a Winnicott drawing game that was at the same time a way of working, a way of thinking, of creating and relating. The essence of Winnicott’s contribution to the field, as both Goodman and Ellman illustrate, was his articulation of this unique character of psychoanalytic know-how as a playful science. z
weirdly compelling setups. As a photography educator myself, I have been exposed to countless examples of urban obsolescence or “ruin porn”—the frequently romantic depiction of unoccupied places of decay, neglect, or natural disaster. Larson’s images, while beautiful, mildly aestheticize the interior of an Athens, Ohio, asylum, but Larson activates the pictures further with the subtle presence of smoke or haze, ephemeral traces awaiting translation.
Larson’s work may operate as nostalgia for the predigital. Other photographers indulge this impulse through costuming, darkroom processes, and period equipment. No sentimentalist, Laura Larson openly courts the skeptical and in doing so risks exposing the hoax that may, unseen, reside in all photographs of anything/anyone. z www.lauralarson.net Tim Maul Image Editor
REFERENCE F. Nietzsche, (1974). The gay science. (Kaufman. Trans.). New York, NY: Random House.
On the Photography of Laura Larson “Disruptive” technologies (like those that facilitate the sharing of a picture of your dessert with 700 friends) have stripped imaging of the magic transport the medium once held even into the late part of the last century. Laura Larson is among a growing number of artists/photographers seeking access to the mystery, doubt, and even blatant hokeyness of the dubious image, especially those purporting to document the paranormal. Photography’s emergence in the mid19th century created a boom of affordable portraiture that contributed to the rise in both spiritualism and the occult, biproducts of anxieties related to the “invisible” workings of modern communication inventions like the telegraph and the camera. Little has changed; in the entertainment industry ghosts and the undead remain a huge business, with cable channels overrun with pseudoscientific researchers clownishly exploring sites of local legend or of actual trauma. Larson’s art addresses several areas of this rich historic “material”; the poignant “unseen” cradling of infants in early photography, unsettling reenactments of psychic documentation, and in the introduction of apparitional smoke into an abandoned asylum and forest. Ecotoplasm, the supposed gooey physical manifestation that flows from a subject’s orifices during a trance, appears here as embroidery, or maybe festive “silly string” emanating from a nipple or, hysterically, from between a woman’s legs in Larson’s witty contemporary approximations of these contrived but
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The Continuum of Mourning Susan Kavaler-Adler’s profound understanding of the developmental continuum of mourning begins with a tribute to Freud’s view of the adhesive tie of the libido to its Anatomy of Regret: From Death Instinct to Reparation and Symbolization through Vivid Clinical Cases By Susan Kavaler-Adler London: Karnac Books, 288pp., $41.95, 2013 lost object (Freud, 1917). Freud compared normal mourning to the pathologically arrested mourning of the melancholic in terms of the defensive use of aggression, suggesting that the melancholic was arrested in mourning due to the psychological block created by defensive aggression. Freud contrasted the melancholic’s continuous attacks upon himself, turning one’s hatred toward the lost other. While Klein (1975) focused on reparation in mourning, in her earlier work, Kavaler-Adler (1993, 1996) moved past Klein and proceeded to develop her own theory of developmental mourning. Throughout Anatomy of Regret, a sage and introspective book, Kavaler-Adler speaks about true and false regret and examines, through clinical examples, to what degree the capacity to consciously face the experience of regret, at any one powerful moment, within an overall experience of remorse, can allow for critical openings to psychic change and development (p.22). Throughout this rich and exciting work, Kavaler-Adler provides case examples to demonstrate how, during the analytic process, the deeply human and existential anguish of regret is a process that must be traversed within the self, prior to communicating it to another. It is an internal emotional experience, felt in the stomach and in the gut as well as in the heart, and her theory expands to include not only the self but eventually the other. In a true moment of regret, the other whom one has offended is always the one with whom one is deeply empathic. In Kavaler-Adler’s words, at the moment of regret, the subjectivity of the other is heightened in one sense of consciousness as one feels the keen and acute affect of grief, longing, loss, and love toward one whom one has offended and toward one whom one now feels compassion, and at this moment of regret, total awareness is the only manner in which true behavior change can occur. In Kavaler-Adler’s view, the emotional release into grief, at the moment of regret, is the most critical sign of authenticity in reparation and regret through the path of emotionally laden grief, which can modify guilt and free the affect to experience yearning for reconnection.
Marilyn N. METZL
A central theme throughout Anatomy of Regret is that many betrayals in the cases presented in the book are betrayals compulsively repeated from the past. Kavaler-Adler understands this betrayal as an attempt to avoid the loss of the original parent, who was too limited to acknowledge the magnitude of the betrayal. Unless one can understand this betrayal and face the elements of the repetition compulsion, the sadness becomes a betrayal that never stops. To preserve the tie to the once-needed parent, facing the truth of the parent’s betrayal is evaded, and this prevents one from loving and creating. A significant theme, and one that frequently is lost in the plethora of theories, is that splitting off of the traumatizing truth prevents one from loving and creating, because there can be no love or creation without existing spontaneously in the present. If one must hide from one’s inner truth and the affect experience of its origins, one cannot live freely and spontaneously and is trapped in a loop of endless and destructive repetition. The cases in this profound book demonstrate and illustrate how mourning allows the separation—the individuation process, akin to what Mahler (1967) described in the healthy toddler as a developmental process. The experience of holding in the analytic partnership can thus be curative. Kavaler-Adler gives detailed case examples of providing the analysand with good enough object relations to allow for internalization of an internal object and to allow, through the facing of regret, changes that can affect personality. An internal holding environment is developed where the sealed-off self is allowed to emerge and the false caretaking self is symbolized and talked about and eventually liberated. These cases, separated into chapters, are detailed below. Sharon had a mother who had no boundaries and merged herself into her daughter, who therefore developed a sealedoff self split away from others (chapter 2). Her father’s passivity and unavailability left her with the impression of men as part objects, rather than as a whole being, and her writing portrays men as lifeless, wimpy creatures. When Kavaler-Adler first met Sharon, she was a single mother raising her son. During treatment, Sharon remarried and had a daughter. Sharon had dreams that she felt imprisoned within her own psychic self, disconnected, and she revealed that she began a binary thought and image system by constructing stories about those around her who seemed to have exciting and adventurous lives. She realized that she was living in a bubble of her own stereotyped fantasies to 4
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negotiate her dejected position as an outsider by judging others critically from an attitude of contempt, and her naïve idealization of certain others kept her true self highly underdeveloped. By living in psychic isolation, she allowed herself to indirectly control others through distancing herself from them. The close link between aggression and love was presented in the case of Alicia, whose conscious containing and owning of the formally split-off aggressive dynamics allowed her to feel and know regret as a powerful form of psychological anguish, which is differentiated from the guilt compulsion prompted by identification (chapter 3). In this case, Alicia identified with murderers and the feeling of being out of control and experiencing overpowering rage, which proceeded to involve abandonment of country and family and viewing others as vampires and bloodsuckers. Throughout the long work with Alicia, the analyst aided her in finding the existential grief of progress as part of existential suffering. Interestingly, hurting loved ones, which Alicia views as part of the human condition of loving, is a necessary process in the course of becoming capable of truly appreciating the loved one and truly developing a capacity to love that transcends one’s own narcissism. In classical psychoanalysis, we have been taught to not reassure patients, since the patient needs the psychic space, analytic space, and transitional space to struggle with their own dilemmas. Refraining from reassurance allows patients to experience that the analyst is not afraid of their experience. But in trauma work, we have learned a few things. Validation of trauma is critical in the healing of the self after the trauma. Kavaler-Adler’s definition of validation, as it contrasts with reassurance, is that validation is an active and explicit acknowledgment to a patient of traumatic experience. One of several examples discussed in chapter 4, Amy had experienced significant childhood trauma, having been molested by her middle-aged alcoholic father between the ages of 4 and 6, and she recalled the molestation through dreams. She recalled that her mother did nothing to help her through molestation, knowing that Amy was visited at night by her drunken father. The day after each night’s attack, her mother would assault Amy with hostile epithets, calling her a whore, a bitch, or scum. Consequently, the Oedipal stage dynamic played out in an unconscious fury in this family. Throughout Amy’s romantic relationships with men, Amy wound up feeling abandoned. During a group session, Amy described her mourning process. For years,
Amy had separated herself from her mother; she told of how she had tried to share with her mother the unwillingness to hear anything she said of her father’s molestation. She did not accuse her mother. Amy collapsed into the vulnerable longing of a child pleading for maternal love. No matter how she tried, her mother was incapable of tolerating regret. Lisa revealed the feeling of abandonment from her mother during her childhood and as an adult. Her mother never tried to contact her. Lisa always had to be the one to call her mother. Meetings were held with Lisa’s mother and Lisa and her siblings outside the presence of an emotionally abusive husband, and her mother admitted that she was an extremely depressed woman in emotional withdrawal, conveying an emotional emptiness to her own daughter. She stated to Lisa: “I hope your life is better than mine!” This one phrase spoke volumes about the grief in her life and about the buried love that had dissolved in an intolerable regret, which in this moment had transferred to a tolerable heartfelt regret. Lauren had experienced anger with her mother and sister over the years. Lauren was the oldest but was experiencing anger, rage, and sadness over her sister trying to have an exclusive relationship with her mother, moving in with her mother and excluding Lauren. During a group meeting, Lauren said that she didn’t care what another woman in the group had said about her feeling that she was changing and becoming more in touch with her feelings. Lauren refused to apologize to the woman, but in turn turned into the victim, placing the blame on the instructor rather than owning the regret and moving on. Lauren finally did admit that she felt regretful about attacking another person. Lauren expressed that due to her mother’s disowned sadistic impulses, she could forgive her, because she could see her own sadistic impulses defined in her cutting and cold manner when angry. In this way, Lauren was facing her existential guilt in the form of conscious regret. She was differentiating her existential guilt from unconscious neurotic guilt. In chapters 5 and 6, Anastasia revealed her negative transference aggression toward the analyst because of the lack of conversation between the analyst and herself and her own self-attacks and self-blaming. Not engaging in conversation with Anastasia allowed her to feel the agony of the absence so that she would become aware of what she was reliving. She had also inflicted the same torment onto her own son. Anastasia experienced an internal pain due to the early emotional absence of her mother, and she eventually faced the consciousness of the sadistic judge and torturer that she had housed in her psyche.
Sarah experienced difficulty in committing to her husband after 14 years of marriage due to what she thought was an inability to experience the mourning process after the loss of her older brother (chapter 7). Sarah had thoughts of having affairs and was continually searching for “the one” to satisfy her longing for completion. Even though there was an element of grief and regret for the extramarital affair, it helped her rediscover the one she truly loved. In chapter 8, Oscar had experienced attacks on his self-esteem from his abusive father throughout his childhood. Oscar eventually stood up to his father and dealt with the insults. After his marriage, Oscar’s job required a lot of traveling, and he found it difficult. Once he was married, he had difficulties dealing with his sexuality. After the
He spoke of his experience of life as an ongoing mourning process in which the true self always evolves through anger and grief to emerge into love and joy. Anatomy of Regret offers a close clinical look into how psychic development is transformed from unconscious to conscious. In the cases presented, suffering involves a sacrifice, and in the case of Alicia, her identification with murderers through her ability to contain aggression and tolerate the experience of regret developed into an empathy with pacifists. The practical case examples presented in this excellent work allow the professional to integrate theoretical and clinical work from many theorists, and KavalerAdler’s excellent scholarship, combined with meaningful and useful case examples, allows the reader to organize these highly complex
initial honeymoon stage, he was plagued by thoughts, fantasies, and observations of other women. He felt guilty when traveling, when he would hire professional female escorts to act out his fantasies. His wish was to return to his wife with an open heart. He had lost access to his heart in his childhood. He struggled with his sexuality and the fact that his longings for other women were tied up with his unresolved relationship with his mother. He had eroticized much of his feeling for his mother. He found that out through an erotic transference he developed in his therapy. He recalled memories of sexual arousal in relation to his mother, and of an early tenderness that he felt when he was disrupted by his father. He recalled being overwhelmed by his mother’s demands on him and her anger with him for not being available enough for her after his new marriage. All of this set Oscar up for the psychic and marital crisis in the form of an extramarital affair. After becoming a father, Oscar channeled his energies into his relationship with his wife and his new daughter.
theories into a meaningful and useful tool for professional growth and for understanding more of the complexities of the patients who face us daily in our offices. The cases in this book, based upon an object-relations approach to treatment, allow for the development of a holding environment and the provision of safe areas, sealedoff areas where dissociated psychic repression can open along with psychoanalytic insight. Anatomy of Regret can be considered a working model of how arrested psychic development is transformed into the developmental progression of love and creativity as conscious psychic regret is faced and mourned. z
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REFERENCES Freud, S. (1917). Mourning and melancholia. Standard Edition, vol.14, pp.237-258. London: Hogarth . Kavaler-Adler, S. (1993). The compulsion to create: A psychoanalytic study of women writers. New York: Routledge. Kavaler-Adler S. (1996). The creative mystique: From red shoes frenzy to love and creativity. New York: Routledge. Klein, M .(1975). Love, guilt and reparation and other works 1921-1945. London: Hogarth. Mahler, M. (1967). On human symbiosis and the vicissitudes of individuation. Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association, 15, 740-763.
Mapping the Underworld In the introduction to his new book, Jon Mills links the ancient quest for the resurrection of the soul with man’s earliest known attempt to come to terms with Underworlds: Philosophies of the Unconscious from Psychoanalysis to Metaphysics By Jon Mills London & New York: Routledge, 189pp., $124.42, 2014 the unconscious. The afterlife was regarded as a “treacherous journey through the underworld” (p.1) rife with danger and insurmountable challenges. From the Papyrus of Ani and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Mills discerns four remarkably modern correlates of unconscious dynamics: a self or consciousness conditioned by unknown and unformulated processes; suffering and conflict that cannot be subordinated entirely to personal agency; conflicting forces mediated by affect and rationality; and moral self-evaluation. He develops these themes in a scholarly exegesis of six influential systems of modern thought. It is an ambitious project, but one that Mills executes brilliantly. Predictably, one finds treatments of Freud, Jung, and Lacan, whose perspectives continue to enjoy widespread interdisciplinary interest. His inclusion of Heidegger and Sartre invites interest if for no other reason than that these philosophers famously opposed the idea of the unconscious, especially unconscious agency. Sartre explicitly rejected unconscious defense as an instance of bad faith. For those unfamiliar with Mills’s writings, one may be surprised to find detailed treatments of Hegel and Whitehead, two towering figures in the history of philosophy whose work too rarely finds expression within psychoanalytic circles or in discussions of the unconscious. To make sense of Mills’s selection of subjects requires one to recognize his central thesis: each system of thought represents a stage in the dialectic of the human spirit. Each offers a provisional formulation of human subjectivity that, viewed at a higher level of abstraction, represents a development and reconfiguration of the self with the larger project of becoming or self-actualization. He defends this bold conclusion by distilling each system’s foundational claims, weaving them into a genealogy of the mind. Not surprisingly, Hegel’s account of the origins of subjectivity is critical to Mills’s project, as is the central role he accords to negation and the alienation of desire. Through negations, Desire bridges the gap between self and world, leaving only consciousness (the subject) as its residue or object. Enlarged by its dialogue with psychoanalytic and existential
Ronald C. NASO
thinkers, Desire fuels the birth of consciousness through its existential encounter with the world and other subjects, deeply influenced by language and universal or collective processes. In an especially interesting reading of Freud, Mills has much to say about the self and the death instinct, challenging us to read Freud’s texts more closely, preferably with an appreciation of the language he used to describe his key ideas. Overall, Mills offers a sweeping study of divergent points of view, unified by a sustained focus on a process of becoming that endures conflict, valorizes agency, and holds truth always to be provisional. To fully appreciate Mills’s project, one must understand something about his philosophical commitments. Although Mills sets forth his perspective and foundational assumptions clearly, readers unfamiliar with Hegel may find them somewhat difficult to evaluate. For this reason, I want to underline two ideas central to a proper understanding of this fascinating text. First, Hegel advanced a monistic ontology that appears antithetical to mainstream psychoanalytic thinking, particularly Freud’s dual drive model. Monism describes reality in terms of a single source or essence. Despite the apparent diversity and the wide variation in our perception of the world, monism regards differences as matters of appearance only; ultimately, heterogeneity reveals an underlying and irreducible singularity. Understood in this way, monism precludes neither a multiplicity of drives nor conflicting motives or perceptions—once again, these differences are nonessential. What it strongly opposes are perspectives, like Cartesianism, that regard reality as divisible into two or more sources or substances. Mills argues that monism is both defensible and consistent with Freud’s thought. Second, Mills understands the process of becoming as unfolding dialectically, the result of sublation (aufheben). Lacking a satisfactory equivalent in English, aufheben encompasses three distinct but interrelated processes that suspend or cancel, transcend, and preserve (p.20). Contrary to the radical and sustained questioning of the Socratic method, Hegelian sublation presumably raises conflicts and oppositions to a higher plane without forfeiting or repressing their dynamic tension. This idea is key. What is negated or superseded is never lost or destroyed. Its result may be analogized to what transpires in a chemical reaction. This reaction transforms the unique properties of each element—in a sense negating, suspending, canceling, yet preserving them in such 6
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a way that they remain detectible upon closer analysis. Personality development and change in psychoanalysis are similarly conceptualized: earlier attitudes, traits, beliefs, and inclinations are not deleted so much as refashioned and reconfigured in the subject’s ongoing effort at adaptation. With this framework in mind, Mills notices that both Freud and Hegel viewed consciousness as emerging from the unconscious, from structures or schemata that are modularized and powerfully shape perception, attitudes, and beliefs. One is not first a conscious being who represses, but rather one whose thoughts and feelings emerge out of deep unconscious (read: “ontological”) structures that shape the form and content of one’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Mills thus elaborates and reinterprets a finding memorialized in Freud’s structural model and in the view of the drives as the mind’s essential motivating force. He argues that this interpretation emerges most clearly when one reads Freud in the original German, independent of the decisive and, in Mills’s estimation, distorted translation of his texts in the mechanistic language of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To take but one example, Mills points out that the term “mental apparatus” does not appear in any of Freud’s writing. Instead, this was a term fatefully fashioned by Strachey for the word Seele, whose meaning in German is closer to “organization of the soul” (p.40). Taken together with the better known interpretive choices of the Standard Edition—“ego” for “I” and “id” for “it”—Mills endeavors to restore the existential-humanistic thrust of Freud’s thought, which is at once experience-near and accessible. For all its virtues, the English translation of Freud’s work obscures the continuity between his thought and that of other humanistic thinkers who placed conflict within a unitary mind at the center of their theories. Mills’s wide-ranging reassessment also touches on the death drive, one of Freud’s most controversial hypotheses. The notion of a death drive is compatible with Hegel’s thinking as well as that of most existential philosophers, who regarded death and/or the fear of death as a foundational structure dialectically suffusing subjectivity. Death defined the human condition, our powerlessness over time, the frailty of our embodiment, and our helplessness in a universe indifferent to our needs and suffering. Ultimately, the unavoidability of death defined our finitude. However, recognizing the discomfort most American psychoanalysts experience with this concept, Mills advances the lesser claim that man’s
inherent self-destructiveness establishes the relevance of the death drive as an organizing principle at the clinical level. Readers interested in this debate will find a robust argument for its continuing value. Mills offers critical overviews of several key concepts in the works of Heidegger and Sartre pertaining to the place of the unconscious, examining the well-known difficulties and controversies they generated. I shall not revisit these noteworthy points in this essay. More interesting to the reader is how Mills develops the concept of “authenticity” and its relationship to Winnicott’s concept of the false self. Mills’s thinking here is highly original and thought provoking. Mills believes that Winnicott’s work deepens Heidegger’s notion of falseness by making it experience-near. Consonant with Heidegger’s view, Winnicott’s authenticity rests on experiences that transpire prior to any decisive demarcation between subject and object. Winnicott adds to this perspective an all-important insight about the vital role played by holding, maternal care, and a facilitating environment. Mills argues that the holding environment should be construed as a basic structure of Being and failures of maternal care or unresponsiveness as productive of inauthenticity and development of the false self. Hence, one does not enter states of inauthenticity necessarily by conscious choice; rather, these modes of being are contingent on variables that are unconscious and sometimes beyond the scope of individual agency. In a statement that affirms the centrality of relationality, his exegesis leads to the claim that “there is no authentic self distinct for Being-with others” (p.84). In other words, Mills’s reading of these existential thinkers and their connections to Winnicott lead him to view relationality and responsiveness to the infant’s needs as constitutive of identity and a primary motivation. Despite the difficulties he presents for understanding, Mills urges us in his next chapter to engage the work of Lacan. He asserts that one need not adopt the entire system of this controversial figure to appreciate his contributions, particularly for the idea that for “Hegel to Freud, Heidegger and Lacan, knowledge is a dialectical enter-
prise that stands in relation to fear—to the horror of possibility—the possibility of the not; negation, conflict and suffering saturate our very beings, beings whose self-identities are linguistically constructed” (p.96). Mills focuses on Lacan’s understanding of the Symbolic, which he interprets as the “cause of the subject’s being” (p.98). For Mills, the problem is not that Lacan posits a symbolic order or that he claims that the unconscious is structured like a language. It is readily apparent that the unconscious has its own logic, structures, procedures, and rules. Mills’s concern pertains to the conclusion that follows from this assertion: namely, that the unconscious is “predicated on consciousness and cultural determinism” (p.98); in effect, that it precedes individual existence and defines the essence of the subject. To put the matter differently, the
Mills expresses concern about how this view of the Symbolic subverts human agency by conceptualizing the subject as entirely conditioned by language. The symbolic is not simply a collection of abstract forms, but a concretized repository of signifiers linked to culture, family, and tradition. Over time, the individual makes some meanings and practices of his or her own. The Symbolic is the place where insight, truth, and meaning are unconcealed, always experienced as something other than self by virtue of its various meanings having emerged from a matrix of relationships that are not of one’s own creation. Mills argues that Lacan sees agency and meaning as mediated by the speech act itself rather than by the repressed. His discussion of Lacan is highly original and worthy of further study.
Symbolic structures mental life semiotically, according to the laws of language, specifically those of structural linguistics, which concern themselves with signification rather than the referential function of language. From the perspective of structural linguistics, the rule-governed processes of meaning mediated by signification transpire outside of awareness—hence, unconsciously—and do not depend on the individual for their meaning. One is born into language rather than creating it; in this way, the unconscious, like language, is the “discourse of the Other” (Lacan, 2006, p.689).
Problematic in Jung’s theory is the realism it engendered: Jung did not claim that archetypes were metaphorical or interpretive constructions. Had he done so, they might have been accepted as influential in the same way as myths, legends, and prevailing ideologies. However, this was not Jung’s view. Instead, he held that archetypes preceded individual existence and conditioned individual experience. They represented an ultimate, irreducible reality, a supernatural, transcendental order that all individual minds participated in. Put another way, they represented the ontological ground of psy-
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chological experience, its basis, much in the way that Freud conceptualized the drives, except that the drives were always an individual matter despite their transindividual biological underpinnings. Mills critically evaluates the idea that archetypes condition human experience and offers a preliminary and sympathetic response to the criticism of Jung’s apparent Lamarckism. Last, although Whitehead is best known as a philosopher of science and mathematician, Mills finds in his work a metaphysician who also envisioned consciousness as the fulfillment of an unconscious ontology. Whitehead’s view of the unconscious was part of a highly abstract monistic cosmology organized by unconscious processes. He rejected a substance-based materialism, instead viewing the world as constituted by nonmaterial events and transient processes that he regarded as primary and foundational. The concept of experience was central within Whitehead’s system and not exclusive to human beings. Rather, the experiencing subject emerged as a complex series of overlapping and synergistic events; he or she is constantly changing as a result of forces both known and unknown. Mills focuses particularly on the possibility of freedom and choice within
Whitehead’s cosmology, which he understands as arising from the irreducibility of human subjectivity to the totality of events, whether personal or impersonal, impinging on the self. Rather, one is provisionally defined by how one evaluates and reacts to these influences. Herein lies agency as well as the capacities for both novelty and freedom. Like Freud, Whitehead envisioned the unconscious as foundational to and nourishing consciousness. His concept of prehension is particularly important in this regard. Through this term, Whitehead endeavors to capture something preverbal or precognitive, as it were, about our perception of self, others, and the world that occurs at the level of feeling without conscious mediation. Like a Freudian drive, Mills views prehension as a “pure activity . . . of seizing, absorbing, and synthesiz[ing] elements of the surround” (p.147). Remarkably, he quotes Whitehead (1948) as claiming: “Eros urges the soul” (in Mills, p.162). This and other urges were conceptualized teleologically as seeking satisfaction and tension reduction. If one takes nothing else away from Underworlds, one will have gained a greater appreciation that the unconscious is far more than an imaginary construction of the
Lacan and Film Theory: Gone with the Wind? Introduction During my analysis I went to see films much more often than any time in my life before or since. At the time I thought of it as mostly escapism and perhaps some sort of decompression chamber in the transition from my analytic session to the Symbolic Lacan and Contemporary Film Edited by Todd McGowan and Sheila Kunkle New York: Other Press, 280pp., $28.00, 2004 Order I had to “return” to. At the time I had read nothing of Lacan, so I wasn’t thinking in those terms or concepts. My thought now is that I sought, often desperately sought, the film experience to find respite from an encounter with the Real in the analytic hour, or, as Todd McGowan and Sheila Kunkle in Lacan and Contemporary Film (2004) put it, “we must take stock of the relation between the subject to the Real…by analyzing how the subject is faring as it moves closer into the coordinates of the Real through the confrontation… of its most dreaded fears” (p.xxviii). But a
useful analytic theory of film, be it Lacan or otherwise, must have greater ambitions that take it beyond this point. My primary aim in this essay is to question whether Lacanian concepts, central to the “second wave” of Lacanian film theory, have a useful application to the understanding of what happens to a spectator while experiencing a film, in other words, film theory. To assist in this effort I will draw primarily on the ideas of several authors compiled in the book Lacan and Contemporary Film (2004) edited by Todd McGowan and Sheila Kunkle. My purpose is to present the gist of the ideas of the editors and the nine contributing essayists and to discuss the relevance of Lacanian theory. The Waves In the political uprisings in the 1960s in the United States and Western Europe, film theory became dominated by the idea that film is a perpetuation of ideology. It was the deconstruction of such ideologies that utilized psychoanalytic concepts. Paula 8
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modern mind, but rather a very real dimension of life. It is universally present and profoundly influences who we are. In Mills’s terms, it is an ontological structure. At another level, Mills offers us nothing less than a systematic rebuttal of the postmodern turn in psychoanalysis, especially of its diminishment of what is most distinctive about psychoanalysis: the continuing focus and attunement to the unconscious. We owe to Mills a debt of gratitude for his willingness to trace the historical recognition of the unconscious from its ancient and prescientific origins to its contemporary and most abstract modern formulations. Maintained throughout is a commitment to understanding how our thoughts, feelings, and actions are so thoroughly shaped by structures and forces experienced as other than self. More than any contemporary theorist, Mills has dedicated much of his scholarly efforts to establishing the unconscious as a critical source of agency, the ultimate ground of subjectivity, and as exercising a continuing influence over who we are. z REFERENCES Lacan, J. (2006). The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious. Ecrits (B. Fink,Trans.) (pp671-702). New York. Norton. Whitehead, A. (1948). Adventures of ideas. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books.
Murphy (2005) wrote that prior to this era “classic” film theory was dominated by the debate between cinema’s objective portrayal of reality and the manipulation of reality. These classic theories gave way to a psychoanalytic perspective, the first “wave.” McGowan and Kunkle (2004) describe how Lacanian theory came to dominate film studies in the 1960, and 1970s primarily based on what they felt was too narrow of an application of Lacan primarily on filmic experience as existing in the register of the Imaginary through identification and the mirror stage. This theoretical approach reached a state of hegemony in film studies only to flame out by the 1990s when people like Stephen Prince led the charge toward an atheoretical empiricist perspective on film, which became dominant at least until the publication of this book. This “reviving” or “second wave” of Lacan is a rereading of Lacanian theory and the power it might have in reclaiming its former position of relevance in film studies. The fall from grace, the editors
argued, came from the earlier emphasis on spectatorship rather than interpretation, and the editors viewed the former as “a process divorced from the filmic text itself, and as a result it ceases to be theoretical”(p.xxi). Spectatorship is concerned with the reception of the film experience, and the editors believed that the earlier Lacanian film theory “devoted its energies to the question of spectatorship as an occurrence external to the filmic text”(p.xxi, emphasis added). The “new” Lacanian theory recognizes that these two phenomena are interwoven and psychoanalysis can do what it does best, interpret a text. The editors believe that such a return to interpretation (rather than empiricism) can restore Lacanian film theory to its former glory. An interesting aspect of reviewing a book written ten years ago is the opportunity to evaluate whether such a restoration has happened. More on that later. Since the 1960s there have been these two “waves” of psychoanalytically based theories of film. Prior to this the “classical” film theories of Siegried Kracauer and Andre Bazin argued over the aforementioned objective versus manipulative treatment of reality. Then came the first wave. Christian Metz (2000) and Laura Mulvey (1985) were leaders of this first wave of psychoanalytic film theory and they drew heavily from Lacan. Metz conceived of the filmic experience as a parallel process to Lacan’s mirror stage, with identification as the central psychic process. This process existed primarily in the register of the Imaginary. This first wave eventually lost favor among film theorists and the field entered into what some called a posttheoretical, postideological (psychoanalytic film theory in the first wave was meant to expose the ideologies in film) period. McGowan and Kunkle’s book was an attempt to usher in a second wave (whether they did or not is debatable) of psychoanalytically, specifically Lacanian, informed film theory. The essays they compiled were written generally around 2003. The earlier Lacanian film theory did not explore the role of the Real in film studies. The new (as of 2004) theory the editors are presenting moves 180 degrees in placing the Real front and center. One hypothesis is that this reflects the emergence of the protagonist in contact with the Real that has proliferated and done well at the box office. The films analyzed by the nine authors, such as Dark City, Eyes Wide Shut, Memento, and Cape Fear, all involve such contact. The Second Wave Paul Eisenstein, in his essay on the primordial signifier, outlines his belief that the essential element in such a signifier is that it signifies no meaning. Rather, what is crucial
and what enables us to transcend the animal world of instinct to the human world of symbolic meaning is that such a signifier signifies; it is the function that is essential, not the content. In fact, the lack of meaning is essential to “bring a subject about out of nothing”(p.4). Eisenstein states, “when one signifier exempts itself from the order of meaning…then a fundamental division between self and Other can be said to have
and the perverted. A major distinction among the three is the lover’s relationship to the Other. The hysteric is anxious about what it is the Other desires, and Salecl uses William Dieterle’s 1940s drama Love Letters to demonstrate this. Pedro Almodovar’s Law of Desire depicts the impossible dilemma of love and perversion. All three of these stories involve a love triangle with someone writing love letters for another. This sets up
taken place, and a social order emerges in which we begin to speak and signify” (p.4). He cites Lacan’s passage (1989, p.24): “the signifier is what brings jouissance to a halt.” Eisenstein goes on to lament that “the dominant symptom of our historical moment, the psychotic structure has given rise to attempt to find a primordial signifier that has the magical, psychotic power to explain everything” (p.5, emphasis added). He cites as an example Darren Aronofsky’s film Pi written as the mathematical symbol of pi), as the protagonist mathematician Max Cohen attempts to find a number that will reveal everything in the universe, including God. The more contemporary film The Da Vinci Code represents a similar attempt. Renata Salecl uses the poignant story of Cyrano de Bergerac to illuminate the anxiety of love from the experience of an obsessional neurotic. Salecl offers a sort of clinical diagnostic guide to distinguishing love among the obsessional, the hysteric,
Salecl’s central question—“Why is it that it requires two men together to make an ideal love partner for a woman?” She returns to Lacan’s seminar on anxiety (Seminar X, 1962-1963) to begin to answer this:
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Lacan points out that a man takes a woman as a vase in which there is supposed to be a hidden object, while he also behaves as if a phallus of another man is also hidden in the vase…object a fills the vase…it is essential that the object comes from somewhere else it is constructed only via desire of the Other. (p.36) To illustrate how Salecl uses this passage she offers that in Cyrano de Bergerac it is necessary that Cyrano fans the flame of Christian’s desire for Roxanne, but then does all the heavy lifting for him. Salecl interprets this as Cyrano functioning as “a phallic figure who secures the love relationship that forms between his object of
desire and another man” (p.36). The essay closes with comments about how love always involves uncertainty and anxiety, as we can never know what the Other really wants, and more fundamentally, “the lover loves what the Other does not have, that is, the lack in the Other (p.42). I can agree with the author that in contemporary society’s arena of love people are trying to rid anxiety from the experience and hence the emotionally distancing use of the Internet. Salecl wonders if the epitome of this trying is the observation that people are now writ-
depictions of objet petit a and its disruptive effect on these films, the social reality, and on their narrative structure” (p.213). Neroni leans heavily on Joan Copjec’s conception of filmic experience, that it is not primarily a mirror (identification) but a screen through which the viewer’s gaze cannot penetrate. Rather than identifying with the image on the screen the viewer is compelled to ask the question of what is being hidden from them. Neroni believes that Campion is inclined to present to the viewer the objet petit a in the form of feminine jouissance and then explore
ing love letters to themselves and therefore “the subject constructs the answer of who he is for the Other and ‘puts’ this answer in the computer’s ‘mouth’ ’’ (p.43). Hilary Neroni’s essay attempts to shed light on the mystical concept of feminine jouissance as depicted in the films of director Jane Campion, such as Holy Smoke and The Piano. Neroni’s contention is that Campion focuses on this jouissance and its destabilizing effect on the Symbolic Order. Neroni begins her critique by lamenting the sunset of feminism and that the current (at least in 2004) “hegemony of postfeminism”(p.209) has made even Jane Campion balk at referring to herself and her work as feminist. Nevertheless, Neroni insists that “the feminism of her films manifests itself precisely in
the ramifications of such a disruption as “… it is connected to a momentary break from those symbolic fictions that constitute reality” (p.213). This jouissance is out of place in Campion’s filmic world, but at the same time becomes its central focus. In an attempt to pierce the veil of mystery surrounding the concept of feminine jouissance, Frances L. Restuccia uses Lars Von Trier’s film Breaking the Waves. She focuses on love as experienced by the hysteric, what Lacan referred to as the third order of love, one that may require a masochistic drive (for the woman). “A central question this essay poses, then, is how much is masochism a mere example of, as opposed to being integral to, Lacan’s paradigm of love?” (p.189). For Restuccia the hysteric keeps desire away 10
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and immerses herself in a sea of discontent and pain. Julia Kisteva’s New Maladies of the Soul (1995) presents the 17th century mystic Jeanne Guyon as the first hysteric, enthralled with pain in her submission to God. Lacan viewed this third order of love as beyond the first order of narcissism and the second order as beyond desire. This third order of love exists in what Lacan called “only the signification of a limitless love…to head toward dissolution…for it is to cross into the ‘beyond,’ to defy the limit of the law…to annex to oneself that missing part that one must lack to maintain subjectivity” (p.189, emphasis in original). Restuccia spends part of her essay engaging Slavoj Zizek’s contention that feminine jouissance is a male fantasy. They disagree on whether feminine jouissance can exist independent of phallic jouissance. Restuccia argues, “The concept of woman’s jouissance is much broader and weightier than the mere fabricated reference on the part of the man…‘woman’s’ jouissance is in fact an enigma because it is ‘more’ than what the man can conceptualize” (p.201). Todd McGowan’s essay “Fighting Our Fantasies: Dark City and the Politics of Psychoanalysis” describes his idea that this film depicts the unity of psychoanalysis with the unity of the individual and collective, political action. The exploration of an individual psyche can’t help but illuminate how ideology and fantasy contribute to the terrain of the interior of mind. In the film a group referred to as the “Strangers” (in Lacanian terms the Other) have control of human beings and nightly experiment with implanting different identities within each human (called “tuning” in the film). This McGowan believes is an expression of the Symbolic Order, identity imposed from without. The desire of the Strangers is to find what exists apart from memories/the Symbolic Order, what McGowan calls the soul but may also be the individual’s unique subjectivity. The nightly “tuning” is, McGowan believes, the process of signification that gives the Strangers ideological control. The power of the Strangers exists on the level of the signifier and hence creates the world in the film. I was impressed with how McGowan pointed out that futuristic/science fiction films of the 1970s (Sydney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor) employed paranoia to depict the power of ideology, whereas films of the 1990s (like Dark City and The Matrix) use paranoia to expose its weaknesses. What McGowan found meaningful in the film is that “in addition to revealing what happens to fantasy when a subject comes face-to-face with it, Dark City also makes evident what fantasy obscures. The most important role of fantasy with the psychic economy is its ability to cover over the traumatic Real on which all ideology rests” (p.164).
This exposure of ideology’s weakness was shown in the film when the protagonist Murdoch is confronted with his fantasy of his past, a past tied to a mythic place (in his memory) that remained after a night of incomplete tuning by the Strangers. This “wall of fantasy” (p.164) was breached with Murdoch’s recognition of its unreal nature, a recognition McGowan equates “to what Lacan calls the traversal of the fantasy—the end of psychoanalysis” (p.164). Conclusion Spike Jonz’s 2013 film Her was a creative allegory about relationships in the not too distant future. Theodore, the protagonist, establishes a “relationship” with an advanced (the time period is in the future but Jonz keeps that vague) operating system, a sort of siri (iPhone) on steroids. This operating system, like Siri, has a name, Samantha. But this is not the-Name-of-theFather, and bears no connection to any particular subjectivity in the Symbolic Order. Theodore and Samantha go on double dates and she participates in conversations as a disembodied subject, but a subject who apparently desires. Samantha searches for an embodied experience and finds a surrogate to make love with Theodore, but halfway through he just can’t go through with it, feeling it is too denigrating to the woman, the woman whose existence as a subject is disavowed, and Theodore can’t tolerate that. During the “sex” the woman must not speak, it is only Samantha who speaks, and her voice carries the rising excitement of sexual desire. It is Samantha’s desperate search for jouissance, the requirement of which is a corporeal existence. Samantha exists only in the Symbolic and fragments of the Imaginary, but devoid of the Real she cannot experience the fear of death. This film is timely, as it reveals the increasing dominance of the Imaginary in the attempt to experience intimate relationships. Indeed, Theodore and Samantha are able to achieve mutual orgasm (essentially a cyber masturbation by Theodore), although Samantha’s orgasm is the orgasm of the simulacra devoid of any sense or reality of a desiring subject. Samantha, as brilliant as she is as a supercomputer, tries to experience the lack as a desiring subject (in using the “avatar” for sex), but ends up going forth toward some transcendent cyber experience with other operating systems. The climax of the film is Theodore asking her if he is the only one she loves. She responds matter-of-factly that no, she is in love with 648 other humans. She does not and cannot understand why this has such a devastating effect on Theodore. He had become trapped in a delusion of the Imaginary, as every human subject is trapped in the delusion of
wholeness in the mirror stage, the beginning of the “alienating armor” of the ego. With social media’s deification of the Imaginary (I can be anybody on Facebook) at the expense of the Symbolic, Jonz is perhaps warning us that we must return to the complicated, at times joyous and at times painful, world of desiring subjects. Indeed, at the end of the film Theodore returns to a real, embodied subject. This is in contrast to Samantha’s “evolution” to a cyber existence of limitless connection (to all other operating systems in
“Lacan” or “psychoanalysis.” The only reference to any psychoanalytic concept was an article in the spring of 2013 discussing Winnicott’s transitional phenomenon. In 2007 Todd McGowan wrote a book entitled The Real Gaze: Film Theory after Lacan. His title seems to suggest that film theory has left Lacan behind. However, Matthew Flisfeder’s 2012 book The Symbolic, the Sublime, and Slavoj Zizek’s Theory of Film, attempts to reinvigorate Lacan into film theory. Maybe not quite gone with the wind yet. z
the supreme network), a world of one, an annihilation of lack, the sine qua non of subjectivity. That’s what Theodore is left with sitting on the rooftop with his friend. The wistful feeling of that scene is one of lack, of loss, and of empathy. Perhaps Jonz couldn’t bear not having some possibility of a happy ending, defined in mainstream film as the boy and girl getting together. I thought the film was exceptional, but I think I would have preferred the last scene with Theodore alone in the void. I imagine Lacan would have also preferred that. Looking over the last ten issues over three years of the film studies journal Screen, I found no articles with the word
REFERENCES Flisfeder, M. (2012). The symbolic, the sublime, and Slavoj Zizek’s theory of film. New York: Palgrave McMillan. Kristeva, J. (1995). New maladies of the soul. New York: Columbia University Press. Lacan, J. (1989). Ecrits: A Selection. (A. Sheridan, Trans.). London: Routledge. Lacan, J. (2014). The seminar of Jacques Lacan Book 10. Jacques-Allain Miller, (Ed.). (A. R. Price, trans.). Cambridge: Polity Press. McGowan, T. (2007). The real gaze: film theory after Lacan. Albany: State University of New York Press. McGowan, T., & Kunkle, S. (2004). Lacan and contemporary film. New York: Other Press. Metz, C. (2000). “The imaginary signifier” in film and theory: An anthology. R. Stam & T. Miller, (Eds.). Oxford: Blackwell. Mulvey, L. (1985). Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. In B. Nichols (Ed.) Movies and methods, (Vol. 2, ed. pp.303-315). Berkeley: University of California Press. Murphy, P. (2005). Psychoanalysis and film theory part 1: “A new kind of mirror.” Kritikos 2.
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The Therapist as a Subject Some time ago, I wrote a short personal essay about my conflicted relationship with my Jewish identity for a small journal on religion. Shortly after it came out in print, I Clinical Implications of the Therapist’s Life Experiences: When the Personal Becomes Professional By Steven Kuchuck New York: Routledge, 288pp., $47.95, 2014 learned that the journal also maintains a website on which all of its articles are available and openly accessible to the public. The editor never informed me that the essay would be posted on the journal website. In fact, I only found out about its existence when a patient told me that she had Googled me and read the essay online. My personal life was out there and available to anyone who went looking for me, and I didn’t even know it—I felt completely exposed. After my patient revealed what she had found out about me online and told me about her reaction to this discovery, I went through what felt like a slow-motion internal self-inventory: How do I feel about my patient’s newfound portal into my private life? How does she feel about it? Who else has read my essay? How do I fix this? Where can I hide? Even as I weathered my internal meltdown, I somehow had the wherewithal to recover myself and reengage with my patient despite my shock, and together we were able to go on to explore the meanings of the somewhat personal feelings and divulgences exposed in my essay, both for her and for our work together. But after our session I felt haunted by a lingering vulnerability, protectiveness over my privacy, and some real concern about the potentially negative effects the article could have on other patients and on my professional identity in general. Was this a part of myself I wanted to reveal to the world? Was this a part of my personal life that I felt prepared to integrate into my impression of my professional self? What to do with the analyst’s subjectivity? This question has been tackled in various iterations throughout the history of psychoanalysis from its very genesis, beginning with Freud’s papers on technique. His famous injunction to psychoanalysts to “model themselves during psycho-analytic treatment on the surgeon, who puts aside all his feelings, even his human sympathy, and concentrates his mental forces on the single aim of performing the operation as skillfully as possible” (1912/1958, p.115) successfully banished the person of the analyst from the standard practice of psychoanalysis for some decades, relegating it to the shadowy corners of the consulting room in the form
of perceived analytic misdeeds and shameful feelings of analytic contamination. But though he seemingly exiled the individual person of the analyst from the room, with the innovation of his theory of countertransference Freud inadvertently planted the seed of potential for the analyst’s subjectivity deep underground. With the evolution of psychoanalytic theory and the advent of postmodern thinking, the influence of the analyst’s subjectivity on psychoanalytic treatment has slowly been unearthed, blossoming into arguably one of the most important issues in contemporary psychoanalytic discourse today. Steven Kuchuck’s new collection entitled Clinical Implications of the Therapist’s Life Experiences: When the Personal Becomes Professional (2014) is the latest outgrowth of the movement to throw off the repression of Freud’s dictums and excavate the personal life of the therapist—a sort of group exposure therapy meant to bring the collective person of the therapist out from shameful hiding as a reparative counterbalance to its previous expulsion from the consulting room. Indeed, Kuchuck views the edited volume as a challenge to the shame-inducing secrecy of the classical tradition, stating in his introduction that the book “is borne of the storming in of my own and the profession’s subjectivity…a collection that celebrates an emergence from hiding on the part of authors, analysts, and a profession” (p.xxiv). And the book accomplishes this goal to a large extent through the exceedingly personal autobiographical accounts the analyst-authors offer in each of their unique chapters. Each narrative explores some idiosyncratic historical experience or character trait that the author feels has shaped his/her subjectivity and particular psychoanalytic identity. In the process, the reader is taken into the storyteller’s confidence as the intimate gaze is turned inward—but in this case with a view toward telling the private stories of those who customarily do most of the listening. As my patient told me about her experience of reading my personal essay online and the internal shake-up that ensued, I found myself in deep identification with her experience. The incident brought me back to a time at the beginning of my own analysis, when after a few weeks of treatment, I Googled my own analyst’s name. As I scanned through the ample search results, weeding out others with the same name as I went, I came upon a news article in which my analyst was featured as an expert on helping people deal with certain tragic 12
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life events. Tentatively, I read through the piece with my eyes partly shielded—I kind of wanted to know, but I also kind of didn’t. My stomach sank as I read it through; the article quoted her extensively, revealing that she had experienced the same misfortune in her own life as those she was helping. It all felt shockingly personal, too much information that I had not expected to find and did not particularly want to know. I was devastated. It was the beginning of my analysis and I felt like the safety of the analytic space was tenuous, and the power of my analyst to help me to contain and understand my own tragedies limited at best. The experience felt violent, both in my intrusion into my analyst’s privacy and in the intrusion of her private life into my analysis. Encountering otherness in the psychoanalytic situation carries a particular weight and can be a powerful catalyst for change that reverberates intrapsychically and interpersonally for both participants. For me, coming into contact with such personal information threatened my need to feel held by a strong container, someone who did not need to be pathologically accommodated or narcissistically shored up. But her inadvertent disclosure on the Internet ushered in another part of my analyst that I could not help but incorporate into a painful transferential narrative based on my own history. I didn’t know how it would ever feel okay. Being in analytic training, I realized I should probably talk to my analyst about the article, so I eventually broached the subject with her—slowly and carefully. But talking to my analyst about all of this turned out to be a harrowing experience and the seed for the first rupture of the treatment—with emotions running high on both sides. I desperately wished I could unknow what I now knew about her, and she expressed regret that the author disclosed her name in the article without permission. Despite my feelings of guilt and insecurity, we got past the rupture, and I eventually folded the “real-life” version of the analyst I discovered on the Internet into the fantasy of who I needed her to be. But we have never discussed her inadvertent disclosure in the article, its impact on me, or the rupture again—at least so far. The therapist as a subject poses a special relational dilemma. How to introduce otherness when the presence of an other has often been historically traumatic for the patient and/or analyst? Can we be expected to conceal large chunks of who we are in order to shield the patient from experiencing us as invasive or insensitive intruders? The asymmetry of the analytic
relationship imbues it with the power to catalyze deep change. But with that power comes responsibility for monitoring the impact of one’s interventions and one’s unique person on the therapeutic relationship to safeguard, as Kuchuck puts it, “a patient’s right not to know” (p.xix). Over the course of a treatment the pendulum swings from awareness of difference to fantasies of sameness, each with their own potential to heal and hurt; analysts are constantly taking the temperature of the transference/
countertransference, trying to get a handle on the needs of both participants, and are often forced to make fraught, difficult choices about how to relate to competing needs for recognition and privacy in both patient and analyst. It is difficult to theorize prescriptively about the analyst’s subjectivity because the topic is slippery, often creeping into a more concrete discussion of self-disclosure. Perhaps we can more freely theorize about self-disclosure by virtue of the fact that it has
long roots in our analytic tradition, is a part of our common language, and is a concrete clinical event about which we can construct definitive guidelines. With the rise in popularity of postfoundational thought and with our respect for the idiosyncratic outlooks of every individual, it becomes more and more difficult to draw out theoretical conclusions that are generalizable to many. There are no more universal “truths,” and this often leaves us without ways to effectively communicate with each other about how to “do” psychoanalysis, except for in highly individualized ways. By definition, subjectivity and its impact on the analytic situation comprises an aspect of the therapeutic relationship that we can try to understand on an individualized basis, but is not something we can make blanket value judgments about as it pertains to particular attributes of the analyst’s self. But one does sense that some subjectivities are better than others, and over the ages, discriminative determinations have been made about the desirability of various personality traits and subjective characteristics within the psychoanalytic profession. This topic is of particular significance to psychoanalysts, since as a group, most of us struggle with issues around concealment, accessibility, hiding, and exposure. By revealing the influences that have shaped the practices of the established psychoanalysts who share their lives with us in this book, Kuchuck has widened the range of the acceptable subjective qualities that shape our professional roles. More importantly, he has helped detoxify potentially shamefilled personal experiences that might otherwise be sidelined or dissociated in the consulting room. Indeed, Kuchuck opens the door for psychotherapists and psychoanalysts to examine more of their theoretical leanings and personal styles without judgment and thus make one’s personal makeup and history more of a live and living part of the therapeutic relationship. When I next met with my patient 13
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again after that fateful session, I had access to more of myself and was able to more nondefensively broach what meanings she had imbued into her newfound knowledge of my private thoughts. And this felt good. It feels good to be able to transcend the “facticity,” as Sartre called it, of the human condition—to go beyond the concrete facts of a person’s life to dream up a fantasy of what we think or even wish it could be. For in the end, it is not really the reality but the meanings we imbue it with that give relationships their vitalizing power. Even as I dealt with my patient and the feelings our enactment brought up, I also deliberated on my presence on the Web and my corresponding needs for privacy. It was and remains important to me to give patients the option of not having to know any personal information they find out about me on the Internet. In the end, I called up my editor and we negotiated a compromise that felt satisfying to both of us. If the article had to be out there and my name had to be on it, I wanted to leave the possibility of doubt open to those who wouldn’t want to know. I told the editor that he could leave my article on the site, but only if he removed the byline that contained information that identified me in ways that would indisputably link me as a person to the personal feelings I had written about in my article. That way, I reasoned, if a patient did an Internet search and read the article, she would have the choice of whether she wanted to credit it to me or maintain the doubt that some other person with the same name wrote it. A small difference, but to my mind it keeps open some potential space that protects the patient from intrusion, leaving the objective truth in the realm of play, somewhere between fantasy and reality. What’s more, it provides the illusion of protecting my needs for privacy by giving me a slight sense of flexibility around my identity. I like the idea of having the option of hiding, even if it is only in fantasy. When one talks about subjectivity there is always some slippage—what feels certain in the intimacy of one’s own mind can become convoluted in its communication to an other. This is partly because subjectivity has no fixed content—as time passes, every moment of life reveals a new sense of self (Oksenberg Rorty, 2006). Subjectivity and the ingredients that go into shaping distinctive affective experiences have been the topic of much discussion in psychoanalytic circles of late. In fact, the term has become a political symbol of sorts, with different analytic camps fashioning their battle cries around the claims they make on subjectivity and its construction. And it is a subject worth fighting over. The study of
the complicated ways that inner experiences interact with and reflect life events can disrupt and expand our notions of what is possible, on individual and communal levels. What makes life real? What is a “good enough” life? The study of subjectivity holds out the promise of organizing the chaos of human relations into a model of a life well lived; indeed, it holds the seeds of potential for reclaiming and transforming the way we think, the way we feel, our deepest senses of self (Kleinman & Fitz-Henry, 2007). Kuchuck’s new collection brings the hopefulness of human narrative into the psychoanalytic collective consciousness, allowing us to recover sidelined parts of self as active agents with the power to decide for ourselves what it means to be a real
person and a good psychoanalyst. Whether it is Galit Atlas’s reclamation of herself as a woman and as a sexual being, Irwin Hirsch’s ability to turn his failures and disappointments into generative learning opportunities, or Anna Ornstein’s tenacious ability to turn the most unspeakable tragedy into a life-affirming ideology, the stories told in this book remind us again and again that we have the power to author our own lives. Our transformative life experiences recursively intermingle with intimate internal processes that together have the potential to become both the sources of deep suffering and the roots of a satisfying life full of meaning. As Sartre said, “[Y]ou can always make something out of what you’ve been made into” (cited in Flynn, 2013), and
Steven Kuchuck generously holds up the invitation and the challenge for all of us to do the same. z REFERENCES Flynn, T. (2013). Jean-Paul Sartre. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Fall 2013 ed.). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/ entries/sartre/. Freud, S. (1958). Recommendations to physicians practising psycho-analysis. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 12, 109–120). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1912) Kleinman, A., & Fitz-Henry, E. (2007). The experiential basis of subjectivity: How individuals change in the context of societal transformation. In J. Biehl, B. Good & A. Kleinman (Eds.), Subjectivity: Ethnographic investigations. Los Angeles: University of California Press. Kuchuck, S. (2014). Introduction. In Steven Kuchuck (Ed.), Clinical implication of the psychoanalyst’s life experiences: When the personal becomes professional. New York: Routledge. Oksenberg Rorty, A. (2006). The vanishing subject: The many faces of subjectivity. History of Philosophy, 23(3), 191-209.
A Portrait of Psychoanalysis’s Founder as a Young Man Sigmund Freud, as befits his towering role in 20th-century culture, has attracted many biographers. Ernest Jones wrote the three-volume story of his life and work Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst By Adam Phillips New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp.192, $25.00, 2014 meant to enshrine the master’s legacy for the future. Peter Gay, one of the great historians of the Enlightenment and 18th-century bourgeois Europe, who admires Freud enormously, wrote a magisterial account of Freud as one of the best specimens of the enlightened bourgeoisie (1989). Frank Sulloway, much more critical of Freud, wrote the indispensible Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1992), showing how deeply rooted Freud’s theories were in the sciences of his times while also diagnosing the ways in which he laid the ground for psychoanalysis’s subsequent self-immunization from the edifice of modern science. And then there is, of course, the unending spate of books trying to discredit not only Freud’s work but also his character, like Michel Onfray’s The Twilight of an Idol (2012), which doesn’t unearth a single new fact but makes every effort to put the known ones into as unpleasant a picture as possible. Adam Phillips’s Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst is a refreshing addition to the extant corpus for a number of reasons. The Freud Wars about the utterly useless question of whether Freud was humanity’s liberator or a charlatan do not preoccupy Phillips at all, even though his
oeuvre attests that he considers Freud to be sufficiently fascinating to make him a major character in each of his previous 17 books, and now he finally gets to present his own, favorite Freud. Phillips occupies an interesting position in the psychoanalytic literature. On the one hand, Richard Banville called him “one of the finest prose stylists in the language, an Emerson of our time,” and the eminent literary critic Frank Kermode hailed him as “the most important psychoanalytic essayist of our time” (both quoted in Fearn, 2001). On the other hand, it is hardly possible to find his works in the curricula of any psychoanalytic institute. He is one of the most read psychoanalytic writers today, but doesn’t belong to any psychoanalytic institution and has never published in any of the psychoanalytic mainstream journals. Phillips’s oeuvre is an attempt to salvage psychoanalysis from its own institutions. It is meant to counteract psychoanalytic pomposity with a tone less preoccupied by self-importance than by the unbearable lightness of being. In Becoming Freud he doubles up on his previous condemnations of what he sees as psychoanalytic pomposity by writing, “The reason so much psychoanalytic writing is so dispiriting is because it is all written by older people” (p.145). Phillips, now 59 and having written 18 books, is not suspected of defending his own right to write psychoanalysis. He reflects on the fact that it takes many psychoanalysts decades until they feel mature enough to publish something—and by then their training may have oversocialized 14
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them to the point where there is little verve and creativity and even less chutzpah left to produce anything of genuine interest. Phillips wrote Becoming Freud for Yale University Press’s Jewish Lives series, which precluded writing a bulky volume to begin with. This suits Phillips well: the master of a well-turned phrase, noteworthy aphorism, or titillation open to many interpretations, he would not have wanted to compete with Jones’s or Gay’s huge biographies. But Phillips goes one step further: he ends his account in 1905, when Freud published the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and the case study of Dora, long before he became a household name, before he wrote his Papers on Technique and the metapsychological papers intended to systematize his theory; and before the founding of the International Psychoanalytic Association that was to become the battlefield of psychoanalytic politics, which Phillips sees as a waste of energy invested in stifling psychoanalytic creativity. In the book’s final pages Phillips raises the intriguing option that, had Freud died at age 49, after having written five books only, psychoanalysis might have turned out very different, and possibly for the better. Instead of obsessing about therapeutic ritual and training procedures by trying to read endless injunctions and prohibitions into Freud’s technique papers—which, as we know, are very far from describing the way Freud actually worked—psychoanalysis might have continued to do what Phillips thinks Freud did best: investigate the ways humans are creative in their
attempts to find a way of preserving pleasure and desire within the constraints of family life and civilization. Instead of writing a hagiography and summarizing Freud’s work, Phillips focuses on three leitmotifs that contributed to Freud becoming Freud. The first motif plays on the Oedipal theme but without in any way taking the theory of the Oedipus complex seriously. Freud was born to a father who was neither cultured nor successful. And, like many Jews born into this constellation in the 19th century, Freud from very early on decided that he needed to escape his father’s fate. He embarked on the by then well-trodden path that had opened up to the previous generation of European Jews: accumulating cultural capital and entering one of the prestigious
ammunition for fighting the growing tendency toward racism in medicine and psychiatry in his day, including anti-Semitism, the modern form of hatred of Jews couched in racial language. Freud would come to claim that all of the human species was endowed with a common, biologically based unconscious structure that contained, among others, the polymorphous perversions Jews were often accused of. The third motif is linked to the indelible impression Martin Charcot left on Freud. Phillips in his own inimitable style says that Charcot succeeded where his hysterical patients failed: he was a performer who spellbound his audiences. Freud was impressed by Charcot’s flamboyance, his reckless courage in using intuition where he lacked knowledge, his wealth, and the magnetism
failure in which Freud betrays the ways in which he colluded with his time’s misogyny: Freud perfectly realized how her father used Dora as chattel, trading her body for his having an affair with his friend’s wife. Freud’s failure to see Dora’s outrage about this deal as the source of her symptoms has been criticized countless times, but Phillips does not want a perfect Freud, but a man who struggles to decipher what it means to live a life in modern civilization. Phillips ends Becoming Freud with his explanation for why he thinks that the part of Freud’s life that made him worthy of full-length biographies, his life after 50, is of less interest than his first 49 years: the rest, Phillips says, is the onset of psychoanalysis’s institutionalization (pun intended) and the loss of freshness and creativity that
liberal professions, law and medicine—the proverbial Jewish mothers’ preferred occupation for their sons. At the top of his class in the Gymnasium, he seemed well-set on this course by the time he enrolled in his medical studies at the University of Vienna. The second leitmotif is Freud’s discovery of modern science and the Enlightenment mentality on which it was based. He was fortunate to study under one of the generation’s leading physiologists, Ernst von Brücke, and hoped that he would be able to walk in the great man’s footsteps. Freud’s early research shows that he could have made a great career in brain research, but Brücke advised him to opt for a career in clinical medicine because he had no independent means. While Freud heeded this advice, his belief that Darwinian biology was the key for any scientific understanding of the human mind would remain a powerful force in his whole oeuvre. Among others, it would provide Freud with the
of his personality. Charcot added artistic creativity to Freud’s formerly drier conception of respectable scientific work—a creativity for which Freud apologized when he ruefully noted that the case studies of Studies in Hysteria sounded more like novellas than medical case reports. But Phillips sees this artistic creativity as crucial for Freud’s achievement. Through Charcot, Phillips argues, Freud realized how creative humans have to be to preserve their desire in the constrictive environment of family, work, and culture. This is why Phillips ends his retelling of Freud’s life with the five works that focused on forms of this creativity: the way hysterics create symptoms, the way the unconscious produces dreams, the slips that have come to be known as Freudian by which we express disavowed desire, and the ways we invent and enjoy jokes. Phillips doesn’t mind that if Freud had died in 1905, his oeuvre would have ended with the account of a therapeutic
inevitably followed. Freud the patriarchal leader incapable of tolerating dissent, leading to the defection of his most gifted students, Jung, Adler, and Rank, does not carry much interest for Phillips. In any case, the public part of Freud’s biography, his official curriculum vitae, has been described many times, and Phillips wouldn’t have much to add to this corpus. It is easy to criticize Becoming Freud on a number of grounds. Primarily, it is not very clear what audience Phillips addresses. The natural readership for short biographies is those readers who want an introduction to the subject, and these will not find Becoming Freud helpful. I have enjoyed reading many of Phillips’s books, particularly the earlier ones, but I understand why many of his readers feel (Fearn, 2001) that after reading and enjoying his books they can’t really remember what they read or give a clear account of what the books said. Phillips has
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said in an interview (Holdengräber 2014) that he was happy to hear this, because this was the reading experience he both loves and seeks to generate. Phillips, ever the mellifluous prose stylist, generates a lot of reading pleasure, but those who have no previous knowledge of Freud’s life and work will not find Phillips’s densely allusive prose very helpful, nor will they get the summary of Freud’s central concepts they might be looking for. But my hunch is that Phillips never intended to write an introductory text. If anything, Becoming Freud might as well have been subtitled The Making of Adam Phillips. Freud is the hero of most of Phillips’s writing, and Becoming Freud portrays Freud construed as Phillips’s intellectual ancestor—inevitably emphasizing some aspects of Freud’s oeuvre over others. My main point of disagreement with Phillips is that he finds Freud the writer so much more interesting than Freud the theorist. Many psychoanalytic writers have tried to downplay Freud’s scientific aspirations, primarily because most of his specific theories, rooted in 19th-century biology and neurology, are of necessity dated. But I think this is a perspective on Freud necessitated only by the desire to idolize Freud as a source for endless insight into the truth about the human mind— an illness endemic to much of psychoanalytic writing. Then, of course, the datedness of many of Freud’s ideas is catastrophic. Freud, trivial to say, was wrong in most specifics of his theorizing, because, again trivially, he was a man of his times. He is interesting the way Aristotle, Leibniz, and Kant are important: not because of the truth of what they wrote, but because of their towering importance in Western intellectual and cultural history. Eric Kandel, Nobel laureate in physiology, has shown in detail how Freud was part of the revolution that created the contemporary image of human nature (Kandel, 2012), and Foucault (1976) saw Freud as the founder of a particular form of discourse that has shaped 20th-century culture, even though it is now receding from the public’s eye. Phillips’s preference for Freud the writer rather than Freud the theorist does not follow from his preference for a psychoanalysis less preoccupied with its self-importance and more intent to liberate human beings from a lack of liberty and vitality. For it is surely part of the legacy of Freud the thinker and theorist to insist on the Enlightenment’s call that humankind liberate itself from self-imposed tutelage and dare to know, among others, its own nature. Becoming Freud, like Phillips’s other books, does have an emancipatory message highly appropriate for our times. In the past humans were terrified of themselves
because they always realized, whether clearly or dimly, that much of who they are ran counter to the taboos of their religions, cultures, and families. This seems no longer to be the case in liberal societies of the early 21st century. The perversions and sins of yesteryear have become today’s subcultures, ranging from the LGBT community through the various networks of BDSM to feeders and asexuality.org. Seemingly, then, we have been liberated from the panic of being perverse and condemned for our abominations. This, of course, is an illusion. Our culture has replaced fear of perversion with the obsession of living healthily and having a good life. We seek expert advice for everything from child rearing to sex, from weight loss to workout optimization. Most of all, we are preoccupied with how well we are doing, why we are not doing as well as we think we should, or why we are not anywhere close to emulating the spectacular success stories in business, sports, film, haute cuisine, politics, or design pumped 24/7 through the global infotainment system via our tablets, phablets, and smartphones. Those of us who no longer aspire to theological purity at least expect to live enviable lives worthy of being reported on by the endless stream of media devoted to the rich, famous, or otherwise noteworthy. The result, as I have argued (Strenger, 2011), is a globally pervasive fear of insignificance, and experts who purportedly help us to escape this fear by helping us to realize our full potential are in high demand, even if their promises have no foundation whatsoever. One of Phillips’s goals is to evoke the possibility of a life beyond the gaze of experts that tell us how to live. In doing so he does not only counteract the popular self-help culture that promises us instant hypereffectiveness and the road to success, but also psychoanalysis’s normalizing impulse Phillips has described as psychoanalysis’s dismaying tendency of becoming an etiquette book for good mental behavior (Phillips, 1996). z REFERENCES Fearn, N. (2001). The New Statesman profile: Adam Phillips. New Statesman, April 23. Retrieved from http:// www.newstatesman.com/node/140127. Foucault, M. (1976). The history of sexuality (Vol. 1). (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Random House. Gay, P. (1989). Freud, a life for our times. New York: Norton. Holdengräber, P. (2014). Adam Phillips, the art of nonfiction no. 7. Paris Review, no. 208 (Spring). Retrieved from http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6286/ the-art-of-nonfiction-no-7-adam-phillips. Kandel, E. (2012). The age of insight. New York: Random. Onfray, M. (2012). Le crepuscule d’un idole. Paris: Grasset. Phillips, A. (1996). Terrors and experts. London: Faber. Strenger, C. (2011). The fear of insignificance: Searching for meaning in the 21st century. New York: MacMillan. Sulloway, F. (1992). Freud, biologist of the mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 16
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Donald Winnicott Today
Reviews by Paula L. ELLMAN and Nancy R. GOODMAN
Oh God! May I be alive when I die. —D. W. Winnicott Winnicott is alive, and each chapter in Jan Abram’s edited book attests to this. We feel the infectiousness of believing in the spark of life and in play. We “squiggled” to each other our responses to our reading of each contribution. We invited “transitional object” narratives from colleagues. We photographed “transitional objects” alive in our worlds. We offer a Winnicottian book review as we diverge and overlap, are similar and separate, and make room for play spaces. We have created a complex whole that we believe pays tribute to Abram’s volume, to the authors of each chapter, and to Winnicott’s work. Our reviews are presented side by side, complementing the other. In the space between we offer stories and photographs that bring to life the concept of transitional objects and transitional space.
The opportunity to review the edited book Donald Winnicott Today is the opportunity to be immersed in Winnicott’s contributions, which spanned close to 40 years. Winnicott’s guide to his ideas was the mother-baby dyad, and he was a revolutionary tour de force with his paradigm shift. Where Freud’s psychoanalysis was the “talking cure,” Winnicott’s was the mother-infant communication, often nonverbal. While Freud’s exemplar is the three-person Oedipal, Winnicott’s is the baby on the mother’s lap. Winnicott gave us the conceptual basis for the suffering within this paradigm, the “unthinkable anxieties”; perhaps his reference to the fear of falling is the fear of the lap collapsing or finding no lap at all. Adequate development, and by extension psychoanalysis, brings the “phase of concern” and the capacity to establish the “transitional object,” the space allowing for the creation of the object and the self imbued with meaning.
Donald Winnicott Today By Jan Abram New York: Routledge, 512pp., $47.95, 2012
One of Two Squiggles: The “InBetween” of Donald Winnicott Today Nancy R. Goodman Jan Abram’s book Donald Winnicott Today focuses on what happens between people, the mother and baby, the analyst and analysand, and the thinker and his community. There is no baby without the mother and there is no mother without the baby. There is no analyst without the analysand and there is no analysand without the analyst. There also is no author without an idea and there is no idea without the author. Jan Abram brings together chapters that use Winnicott’s basic ideas and expand upon them. As a group and individually, the ideas and love of Winnicott shown in this compilation opened transition space for play and creativity in my mind and will for all readers. Each connects Winnicott to the intellectual field of psychoanalysis today. For example, current interest in the nonsymbolizing patient is found in Andre Green, “Potential
e asked colleagues and family members for transitional object stories and gathered them together. Receiving the responses to our invitation to submit stories either in personal life or in the consulting office offers us an opportunity to reflect further on Winnicott’s contributions. We are all so familiar with transitional object experiences, for these stay with us throughout our lifetimes. The stories that were reported of one’s own children appear to carry the parent’s initial wonder at the power of the object for their child, but also a profound empathic appreciation for the meaning of the transitional object to their child. The stories of transitional objects evoke in all of us something that calls back to a very early time. Our desire for these transitional spaces are woven into who we are, and continue to be internally meaningful and accessible. There is almost a quality of magic—there but not there, part of us but not part of us. Winnicott has allowed us to understand the magic and its source embedded in the mother-infant matrix. Transitional Stories My older daughter had some blankets she called “Babas.” They were soft. She would lie down on one in her crib and carry it with her when she toddled. The younger sister had a blanket that was almost as big as she was. She could touch it in her crib. She would carry it around as it swept the floor. Later she had a special stuffed animal. Ellie was an elephant, blue and soft. When we moved from New Haven to Bethesda she put Ellie in the car with us. As we each hugged Ellie, driving away from our home of 10 years, we cried. Ellie seemed to be able to release emotion. 17
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Exploring Winnicott: Perspectives on His New Frontier Paula L. Ellman Reading Donald Winnicott Today, I felt like an explorer discovering new territories. I am swept up in the exhilaration of new possibilities. In each of the three sections of Abram’s edited book, I steeped in the writings of Winnicott at varying stages of his development. With each contribution came the waves of repercussions, waves of the effects of a catalyst triggering more discoveries of explorers that followed—in the arts, in the sciences, in language, in imagery, in theory, in development, in space, in the boundary, in France, in England, in the United States, and in South America. Each contributor to Donald Winnicott Today has a particular way of presenting and incorporating the concepts that Winnicott brought to psychoanalysis. Often without recognition, we psychoanalysts use his concepts in our daily discourse with
Goodman cont. Space in Psychoanalysis: The Object in the Setting” (chapter 7) and Haydee Faimberg, “Nachtraglichkeit and Winnicott’s ‘Fear of Breakdown’” (chapter 8). Green finds Winnicott’s work on trauma and destruction intersects with the work of the negative, particularly when the internal mother is “blotted out,” “blank,” “the negative,” or the “non-object.” Meaning can be constructed out of the negative when squiggle contact takes place. Faimberg links Winnicott’s thinking about the terror of anticipating “breakdown” with learning now what was, nachtraglichkeit. It is with the analyst that the nothing becomes what can be known. The meaning in the negative, in the trauma, in the urge to be alive is discovered within Winnicott’s frame
The transition object that every mother and father and baby understands is a place of play, an “in-between” that makes the world feel safer. of “holding,” “play,” and “transition phenomena.” The transition object that every mother and father and baby understands is a place of play, an “in-between” (in-between you and me, in-between destruction and engulfment) that makes the world feel safer. The baby and the mother are happy. It is easier for both to leave the other without too much terror. This is Winnicott’s permanent gift to us, the belief in the spaces that become an “in-between” where renewal can take place. On the cover of the book, Jan Abram places a quote from Winnicott : “I am asking for a kind of revolution in our work. Let us examine what we do.” She writes: “Perhaps by now, so near to death, Winnicott was able to articulate something that he had been in the process of since 1945—a psychoanalytic revolution” (“D.W.W.’s Notes for the Vienna Congress 1971,” chapter 14, p.313). The way Winnicott moves in directions not already in the psychoanalytic conceptual base to make a scientific revolution is taken up by Zeljko Loparic in his contribution, “From Freud to Winnicott: Aspects of a Paradigm Change” (chapter 4). One of the major shifts is in the attention to the use of visual representation in squiggle, in drawing, and is prominent for Marion Milner in “Winnicott: Overlapping Circles and the Two Way Journey” (chapter 6). Kenneth Wright (“The Search for Form: A Winnicottian Theory of Artistic Creation,” chapter 11) focuses on the artists and creators, presenting the way good enough attunement of the mother forms a “fabric of images” enveloping the baby. “It is surely the possibility that the richness of the artist’s imagination…in finding forms for inner feeling states is a later development of
Twin girls went to nursery school and each put a favored transition object in their cubby. They were told they could ask for them. Later one asked for Lollipop and the teachers told her, “Not now.” She asked over and over. They did not realize that Lollipop was the name of her rabbit stuffed animal. —Nancy R. Goodman
I was an only child on a farm and yet I do not remember being lonely. I had my black-andwhite spaniel Chucky and my doll Raggedy Ann. Raggedy Ann went everywhere with me but when at age five we moved from the farm to town Raggedy Ann stayed behind at the farm. I never loved another doll. My younger sister had a favorite blanket that she carried everywhere. It became worn and torn and eventually was just a scrap of a rag. Just before she was about to start kindergarten the extended family was gathered at our house. Our favorite aunt took her into the kitchen and grabbed the blanket. “You are too old for this,” she said and threw the blanket into the kitchen garbage pail. My sister wailed. My mother and I were powerless to protect her. Later I learned of other examples of my aunt’s cruelty. Our first child had a brown Gund bear— Winnie the Pooh and Corduroy were favorite bedtime stories. One day when he was about 14 months old we visited Longwood Gardens, and after buckling him into the backseat we drove off—but we had left Pooh Bear on the roof. By the time we realized our mistake it was too late and too dark to go back. His stuffed animal shelf held a white bear he had never cared for—we named him Polar for the polar bears he loved to visit at the Philadelphia Zoo. Within two days he had forgotten Pooh and had transferred all his attachment to Polar. We still have him. —Katalin Roth I will tell you the story of my little boy. He is now four years old, so when I started my analytic training I was about to give birth. When he was a year old I decided to take him for Christmas to my parents in Greece, which meant that he had to separate from his father for about ten days, since my husband had to stay back because he was working. Up to that point he would switch between two objects and didn’t having that “special” relationship with any of those. Once we came back from our trip his dad bought him a little gray stuffed animal (cat), and once he 18
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Ellman cont. patients, with colleagues, in our own writings, and in our thinking and conceptualizing. In reviewing Donald Winnicott Today I travel through Winnicott’s concepts as they emerge in the chapters of Abram’s diverse group of contributors. As a pediatrician, Winnicott from the start had his eye on the mother-infant dyad. Thomas H. Ogden (chapter 2, “The Mother, the Infant and the Matrix: Interpretations of Aspects of the Work of Donald Winnicott”) offers a clear delineation of Winnicott’s conceptual development of the mother-infant matrix. The mother-infant is the unity of psychological development. For Winnicott it is the behavior of the environment that is central to the individual’s development. The nature of this environment is determined by what Winnicott calls “the primary maternal pre-occupation,” essentially the mother’s capacity to lose herself in the baby, allowing for the delay of awareness of separateness for the infant. Here the “other” meets the need of the infant before the need becomes desire. Winnicott was fundamental in launching the world of “self psychology.” The dyad becomes the source, truly the life-giving force, for the development of the sense of self. Jan Abram (chapter 3, “The Evolution of Winnicott’s Theoretical Matrix: A Brief Outline”) brings focus to Winnicott’s seminal paper, “Primitive Emotional Development” (1945), by introducing her thinking on his theory of the true self. Winnicott’s focus on the mother-infant matrix localizes the basis for the development of “continuity of being” in contrast with “the unthinkable agonies,” that is, the pain and destruction of the self. Donald Winnicott Today bridges the theory of development of the self and techniques of intervention. Zeljko Loparic (chapter 4, “From Freud to Winnicott: Aspects of a Paradigm Change”) addresses Winnicott’s paradigmatic shift in his theory that sets the stage for generating a guide for a psychoanalytic technique from his ideas about human development. It is Dodi Goldman (chapter 15, “Vital Sparks and the Form of Things Unknown”) who brings a crystal clear understanding to Winnicott’s ideas of psychological aliveness and development. He emphasizes that “the mother reliably shields her baby from undue ‘complications beyond those which the infant can understand and allow for’” (p.344). Explored here are concepts like the “vital spark”—the urge toward life and growth and development,—and “the transitional object” that contains “in condensed form the intensity and aliveness of the baby-mother dyad…and a way to maintain continuity of being through creative substitution of a special object of the mothering person”
Goodman cont. the mother’s intuitive skills—or a compensation for her relative lack of them” (p.257). Believing in this “compensation” is an offering from Winnicott to all who have faced external and internal destruction. It is with a witness, the early mother and later the therapist, that the creativity of the infant and the traumatized patient enters transitional space. Dodi Goldman begins his chapter, “Vital Sparks and the Form of Things Unknown” (chapter 15), by recounting Winnicott’s proclamation: “Oh God! May I be alive when I die” (p.331), asking for a psychic space for both life and death. Winnicott believes in a liveliness born into each person, and when the flame is extinguished wants most to reignite it. Goldman sees aliveness having its roots in a “psychic field” in which the mother shields and protects the baby from “premature awareness of complications” (p.332). It is holding that allows “going-on-being.” When visiting Israel in November 2013, I learned more about the universal presence of Winnicott and Dodi Goldman’s writings. I found Goldman’s books on Winnicott on the bookshelf of Alex Lieben, a psychologist living on the kibbutz Rosh Hanikra. When Dodi spent time working on this kibbutz, he was inspired by Alex’s love of psychoanalytic ideas and clinical work. Winnicott is found around the world. Thomas H. Ogden, in “Reading Winnicott” (chapter 9), finds poetry in Winnicott’s language, which he calls “prose poetry,” and takes the reader through the words and the rhythms that are embedded in thinking and writing. “I cannot resist, however, taking a moment to marvel at the way in which Winnicott…nonchalantly jettisons the accrued technical language of fifty years of psychoanalytic writing in favor of language that is alive with the experiences being described” (p.222). As I read, I found myself thinking that interpretation of instincts and compromises might be part of what makes for holding and transmission of belief in “the spark.” I wonder what Winnicott would think about that. To Winnicott, the containing holding environment is most important, especially when the mother did not provide it, causing wounds. How Ogden experiences Winnicott, his attention to verbs rather than nouns, made me fully aware that Winnicott understood that he was breaking with the language used by psychoanalysts with his new perspective on the micropoetry of baby-mother contact. The father, too, is part of the environment, whether in background functioning or in the mother’s mind, helping or hindering her, as stated by Christopher Reeves in “On the Margins: The Role of the Father in Winnicott’s Writings” (chapter 16).
gave it to him he would carry it everywhere. Sleeping with it, traveling with it, going to school with it; everywhere to this day. We have bought him a few stuffed animals since then, but he hasn’t showed any particular interest in any of those. This is clearly his comfort and certainly his transitional object. To me it’s always a substitute for his father because he was always very involved in his care, as I was. Separation was, of course, what has meaning to this object and all the feelings that come with it. Also, it was really interesting that when he saw it he immediately gave it a name. I can go on and on about this, as you can imagine. —Haroula Ntalla I had a rag doll I called Rosy Cheeks because of her rosy cheeks. One day my mother decided she needed cleaning. That was the end of my Rosy Cheeks. —Jane Hall
“What’s in a mother?,” an internal mother? Where does one live with one’s internal mother if not inside? “In projected transitional mothers, of course!” A former patient returned to therapy briefly to “check in” at the end of his college junior year. Struggling with moving out and moving on as senior year approached, he decided what he really wanted to do this summer was return to a sleepaway camp he attended for several years in his latency, early teen years. “There” he felt successful as an athlete, not judged for his academic accomplishments. “There” he felt less pressure to 19
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Ellman cont. (p.337). Goldman attends to the concept of dissociation to bring Winnicottian ideas into the arena of psychoanalytic technique. Dissociation serves as a form of psychic organization. The dissociative process sustains self-continuity—the “continuity of being”—when facing either the overpowering effects of emotions from trauma, or as a defense against these emotions. Jan Abram chooses three of Winnicott’s original contributions for her book: chapter 1, “D.W.W. on D.W.W.” (1967), chapter 5, “A Personal View of the Kleinian Contribution” (1962), and chapter 13, “The Use of the Object in the Context of Moses and Monotheism” (1969). These papers, along with Abram’s essay (chapter 14, “D.W.W’s Notes for the Vienna Congress 1971”), offer a comprehensive appreciation of the development of Winnicott’s theoretical advances. The foundation of his theory rests on Sigmund Freud. Yet the context of war led to an evolution of a theory and intervention technique based on formulations about the early environment. In his writings Winnicott approaches the importance of psychic survival, and the survival of the object, the mother. Implicit in the concept of the “survival of the object” is the process of the introjection of surviving objects. Winnicott’s determination to develop his own psychoanalytic ideas is evident throughout, and his ideas, in themselves, have great survivability. Abram believes that Winnicott shows “the wish to have a dialogue with the aim of continuing Freud’s work” (p.313), thus maintaining ties to the full body of psychoanalytic thought, thereby ensuring the survival of his contributions. Abram’s discussion and interpretation of Winnicott’s final theory of aggression with the emphasis on the “survival of the object” brings clarity to crucial ramifications for psychoanalytic methodology and ther-
Winnicott’s techniques of therapeutic play in the Spatula Game and the Squiggle Game conceptually carry the central principles of his theory. apeutic action. Winnicott’s techniques of therapeutic play in the Spatula Game and the Squiggle Game conceptually carry the central principles of his theory. He used the games to structure the therapeutic consultations, each game exemplifying the concept of potential space—“what happens between two people when there is trust and reliability” (p.170). His language medium of pictures and doodles is described by both Marion Milner (chapter 6, “Winnicott: Overlapping Circles and the Two Way Journey”) and Lisa Farley (chapter 18, “Squiggle Evidence: The Child, the Canvas and the ‘Negative Labour’
Goodman cont. I learned more than I expected from these essays. I knew the pleasures of thinking of mothers and babies, teddy bears and blankies and of the terrors that accompany the annihilation of no holding. Holding is not expected to be perfect; there are failures arousing aggression. A mother and an analyst must receive destructiveness with open arms. When the environment does not, the false self appears, the hurt self that lives with a sense of unreality and an inner space of smoke and mirrors. In his chapter, “Winnicott’s Deconstruction of Primary Narcissism” (chapter 12), Rene Roussillon uses Winnicott to interpret “the shadow of the object” in his clinical work, stating that “the work of analysis enables the reconstitution and processing of the effect of the chaotic and erratic aspects of the mother’s emotional responses” (p.278). In her essay (chapter 14), Abram speaks of internal objects “of survival and nonsurvival,” further clarifying the terrain of internal landscapes. How remarkable that Winnicott felt/thought that nonsurvival internal objects could be modulated to release the spark. I was impressed throughout with Winnicott’s independence of thought and courage to “think out of the box.” If I were to draw an abstract line about Winnicott, (reading Winnicott makes one want to play), it would be a wavy vertical demarcation between “here” and “there.” It is like the wave that Paula intuited and felt. It is like the space we made in presenting our thinking with transition objects “in-between.” It is a meeting place. Since it is dynamic, tensions between “here” and “there” make it grow, allowing productivity. This is how Paula and I feel in our parallel tracks. At moments, I wanted to disagree with some of the ideas in these chapters—that unconscious fantasy may not matter much. I realize that Winnicott would not be disturbed by a dialogue. In fact, something new could likely be created because of the dimensions of the curving line that might grow. The role of witnessing and the way it makes space for knowing was articulated in a variety of articles and in many ways. I recently wrote about the way witnessing brings about “living space” next to “dead places” of trauma in regard to transformations related to giving testimony about the Holocaust (Goodman, 2012). While I referred to Winnicott’s “holding,” I learned much more in Lisa Farley’s chapter, “Squiggle Evidence: The Child, the Canvas, and the ‘Negative Labour’ of Writing History” (chapter 18). Winnicott used his witnessing to receive the traumatic drawings done by children removed from their families during World War II due to threats from German air raids. Farley shows that the ideas about witnessing used currently in trauma work have their foundation in Winnicott’s
perform with the girls, as strict rules prevailed in the separation between girls’ and boys’ campuses. On the way to becoming an adult, while feeling conflict with his real outside and internal mother (the bad mother who was pressuring him to grow up and finding him inadequate to the task of performing as a man, from a projected point of view, of course), he came “back” to therapy for a few consultations with the mother of ambivalence, helping him to “go back” to a more idealized early experience where he could be held and protected by the confines of camp, while taking care of other younger boys as well as the child part of himself. This “transitional” space was seen as a helpful compromise between the enormous developmental steps he was embarking on, while feeling in need of a holding mother inside and out. Camp provided both, even if it continued a split between near and far, there and here, inside and outside, young and old, for seven weeks to allow integration of good and bad and contain the experience of ambivalence. A sleepaway place to think and dream and experience conflict. —Susan Finkelstein
In response to your invitation for “transition narratives” is the following observation of my daughter, I believe at about age one and a half or two. As she was lying in her crib drifting off to sleep she would comfort herself by repeating “Mama,” “Dada,” “Charlie” (our dog), and “Lolli” (her doll/transitional object of that time). This clearly included her transitional object, and seemingly her transitioning, symbolizing soothing expressions—words of her yet to be fully internalized objects. —Eugene P. Pryor Jr. I was startled as Nancy entered the hour, coat free. For her entire life she has dragged a coat of some sort wherever she went—under stressful conditions, literally wearing it all day or having it within reach when it became too awkward to wrap herself in it. Early and crippling losses blocked this bright, accomplished woman from any intimacy, her coat serving as attachment and armor between herself and the world. Over a long period of time, she has gradually, 20
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Ellman cont. of Writing History”). The use of the Squiggle Game is embedded in the principle of articulating trauma in the presence of an other, of a witness. Central to the witnessing process is necessity of the object’s survival. The mother must survive the fantasied destruction of her for the infant’s discovery of the external object and development of the capacity to play. The analyst, like the mother, must allow the self to be destroyed as the patient wishes, so the patient is reassured that the object has the capacity to survive the imagined destruction. Andre Green (chapter 7, “Potential Space in Psychoanalysis: The Object in the Setting”) offers a description of the object that merges with Winnicottian ideas of therapeutic action. For Green, “the analytic object is neither internal (to the analysand or to the analyst), nor external (to either the one or the other), but is situated between the two” (p.195). For Winnicott, the point is not so much about an object but a space lending itself to the creation of the object. This space expands into the playground of transitional phenomena. The therapeutic alliance is founded on using this playground to create an analytic object, the transitional object, which by definition is located in the intermediate area of potential space. A terminated analysis is when a patient takes away potential space to reconstitute it in their outside world, inclusive of their inner world. Unexpected is Winnicott’s felt closeness to the ideas developing within ego psychology in North America. Nellie L. Thompson’s article (chapter 17, “Winnicott and American Analysts”) sheds light on this impressive affinity and Winnicott’s anticipation of lively exchanges during his visits to New York in the 1960s. “Winnicott may actually have found more support and stimulus for his thinking on infancy and the mother-child among American analysts than from his British colleagues” (p.399). “Winnicott went to great lengths to locate his thesis within a maturational matrix of infantile development associated with the developmental thinking of these analysts” (p.407). Essential in Winnicott’s writing is the infant’s recognition of an external reality, and object, beyond its magical omnipotent control. Through Daniel Widlocher’s vantage point, we come to value the “freedom of thought” that is implicit in Winnicott’s contributions with his foci on clinical empiricism and the value of creativity (chapter 10, “Winnicott and the Acquisition of Freedom of Thought”). Freedom of thought was embedded in psychoanalysis from the very beginning, located in the fundamental rule and evenly suspended attention. However, Winnicott’s shifting the emphasis from
Goodman cont. capacity to be willing to hear and see what displaced children needed him to know. She sees the squiggle “as an effect of an external context in which Winnicott became increasingly convinced of the child’s need for a witness to the affective force of experiences that defied literal or immediate representation” (pp.420–421). Why had I not known about Winnicott’s specific work on witnessing? Is his work sequestered, am I sequestered? In fact, this happens often in the history of his contributions and others—competitions, questions of loyalty, and narcissism about truth. From these essays, I came to want to talk to Winnicott, to ask him for help in understanding how to turn the either/or thinking in psychoanalysis into the creativity that could be the “in-between.” Winnicott thought of destructiveness as firmly related to the spark of life and the mother’s role in survival. We could ask the same of our collective psychoanalytic intellectual community—to survive and not make splits—but to make space. He also holds the environment responsible for the “dread,” the turning away from life, that can take place. It is my hope that in our own world of ideas, we have opportunities to place the curvy line as a demarcation of “here” from “there” to make connections. Thus, we will be able to allow for more “in-betweens” continuing to make room for what Winnicott called the environment and for the presence, also in the mind, of unconscious and primal fantasy. z REFERENCE Goodman, N. R. (2012). The power of witnessing. In N. R. Goodman and M. B. Meyers (Eds.), The Power of Witnessing: Reflections, reverberations, and traces of the Holocaust—trauma, psychoanalysis, and the living mind (pp.3–26). New York: Routledge. Photos on pages 18-21 by Paula L. Ellman & Nancy R. Goodman
although sporadically, loosened the tight control of the comfort and buffer. With great vigilance, she has begun to allow others and experiences of life—particularly her treatment and me—to touch, even envelope her. Initially on this recent day, not fully understanding the import of her actions, she responded to my inquiry about the whereabouts of her coat: “Oh, that, yes, I left it at home [a dawning look washes over her face, followed by a wary smile]. It’s not so important anymore, not now that I have Jack [her partner] and Delilah [her dog]—and you.” She hesitantly acknowledged, “I feel so [she pauses] free.” —Diane Dowling
From six months of age Anna loved her stuffed white cat, Baba, as fiercely as anyone or anything can be loved. Baba, shaped more like a rag doll, wore a red jumpsuit sprinkled with little white flowers. He was perfect for holding, carrying and dragging everywhere. I say “he” but I am not sure Baba ever had a gender. When Anna woke each day, her face lit up as if she was seeing the most beloved of old friends. She hugged and kissed him throughout the day, and when upset she needed Baba to bring her comfort. Even if I was holding her, she clutched Baba to her chest. Whether naptime or nighttime, he slept wrapped in her arms. Over the years Anna’s need for Baba gradually faded, happening so naturally it was barely noticeable. Then one day he was lost for good. With Baba no longer essential, Anna weathered the loss without distress. Three or so years later, when Anna was about seven, we went for a weekend to visit my parents. We were out on their deck sharing a meal when Anna’s grandmother noticed one of the younger grandchildren dragging their blankie around. She turned to Anna and said, “Oh, Anna, do you remember Baba?” I saw Anna pause. Her eyes rose up as if she was remembering something from long ago. Recognition swept across her face, as her lips quivered, and she began to weep, clearly recalling her long-lost love. —Kerry Malawista Our son had a large stuffed tiger that he would lie on. We called him “Tigger.” When we traveled we had a smaller version of Tigger that went with us. One time, on a family trip, Tigger got left behind. We promptly contacted the hotel manager, who kindly attended to us and sent Tigger to us. —Marilyn Meyers 21
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Ellman cont. countertransference as an obstacle to objectivity, to being considered as a driving force in the intersubjective communication, frees thought even further. The origins of the mutual communications lie in the interaction between mother and baby—a form of “co-thinking.” Freedom of thought is part of the potential space of subjectivity. Widlocher emphasizes the opening up of possibilities when Winnicott “[pushes] back the frontiers of pathology in order to include deprivation and trauma alongside intrapsychic neurotic conflicts” (p.240). Winnicott creates the experience in reading that cannot be separated from the ideas he presents. The life of his writing is inseparable from the life of his ideas—language and ideas are interdependent. Thomas H. Ogden (chapter 9, “Reading Winnicott”) beautifully shows us how we, too, in the process of reading Winnicott are brought into the experience of his theory and technique. “His indefinite enigmatic language does not fill space with knowledge; it opens up a space for thinking, imagining and freshly experiencing” (p.228). Reading Winnicott opens thinking, freeing creativity. Abram has carefully selected and brought together in one volume a diversity of approaches to Winnicott that brings fresh life to the understanding of what he offers us as psychoanalysts. I am appreciative of her gift. z
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Donald Kaplan: Freud with Humor Donald Kaplan was my psychoanalytic mentor and one of my first teachers at the NYU Postdoctoral Program for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. I was surprised and thrilled by the way he taught Freud with a delightful mix of erudition and humor. I was always drawn to Freud’s genius and to this day do not understand analysts who facilely dismiss or criticize Freud. Being in Donald’s class solidified my love of Freud, and it has not wavered since that time. I have taught Freud in a number of institutions—academic and psychoanalytic—as well as private seminars. Like Donald, I never tire of teaching Freud, especially since it gets me to reread Freud and discover new ideas that I missed in prior readings. I especially love watching students and candidates beginning to realize that their lives and selves are rooted in the vast unconscious. It is as if they are developing eyes to see into another dimension. Donald showed me how much fun it can be to teach. I learned so much from him. After I took his class, I wanted more. Along with fellow candidate Fern Cohen, I studied Freud’s theory of dreams (the famous chapter 7). Wanting to learn even more from Donald, I became his supervisee for an additional three years. By then I considered him my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. I could call him any time about a question I might have about Freud or a reference I couldn’t track down. He always got back to me within a day with the needed information. He was a caring individual, and he had no trouble showing it. The Educator I’d now like to share some of the wisdom and humor I gleaned from Donald’s teachings. Before beginning class, he removed his expensive gold Rolex watch and placed it carefully before him. This gesture signaled that he had entered the moment and was ready to stand and deliver, peppering theory with colorful clinical illustrations and characteristic humor. A memorable story involved his description of a formal analysis with a female patient who brought her dog to sessions. The woman was lying on the couch, speaking to her analyst about her trials and tribulations, while the dog and Donald conducted a parallel nonverbal dialogue, each mimicking the posture of the other. I suppose Donald would be considered a classical Freudian, a designation often stereotyped as rigid, but he was one of the most open-minded people I’ve known. He adhered to Freud’s theory of neurosis, which allotted a central place to the Oedipus complex. To explain why the Oedipus complex maintained such a dominant position in the development of neurosis, he described a child’s psychosex-
ual and familial development. During the oral phase, we often put food in our mouths to show the infant what to do. “Look, mommy eats…Baby eats! One spoon for mommy, one spoon for baby.” Similarly, when one is toilet training the toddler, parents often place the child’s potty next to the adult toilet. “Look, daddy goes to the bathroom, baby goes to the bathroom. Daddy’s potty…Baby’s potty.” So far, so good. But what happens when the child reaches the Oedipal phase? Suddenly the parents are engaged in some mysterious activity that takes place behind closed doors.
place within the family circle (and we haven’t even touched upon the many ways parents can color this triangle) is highly complicated. Described thus, it became easy to understand why so many children’s Oedipal relations could go awry and evolve into relational problems in their adulthood. Related to the Oedipus complex is the primal scene, one of Freud’s fundamental fantasies. I became so intrigued by the concept of unconscious fantasies—especially the primal scene fantasy—that I co-wrote a book (with Kenneth Feiner) in 2006 on the topic. The
The child is not part of it. The child doesn’t even know for sure what it is. A division is formed. The child feels left out. This is the first time he or she is not invited to imitate the parents’ behavior. No modeling takes place, other than the secrecy, and to add to the confusion, sexual desire expressed in mating must be deferred. Furthermore, much needs to be negotiated all at once: the difference between the sexes (who has what and who does what to whom) and the difference between the generations (one generation has privileges denied to another generation). Sexual research on the part of children may result in some idea of what the parents are doing, but again this only adds fuel to the fire, because their sexual needs cannot be fulfilled for years to come—and this is at a time when immediate gratification rules. Due to the deferment of need gratification, the Oedipal child develops a hungered sense of the future. Naturally this would be a time of enormous mental growth, but also of conflict and frustration. Negotiating the sensitive terrain of determining one’s
primal scene can be thought of as the tableau of the Oedipal child. What Donald added to this fascinating subject is how a patient can experience the analyst’s “marriage” to his or her profession as a primal scene prohibition. I experienced this firsthand when a patient in the throes of a rather violent erotic transference shouted at me one day, “You’d fuck Freud and not me!” Donald didn’t swallow all of Freud’s theoretical positions whole. He knew that Freud sometimes “got it wrong,” specifically when trying to explain female development and pathology. Of particular note was Freud’s assertion that non-neurotic women must reach vaginal, not clitoral, orgasms. Donald recounted his first training case with a highly sexual female patient. His classical supervisor repeatedly told Donald that he needed to find out what kind of orgasms the woman was having. Finally mustering up the courage to ask her if she had vaginal or clitoral orgasms, he interrupted an especially graphic description of her previous evening’s
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sexual escapade. “You know, you’ve never told me what kind of orgasms you have,” he said meekly. She turned to him and grinned broadly. “Oh, I have great orgasms!” So much for that theory! I remember well Donald’s class on Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia.” He began by saying that analysis in its entirety can be regarded as a process of mourning. Though this notion stuck in my mind, it wasn’t until last year that I wrote an entire paper on it. Donald, after Freud, described mourning as the process of turning a living idea, something closer to a perception, into a memory, explaining that ideas make fewer claims on mental life than percepts do. I recall, too, how Donald illustrated Freud’s theory of melancholia as an internal protest against the loss of love. With his typical lively role-play, he acted the part of a patient who had been in analysis for years. This patient reproaches himself: “I am stupid. I don’t change. How can you put up with me? You must wish I’d leave so a more interesting patient could take my place.” Donald paused for effect, noting now that the patient could have announced, “I’ve been coming here for a long time. I’ve spent thousands on this treatment and I haven’t changed. You’re the worst analyst in town!” Both are equally plausible, so why would someone take the blame on himself? The answer is that if the patient blames the analyst, the analyst might leave him, and the analysis will end. “So what?” you might ask. Well, the patient, in addition to feeling angry and deprived, also loves and needs his analyst, and he realizes that sometimes analysis does help. If he gets rid of the analyst, he will also get rid of the good parts. He faces a dilemma: how to register a complaint yet save the relationship. The answer: put it on the self. Naturally, there is a trade-off: the patient saves the relationship and ends the external conflict. It costs a piece of his soul, but for him it is worth it. Therefore, the setting up of a deflated, bad love object within one’s own self-image is a psychological process intended to keep alive the positive aspects of a love relationship. The process leads to depression and represents a person’s efforts to solve an ambivalence conflict. Here was Freud at his object relational peak. To explain the concept of de-idealization, Donald told the story of a young couple enamored with one another. They go to a movie, holding hands throughout. After the film, the woman asks the man what he thought. He replies, “Wonderful. Whatever I do with you is the best.” The man then asks the woman what she thought. She replies, “Fantastic. Whatever I do with you is fun.” The woman persists. “No, really. Tell me what you really thought.” The man finally replies, “Well, it was so-so.” Donald then announced in a voice filled with gravitas, “And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the beginning of the end!”
Extremely moving to me was the manner in which Donald spoke about Freud’s theory of working through. He emphasized how much analysis consists of a process of working through the problems that come up in session and doing so is a labor rather than a technique. While the patient labors to let go of resistance and recover from problems, the analyst’s role is largely one of patience. The Supervisor Donald knew how to make me feel comfortable from the start. He was nonjudgmental and nonintrusive. He did not dictate the way I should conduct analysis, but saw his role instead to be one of an approving witness
who had some words of wisdom to impart from time to time. From my experience with him as a supervisee, I could imagine what a supportive analyst he could be, a kindly and attentive man who genuinely loved what he did. He was patient and never rushed. When an analysand asked him how long the analysis would take, he replied matter-of-factly, “Less than a lifetime.” Donald was a student of Theodor Reik and, like Reik, believed in “listening with the third ear.” Listening was the utmost analytic skill, and he demonstrated it in supervision with me. In a 1966 paper, he wrote that “the sheer personal attention” we give our patients is “the loveliest of courtesies” (quoted in L. Kaplan, 1995, p.471). From this personal attention, one prepares personalized interventions. He wrote, “Every interpretation is custom-fashioned for the individual patient; it is a unique hypothesis about a unique sequence of data” (quoted in L. Kaplan, 1995, p.470). Donald supervised me on an analysis of a woman who was emotionally immature 25
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and extremely self-conscious about her appearance. I was impressed with the degree to which he paid attention to feminist issues and gender differences in general. His were never simply intellectual analyses; his analyses resonated with empathy and compassion. In his paper on “Gender and Social Reality,” he began by stating that “since the social order embodies and authorizes ideals of femininity and masculinity, a psychoanalysis must entail decisions, witting or otherwise, as to how social reality, including questions of gender, figures in the clinical situation” (Kaplan, 1990, p.3). Though he was a master theoretician and clinician, Donald made it clear that he was a perennial student, and he could poke
fun at himself as easily as he did at others. I knew he was a member of a peer supervision group, along with Otto Kernberg, Roy Schafer, Bill Grossman, and other senior analysts. He recounted a time he presented the case of a stalled 13-year analysis to the group. After listening to Donald present his case for at least an hour, Kernberg quickly opined that the reason the treatment had not progressed was because Donald had made a mistake in the very first session! The Writer Donald possessed a breadth of knowledge, and his writings illustrate this. He wrote about a variety of topics, ranging from sublimation, art, termination, language, transference love, gender, the pathology of conformism, and shyness. Given my interest in art and creativity, I was especially interested in Donald’s papers on art. In a 1966 paper, he wisely wrote, “art continues to find eloquence for our suffering, heraldry for our strife, lyricism for our passion” (Kaplan, 1966b, p.93).
In a 1972 paper in which he discussed Eissler’s “doxaletheic function” (an ego function that maintains reality testing during states of high drive arousal accompanying creative activity), Donald compared the artist to the psychotic and the art object to Winnicott’s transitional object. For Donald, “Art creates a public. Psychosis obfuscates communication” (Kaplan, 1972, p.3). Similarly, he maintained that the transitional object cannot create a public and contains nothing to give it lasting value. Yet both the art object and the transitional object are “unimpeachable.” They command an inviolability that demands they not be changed. Finally, when speaking of artists, Donald wrote in 1972 that “because the culture available to them, that is, ordinary life, is not enough, artists continue to elaborate culture.” (Kaplan, 1972, p.12). In his paper “What Is Sublimated in Sublimation?” (1993), Donald mentioned the limits of psychoanalysis in the treatment of artists. First, he acknowledged that most artists seek treatment when their work comes to a halt. When it is not blocked, they usually have little need to discuss it and are more concerned with aspects of their ordinary life. He said, “In the case of art there is no working through; the art that succeeds the cure of the symptom escapes further analysis” (Kaplan, 1993, p.7). I recall a lecture he gave on an artist who stopped making art after her analysis. He seemed pained that though he helped the patient heal from everyday conflicts, her personal growth came at such a cost. A wonderful paper published posthumously (1995) focused on “the unfinished manuscript in the drawer.” Donald mentioned Henry Roth (Call It Sleep) and Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man), each of whom experienced serious writer’s block after the success of his first novel. He then recounted the analysis of a female writer whose primary complaint related to her unfinished second novel. Comparing the problem of the unfinished novel to moral masochism in which one is bound to an ongoing ideal, he wrote, “In moral masochism, postponement becomes more gratifying in itself than the accomplishment it was originally meant to bring about” (p.293). The unfinished manuscript in the drawer is therefore “a monument of defiance wrought in a spirit of virtue” (p.293). I began by saying that although Donald was a classical analyst, he was very liberal-minded. His flexibility with technique is evident in a 1967 article he wrote for Harper’s magazine, where he addressed the concept of abstinence in psychoanalysis: The rule is that abstinence should be no more nor less than the patient can tolerate. The dosing of this abstinence—how little, how much—is a matter of the analyst’s humanity and courage. The cruel truth is
that there is no certainty about abstinence. Each day is a fresh struggle to reduce the error in the analyst’s estimation of what the patient is able to stand.…Typical abuses can include answering a question with a question too often. The patient might be sent away in the middle of a sentence, as not a minute longer than the agreed-upon time is conceded. None of the patient’s jokes are responded to. A slip of the tongue becomes an occasion for ruthless probing, as though a butterfly is about to be assaulted with a sledgehammer. (quoted in Grunes, in L. Kaplan, 1995, p.xi) Similarly, he tackled the idea of orthodoxy in psychoanalysis in a 1966 paper he wrote on the future of classical psychoanalysis: Orthodoxy is perpetually prepared to begrudge recognition to the very Messiah it so devoutly longs for. In orthodoxy…psychoanalysis possesses only a past, and a sheltered present is the guarantee of this past in the future. We should rue the position of the orthodox analyst, were it not that he refers no longer to psychoanalysis but rather to a set of postures having reference only to proprieties and improprieties. Concerned with manners more than science, he is no analyst but a dandy, and what he says of the future of psychoanalysis, though sometimes amusing, is largely irrelevant (quoted in L. Kaplan, 1995, p.473). Donald regarded psychoanalysis as “an immense idea” and therefore adaptable and future-oriented. He believed in the survival of psychoanalysis, stating that “only in the event of some kind of Neanderthal future can it [psychoanalysis] find no necessity or purpose” (quoted in L. Kaplan, 1995, p.473). The Man Donald was a man small in stature but big in heart. He was erudite and very, very funny. He had the humor, timing, and delivery of a stand-up comic. His students waited in eager anticipation all week for his classes, and he loved to hold court. We were educated, stimulated, and entertained all at once. Who could ask for more? Behind the façade of the funny, even mischievous, man, Donald was a decent, sensitive, and caring human being with profound emotional generosity. He was thrilled to talk about children. Whenever the topic of children arose, he instantly abandoned his erudition and became a doting grandfather. Once I heard him say to a fellow classmate who had just given birth, “That’s it. That’s where the meaning is. Nothing else matters.” He was also a complex man, however. He had a “tough guy” wisecracking manner and took enormous pride in his gun collec26
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tion—an unusual hobby for a psychoanalyst. He told me he slept with guns under his bed. I got the sense that he was well aware of the dangers that could befall one in life. Where this came from, I’m not certain, but I suppose it had something to do with his childhood in the Bronx. Whenever I left his office, he didn’t say, “Good-bye.” Instead he said, “Be careful!” His parting words were caring yet warned me not to get too comfortable, because one never knew what could happen. Unfortunately, this was true for him. At the age of 67, while walking down his Greenwich Village block, he suffered from an aneurysm and died. The analytic community was shocked and saddened. We had lost a master teacher. We had lost a great man. Freud said on numerous occasions that each of us owed Nature one death, and that one’s heroism in this matter is to pay the debt as fully on one’s own terms as possible. Donald died too young, it is true, and yet it can be said that he lived his life fully and devoted much of it to psychoanalysis. He taught it; he wrote it; he lived it. When I think of Donald’s admonition to be careful, I am reminded of the common misinterpretation of Freud’s words at the end of his first psychoanalytic book with Breuer, Studies on Hysteria (1893–1895/1955). When quoting this book, many make fun of Freud’s referring to psychoanalysis as a method of “transforming…hysterical misery into common unhappiness.” What many neglect to mention are the words that follow this sentence: “With a mental life that has been restored to health you will be better armed against unhappiness” (p.305). Like Donald, Freud was aware that life (Freud called it “fate”) has many hardships in store for us, and many of them can take us by surprise. Yet, with a strong ego and mature coping skills, we can hope for the best. Perhaps that is what Donald meant when he admonished me to “be careful.” z REFERENCES Breuer, J., & Freud, S. (1955). Studies on hysteria. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 2). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1893–1895) Grunes, M. (1995). Foreward. In Louise Kaplan, ed., Donald Kaplan: Clinical and social realities. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. Kaplan, D. (1996a). Classical psychoanalysis: Policies, values and the future. Psychoanalytic Review, 53(1), 99–111. Kaplan, D. (1996b). Character and theatre: Psychoanalytic notes on modern realism. In Louise Kaplan, ed., Donald Kaplan: Clinical and social realities, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. pp.443-460. Kaplan, D. (1967, December). Freud and his own patients. Harper’s. Kaplan, D. (1972). Reflections on Eissler’s concept of the doxaletheic function. American Imago, 29(4), 353–375. Kaplan, D. (1990). Some theoretical and technical aspects of gender and social reality in clinical psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 45, 3–24. Kaplan, D. (1993). What is sublimated in sublimation? Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41(2), 549–570. Kaplan, D. (1995). The unfinished manuscript in the drawer: Observations on the analysis of a type of symptom. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 76(2), 283–298. Kaplan, L. (1995). (Ed.). Donald Kaplan: Clinical and social realities. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. Knafo, D., & Feiner, K. (2006). Unconscious fantasies and the relational world. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.
Man Like Me a letter to Curzio Malaparte
Reading is a strange activity — it makes me want to speak with the dead. Literally. I exchange letters with authors that have long passed away; I write notes to characters that don’t have an address. Why? Because I can. To play with reality, to dress up for a party and stay home — the joy of reading and writing. This letter to the Italian-German writer, editor, and architect-of-sorts Curzio Malaparte was a long time in the making. Five years ago, (or maybe fifty) I read his lyrical essay DONNA COME ME, included in a slim volume of essays Malaparte published in 1952. DONNA COME ME / WOMAN LIKE ME. The text spoke to me; I wanted to respond. I wanted to write a letter, a letter with a title: Man Like Me. But I could not move past this title. For years Man like Me was all I had. Not anymore. ***** Dear Curzio, you want your woman to become a pretext for your dreams, hopes and deeds. a pretext, nothing more. that is a lot, you say, if it is true that nothing is more difficult or more dangerous than being the pretext for a noble existence — a man’s existence. i’m not only man, you write, but woman, dog, stone, river. / that is ambitious! so you stay put, a prisoner in this lonely, unforgiving house you built for yourself: La Casa Malaparte on the isle of Capri. a red block, sitting on a dangerous cliff, like a reptile. beneath it the green and blue waters of the gulf of Salerno. Godard’s Contempt was filmed here: the house as cruel companion to Bardot’s inconsolable beauty. a rational, masculine building, where nothing is soft, where nothing gives to the touch. the contrast between the calculated rigidity of the house and the untamed beauty of its surroundings couldn’t be more extreme. man, woman? good part, bad part? i know, i know... you’re into splitting. Malaparte is your name of choice, an assumed name you are quite proud of, which makes me wonder: do women have it easier? this, Curzio, is for you. i want my man to play the male part, with melancholy. i want him to feel the loss i am attached to; not to pity me but to help me dress up and leave the house. brave and sensible, i want him to be the back to my front. nothing more and nothing less. the guardian of my past. my knight in shining armour, with a broken heart and a face as white as the moon’s. yes, i want my man to worship the moon — not to walk on her but to make sure she’ll return. because my man would always be ready, i could be late. there would be no need for me to keep time. i want him to be the beginning but not the end. i want him to have the first word but not the last. at the end of the day, when he will have spent his words, i want to see his tears — just as he sees mine. i would like his face to be as soft and variegated as only marble can be; the colour of his skin like the sky at the crack of dawn. i would like the lips to be full but not parted; the eyes sensitive and sad, like the surface of a very still lake. i would like the nose to be noble and straight. i want the head to be small and round. the hair dark, curly, and full. thick curls. curls as luxurious as those adorning the head of an ancient roman emperor’s statue. i want his body to be slender, and his hands to be small. the way he resembles a statue by Michelangelo would satisfy my need for perfection. i don’t need to tell you that perfection is a hard place to make a home. you, who spent much of your life alone, exiled, envied — for no one could reach you in your splendid isolation. LA CASA MALAPARTE. what crime did you think you committed, committing yourself to this beautiful prison. man is not meant to live freely in freedom, you wrote somewhere. is it that bad, Curzio? could it get any worse? silence. i want to love my man as one loves music. with the ear not the eye. i want to swim in his song, immerse myself in his harmonies. i don’t want him to entertain me. i’m not a fan. our eyes won’t meet. i want him with his back towards me, like the young lute player sitting with venus in a painting by Tiziano: moved by her sorrow, attentive, sympathetic, kind; mindful of that space between, where his desire and her creativity coexist. i’d be able to plunge right into the stream of sounds. to feel, to dream, to play. 27
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TO BE BRAVE and daring, to pursue a thought to its very end, to exhaust an emotion, and a fear. like venus and the lute player, i want us to play it by ear; relieved from the exchange of glances, we would confide in one another. i want his movements to be measured and swift. i don’t want anything languid and stiff about him. i want him to dress like an italian dandy. the comforting cashmere of his coat, the softness of his shirts, the silky radiance of his ties, the brown leather of his shoes — in all of this i would find the confidence to move without fear. i want youth, and i want style. and most of all i want beauty. for this is the curse of aging: one has to look elsewhere for consolation. to attach myself to him at the right time. not as appendage or adornment, not as private property, but like a woman dons a veil: with dignity. those days when i was reduced to nothing but a blind mirror reflecting a man’s ambition // they would be over. i want my man to help me recover from the wounds of summer. i want him to appear suddenly, like the saddest fruit of the earth breaking through the soil on a cool rainy day: quietly, almost unnoticeable. yes, i want him to be private. in the shade is where he would thrive; and he would always wear a cap. it is true, his unobtrusiveness would be deceptive, perhaps even dangerous. for there is a longing to be discovered. my man would fall in love too easily — that is his fault, and his greatest gift. i want my love for him to be a secret. i want him to be a stranger, for we must find ourselves elsewhere. i want unrequited love to be his first memory of love. in this i want him to resemble me most. i want him quick witted but not sharp, well read but not clever. i want him to entertain and amuse me. i want him to serve me lavish dinners, exquisite wines, subtle desserts; i would share my table with him, but not my bed. i would like him to be my captive. like a statue in a sculpture garden to which I possess the only key, i want him to be available and beautiful in an unobtrusive way. for in his solitude i would drink my morning cup of tea. i pity those who can’t begin their day in his silence. you may not want to hear this, Curzio, but it must be said. i want my man to be a eunuch. for i put my trust in those who have foregone their male parts but retained their masculinity. i have reason to believe that those afflicted with a wound take good care of other people’s secrets. more than anything else the eunuch is the guardian of his mistress’s privacy: he bathes her, cuts her hair, makes her bed, dresses her; he takes out the litter, sorts through the mail, prepares her night potion. the first person to greet her in the morning, and the last person to see her at night. i like to imagine the private chambers of an ancient emperor as healing spaces. yes, that’s right: spaces where healing takes place. i like to think that eunuchs are the first psychoanalysts. neither male nor female, the bed keeper does not take sides. his ambiguity is his strength. for those who are neither this nor that are not afraid of the other. that’s why i want my man to wear his secret wound with pride. at the end of the day, i would like him to mend the mask i put on when i can’t find my face. dear Curzio, resemblance is our first encounter with love. you, like me, don’t know what love is, until you’ve loved a love you had to lose. you know that song, don’t you? i really do hope you know. yours, B.
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Where Does Knowledge Come From, and Do We Care? Last year, teaching a writing-intensive world literature class, I gave students an excerpt from Hesiod’s Theogony recounting Prometheus’s gift of fire to man. I coupled it with chapters 1–3 of Genesis and Aristophanes’s speech from The Symposium. I hoped to set up their first essay with a variety of in-class readings and discussion provoking critical thought about knowledge. Students voiced their dismay at the severity of Titan’s punishment—especially after viewing Peter Paul Ruben’s depiction of the event, and more vociferously so after viewing Caravaggio’s depiction of Vulcan dramatically placing the punished Titan in chains. “Damn!” one of them exclaimed. “I guess that’s where the expression ‘Don’t play with fire’ comes from.” They were thinking of getting punished rather than burned. Fire had become a metaphor; knowledge had become dangerous, tied mythically and symbolically to enjoyment. I quote one of my most engaged students’ responses—the one whose reflective, genuine, and unpretentious questions inspired others. Not having any expertise at “college” or at having the “right answer,” he felt free in the class and even delighted in the opportunity to think aloud. In these two stories you gave us, someone has the knowledge and then someone else takes it away—so knowledge gets set up from the get-go with a kind of “no-no” about it, related to an all-powerful figure who controls it and to someone less powerful who does something wrong to get it. It’s funny because we usually think of knowledge as not doing something wrong, at least that’s how I think of it. Discussion ensued. Students said that in both Hesiod’s myth and the Bible story, man was less powerful than God and there was some wrongdoing in acquiring knowledge, suggesting that knowledge was linked to transgression. At the end of the class, I wrote students’ questions on the board: Does knowledge have to be stolen to be knowledge? Is there knowledge without stealing? Where is knowledge nowadays in a world without myth and without God? Is knowledge still stolen today? Where does knowledge come from nowadays, and is it still something we want to steal? Do we care or even have the energy to steal it?
Their assignment that night was to free write in response to any of these questions. You will not be surprised that the overwhelming answer to the question “Where does knowledge come from?” was the almighty Google. Knowledge comes from Google, or as one of the students in the class called it, “the Google God.” Stealing, many of them agreed, has become impossible or at least meaningless, since knowledge was now free and available to everyone, and at their fingertips—24/7, nonstop, all the time. Even the Bible and the main texts from all the religions could be found on Google. There was a brief discussion of Snowden and WikiLeaks and the popularity of identity theft—but few thought these were heroic or really for the good of mankind; even their transgression, despite compromising state security, felt—at least to the class—somehow banal, just another media event. A female student interrupted, protesting courageously. She claimed that Google knowledge was not nearly as important or cherished as her personal “feminine” knowledge and that any of her smart girlfriends would agree. She took on the “good student,” claiming that she did not agree that the stories could be so easily interpreted as having to do with “stolen knowledge” and interrogated the questions that oriented the night’s homework assignment. Prepared for debate, she asked: “How do you know where knowledge is situated in these stories?” “Does knowledge come from God’s forbidding—is knowledge in God or in the tree? Or is it in the snake’s seduction, or in the fruit? Or is it in the act of picking or tasting the fruit? Or is it in the fact that we are still talking about these stories today in class in pursuit of our education?” She added that the idea that “knowledge had something to do with putting something in your mouth,” or possibly “burning yourself,” rang true with her, as did the knowledge that the snake had that Eve should go for what she really wanted—“which wasn’t Adam—but the fruit.” Several women in the class applauded her small monologue, whose crescendo was, “Most women prefer the forbidden fruit to that fire-liver business anyway.” The debate was on, inspiring my subsequent writing prompt: “Tell of a time when you wanted to know something desperately.” One student wrote about wanting to know what was in the wrapped presents under the tree at Christmas. One about what was inside the telephone and the toaster and the electric socket. Most students, however, wrote about looking on their boyfriends’ and girlfriends’ computers and iPhones to see if their significant other was cheating. I asked why this was important to know. One student commented 29
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that maybe we want to find out that the other cheated so that we can be off the hook ourselves. We discussed what kind of knowledge was present in erotic love and made erotic love possible, as well as what kind of knowledge was present in the phenomenon of “falling out of love” that, as one student humorously said, “made paying your bills possible.” Students were sad to agree that even when the lover is faithful, one is not relieved of the desire to check her e-mail, and if the lover is so faithful you don’t need to check his e-mail, then you don’t desire him anymore. Their own quest ended in a conundrum. One student wrote about his fiveyear-old nephew’s question, “Where do babies come from?” The boy had just had a baby sister and was told the entire story of the birds and the bees by his parents, yet he would ask the question daily to anyone—even the bus driver, making for much laughter but also driving the family crazy. “Why does he keep asking if he knows the answer?” my student asked. The spirited discussion that ensued has inspired my reflections today.
... I want to start by proposing the aptness of the psychoanalytic tenet, namely, that all children must sufficiently experience three traumas in order to become human beings: first, that they are not the exclusive object of maternal love; second, that they have an enigma regarding their parents’ sexuality; and finally, that there is a question about their origins, or where babies come from, that remains enigmatic. Note that all student responses to the question about passionate curiosity—the question of the lover’s fidelity, the question of what’s inside the box, telephone, and so on and the repeated question of where babies come from is all testify to these three early shared human enigmas. What happens to this passionate curiosity by the time we meet students in college? Engaging seriously with the question “Where does knowledge come from?” (and “Do we care?”) can allow us to understand more of our position as teachers and learners, and our place as teachers in community college today. The “do we care” adds a dimension of the issue of what is at stake for many of our students today—an inability to access desire, a sense that social pressures to enjoy plug up the hole of lack. This seems an important point—what student doesn’t check her messages during class? What student doesn’t shop on the Internet at some point during the day? What student doesn’t share her bag of chips and
soda with her neighbor during class? One of my colleagues had an ingenious student order pizza to be delivered to his group work time, and one of my own students brought a letter from a mental health professional attesting to her “addiction to her cell phone,” suggesting that my depriving her of it in the classroom might provoke a crisis. It is not just the discourses of mastery that are plugging the hole of desire, but the objects themselves. The Google God is not a loving god, nor an envious god, nor a sexed god, but a god that interdicts nothing. Lacan argued that jouissance is a substance; we could say that this god is precisely the “Goo” of Google, the “Goo-goal,” of enjoyment rather than lack. Technology, or the instruments of technology, have become the answer to being. This is not a god one calls to in vain, but a god one has access to all the time, not one who makes an interdiction, but one that delights in our fingering and nervous tapping. All the information nevertheless fails to resolve a question about knowledge—or at least, we can say it is our job as teachers to help it fail, since our students have even lost the desire to steal, too depressed to covet, too full to lack. In Seminar XX, Lacan writes that the essence of the object is failure. This is an important lesson to consider in a culture that is mad about “success.” As teachers, especially of literature, where meaning is multiple or impossible to determine, we bank on this failure to allow desire to come into being. The point is that there is a cause of desire in the student already; it is being plugged by the cultural demand for jouissance. It is our job to cultivate a savoir faire with that cause that is already there to make desiring subjects out of shoppers and critical thinkers out of burgeoning legumes bred to be attached to their iPods, giving a new meaning to “culture” that the German romantics could hardly have imagined. Let’s remember that enjoyment is not love. Love would have to curtail enjoyment or sublimate it, to offer it up to discourse of some form. Psychoanalysis posits a paradoxical intimacy between love and knowledge and between knowledge and ignorance. This is hardly a specificity of psychoanalysis, but concerns the birth and history of philosophy and serves as the subject of many Platonic dialogues. Meno, Theatetus, Protagoras, and Phaedrus all engage the problem of knowledge, and anyone’s cursory notion that Plato’s position is clear on this might do well to reread them. The famous Socratic thesis in Meno that knowledge is anamnesis displayed by Meno’s slave when he is able to “recollect” the correct geometric formula, having never learned it, is reversed in Protagoras, where Socrates proves that virtue is something that can be taught. Socrates’s position is further
Interestingly, Socrates’s paradox sets up the quest for knowledge as impossible. If we read the paradox seriously, there is no Wissentrieb, no drive to know that was so dear
The thesis that connects love to knowledge (shared by Freud and Lacan)—and one that we understand as teachers, having inherited the Socratic maieutic and passion for enigma and aporia—must be presented alongside the thesis that the unconscious is, according to both Freud and Lacan, on the opposite side of love. Indeed, in this view, love is resistance to desire, since love is a discourse that plugs up the hole. So if love is resistance to knowledge, how does love beget knowledge? To start off, then, we have two paradoxes: one that shows that there is no way to know, and another that shows that love is necessary for, and at the same time antithetical to, knowing. So—we can’t know, and if we love, we can know, and if we love, we negate the path of knowing. I will begin by discussing the second paradox, which I hope will permit us to shed some light on the first. Any discussion about love and knowledge would have to contend with Plato’s Symposium. For Lacan, it is the hysteric—like the female student in my class—who produces knowledge. She produces it in opposition to a phallic idea of transgression and
to Freud, partial, in part, to his Enlightenment inheritance. The Socratic paradox relates knowledge intimately to ignorance, suggesting at the very least that searching or whatever prompts the search is not on the same level as knowledge or ignorance. Before addressing this very rich paradox further, I want to make our lives still more difficult by introducing yet another one.
sovereign power. Even in her discourse in my class, she situates knowledge as a relation to enjoyment, to the forbidden fruit and to language, to “speaking” to her girlfriends and with the class about the texts themselves. She problematizes the terms of the discussion by inserting enjoyment and the feminine at the center—something not present in the initial insistence on
complicated at times by the complexity of the dialogue itself, and one is not certain when he is being ironic and when he is speaking his mind. For my purposes, to help think about our places as teachers and the students we teach at community college, I want to remind us of the famous Socratic paradox—the response to the paradox offered by Meno regarding knowledge: “And how will you inquire into a thing when you are wholly ignorant of what it is? Even if you happen to bump right into it, how will you know it is the thing you didn’t know?” Socrates rephrases the question, which has come to be the canonical statement of the paradox: “Man cannot search either for what he knows or for what he does not know. He cannot search for what he knows—since he knows it, there is no need to search—nor for what he does not know, for he does not know what to look for.”
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transgression and an all-powerful father. According to Lacan, this line of questioning began with Socrates. As something of a hysteric, Socrates showed that he knew that there was nothing to give but giving itself. This notion was present in the end of my student’s monologue, when she opined that perhaps the stories themselves and our discussing them was “knowledge.” In the two students’ questions we find two types of inquiry, two styles interested in knowledge—that of the obsessional neurotic and that of the hysteric. The first is concerned with transgression and the father, the second with enjoyment and the feminine. These are the two kinds of neurosis—what Lacan would call a “scar” that allows one to exist in the world, each with a symptomatic question: one about the father and the law, the other about the woman and enjoyment. In the hysteric’s question, knowledge is related to the body and to speech, to jouissance (eating and picking the fruit) and to desire (joui-sens, talking about the stories in class). The point of the hysteric—and it will concern the discussion of Symposium—is that love and knowledge concern something that
the father. In other words, my female student is right: knowledge does not belong to God in the first place, or we could say it does insofar as God is not a father but a principle of difference that posits human insufficiency—to be human is not to be God. Lacan relinquishes the paternal metaphor as the royal road to castration, since he will posit language as the apparatus of castration, demonstrating that Oedipus was a Freudian myth. In laypeople’s terms—and for us as teachers of literature—language is what makes us human by limiting enjoyment. It is our being in language that makes for a constancy of desire. It is only via fantasy that the subject imagines satisfaction, and after satisfaction—which is always insufficient—we still end up desiring anyway; we “talk about it.” Moreover, the satisfaction is always to a certain extent missed. This was what Lacan calls a “missed encounter,” determining the repetition that takes place in the analytic work, where enjoyment is posed as a problem. Socrates was concerned with desire, with what can be spoken, and it is desire that we concern ourselves with as educators. Desire
is not limited to language. It is this point that will eventually allow me to connect the two paradoxes I discussed earlier. Being in language severs the subject from any real relation to the world outside of language. The Lacanian point, elegantly elaborated in “Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire” (1966), is that castration (the condition of lack) is not the province of
does not annul enjoyment, but allows it to be posed as a problem. So we learn that we can do without the father—but not without love and language— and a particular kind of love important to psychoanalysis and education—a love addressed to knowledge—one that concerns our being as speaking beings, transference love. But where does the knowledge come 31
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from that accompanies transference love? Especially since the supposition of knowledge accompanies the demanding subject? Psychoanalysis was born from a love story between Freud’s colleague, Josef Breuer, and Breuer’s young patient, Anna O., a 19-year-old hysterical patient who found benefit from talking to her family doctor. She addressed her symptoms to him regularly, and as he cured them, she dutifully suffered new ones—in love with him and his knowledge, this supposition of knowledge was accompanied, famously in this case, by love. Anna O. would suffer finally a hysterical pregnancy and Breuer would run away with his wife on holiday only to beget a child. Freud understood that talking addressed to a supposed authority had salutary benefits. Symptoms were susceptible to being changed by being spoken and addressed to someone who was supposed to know about them. A knowledge is supposed to the other that the problem or symptom is addressed to. This something on the side of the lover/patient/student is real. There has to be a problem or symptom for transference love to exist—a “real” that is not concomitant with speech. The symptom poses itself as a question addressed to knowledge. This is not only the case for the psychoanalytic situation; it is the position of the student thinking critically. And just as in the case of the patient, it does not matter that the analyst or professor knows the answer to a particular question—it matters that he/she takes up the position of address so that the knowledge can be invented. A subjective question is symptomatic; education must make symptomatic questions possible. In this way it will remain innovative, dynamic, and vital. Students become desiring subjects when they are encouraged to take their discontent seriously and are not asked to adapt to an ideal. Our job is to make questions happen, to make these questions possible, to welcome them as symptomatic and particular, to give them dignity, and not to answer them. This requires in some sense the possibility of opening an aporia in the idea of “community” in community college. Socrates drilled a hole into Athens that would never be forgotten—creating a fundamental and irredeemable atopia. The irony that we use Socrates as the source of the syllogism of man’s mortality only attests to the human being’s possibility of immortality via the signifier. This is the atopia of Socrates—he is the man who in proving mortality is made each time more immortal. This is the hole we hope to open up in students—one that makes them subjects of desire, of language, of a question, a not-knowing. Socrates famously sustains desire in the face of Alcibiades’s seduction. We know that erotic desire annuls and narcissizes the
partner. Socrates cleverly avoids both, since his own desire has no object save that of desire itself. He is sustaining a knowledge about the primary place of lack and the constant possibility, therefore, of a question, what we can call a philosophical question, a question that concerns the love of knowledge even sustained—as in Socrates’s case— as a knowing nothing. Desire is a condition of subjectivity that results from speech. It introduces us to an emptiness and to the idea that something can fill that emptiness, that an answer is actually possible (what Alcibiades is consumed with). Our students are often kept far from both Alcibiades’s passion (of a passionate longing driven by fantasy) and Socrates’s ethics, alienated from their own division. Here we are back to our “Goo-goal” or “Goo-gaol”—the prison of enjoyment, or what one of my students in remedial writing expressed in an essay as his “self phone.” This something that causes speech but is not speech is what Lacan calls the object a: what comes as an answer to desire is a fantasized object of jouissance. Jouissance, that is, as an answer, is something Real, which we find in ecstasy, trauma, psychosis, and, importantly, in the symptom. Jouissance is thus both where the structure of subjectivity can collapse as well as where it can become constituted via an addressing of the symptom to knowledge. This split in being between desire and jouissance is well depicted in Aristophanes’s answer to the question posed at the banquet, “What is love?” Aristophanes muses that Zeus split humans into two because they were too powerful. This cut explains the origins of desire and subjectivity; in modern terms, the human infant is cut by language; it can never become what it wishes to be—namely, the phallus of the mother. This cutting is the work of the mythical father, or in this case, attributed to Zeus, or in Lacanian terms, simply a literalization of the cut of language itself. Humans’ wholeness and autonomy angers Zeus, who splits the poor four-legged creatures in half. Importantly, the myth tells us that the cut is a real one and involves the flesh and being of the organism. The myth teaches us that we were once whole and, punished, constitutively destined to lack. “Love” is that feeling of finding one’s wholeness once again with the other we were “severed” from. Aristophanes posits that love tries to refind our early state, endeavoring “to combine two into one and heal the human sore.” Love tries to make good the primordial split. For Plato’s Aristophanes, sex is thus a gift, recompense for our fundamentally lacking state, allowing humans some momentary solace. Socrates made us aware of ourselves as Unbehagen in civilization insofar as he stands for this cut as irremediable. For Socrates, what
is at stake is to uncover the truth of desire and love as lack; it is the foundation of what we could call his pedagogy—a love that emerges as different from erotic love—a love nourished by a gap that can never be filled. Socrates knows that he does not have full knowledge and truth. This is the ethic of desire. Socrates knows that love can never be a final answer, and therefore he does not give up on the emptiness. Socrates does not respond to Alcibiades’s seduction and demand because love concerns the soul; desire concerns the nothingness. Socrates cares for the void as the possibility for knowledge that can never be full, as a gift from the Real that is not an answer and not jouissance. At the same time, there is no signifier that can account for jouissance. Speech cannot say it all. Education must fail to say it all, or said differently, education does not solve the problem of jouissance. Education fails. How can Socrates’s lessons help us as teachers given this impasse? Or how can we “fail better” as educators? Let us recall that Lacan posits meaning as imaginary. Meaning sustains the ego, not the subject; it is connected to fantasy and satisfaction, to the “jouissance of knowing.” Socrates is on the side of not-knowing. The subject is not someone who knows, but someone who does not know. Oedipus did not know; this is a crucial point for Freud. Lacan picks this up, and in Seminar XX he states that there is no such thing as a knowing subject. Total knowledge could only be provided by paranoiac knowledge, where meaning is guaranteed in the service of an ego and at the expense of the other, an absolute master who would require submission, not desire. Thus, knowledge sustains a relation to ignorance; one is not eradicated by the other. Paranoiac knowledge is precisely what the teaching of literature subverts. The consequences mean that to be on the side of knowledge is to be intimate with ignorance. This goes for the teacher as well as for the student. Any object of enjoyment is a lure equivalent to any other, and jouissance is linked to fantasy and subjective stasis. One of the symptomatic problems of students is precisely their submission to social forms of jouissance; it is what makes the question “Do we care” possible regarding knowledge. In the same seminar in his discussion of Aristotle (Seminar XX, 1952/1954–1955), Lacan writes that knowledge finds its motor force in a deficiency of jouissance. Knowledge is a failure of jouissance. We could say, then, that our jobs concern the failure of the “Goo-goal” and the invention of the desire—if not to steal, at least to want. Socrates is reputed by Alcibiades to hold the “agalma”—that certain magical something that makes him desirable. Socrates attests only to the Ouden on—that is, to nothing. We 32
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are back to the earlier paradox. Which is it? Something or nothing? The Lacanian answer is that they are not in contradiction. The object a is a partial object—as such, it includes the nothing. The object is nonspecularizable and atopic. The object cause of desire is beyond narcissism. It cannot finally be rendered in speech or known; it concerns a primary loss that renders us speaking, lacking beings. Psychoanalysis is one experience of the impossibility of plugging the lack. When Lacan says that the analyst is like the saint, he does not mean this in a moral sense. He suggests that the analyst must practice the art of prudence, that he practice a discretion regarding speech—a “knowing how to play with truth that, like God, keeps humanity in suspense” (Gracian, 1992, p.119). As educators, we maintain a suspense of meaning and goal, wagering that to be caught by love addressed to knowledge limits the power of the prosthetic technodeities. Socrates teaches us that there is no object able to stop the vector toward something. This is the inheritance from Socrates: a “no” to Alcibiades. The teaching of literature partakes of the same wisdom, carving out a constant possibility of speech and address that allows enjoyment to become posed as a problem rather than as a solution. Revealing the limits of language, literature can sustain the desire for knowledge that concerns what is not language. Subjective destitution is often posed as the “end of analysis.” It is a position wherein the analysand stops wondering what the other wants of her and invents her own question, her own interest irrespective of the other’s demand. This is the dynamic power we hope for in the classroom—one of curiosity and invention, one that would end the need, not for an other, but for a “teacher” as such to approve of it or for 1,001 Facebook friends— one where the lack is permanent and held as a source of dignity. The bad news is a nongospel of literary education that does not aim at amelioration or meaning; it does not aim at covering the hole or providing a prison of answers to plug up the question. I end by quoting one of my student’s free writes. “I don’t know if ‘we care’ and honestly, I am not sure that I care. But when I write that—just those words—‘I am not sure I care’—I am sad for me and for all of us. So I guess that means I care.…Maybe I’m ashamed to say it like that since it sounds like I’m just a kid or something, or it’s embarrassing. Maybe it’s one of those things that is true—and even true all the time but is better left unsaid.” z REFERENCES Gracian, B. (1992). The art of worldly wisdom. New York: Doubleday. Lacan J. (1966). “The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire.” In Ecrits, Bruce Fink (Trans.), New York: Norton, 2007.
Melancolia bajo un palo de mango: A Review and Critique of “Psychoanalysis in el Barrio” Daniel GAZTAMBIDE
In Freud, the ego is like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, put together from bits, pieces, and shreds of losses, whereas in Lacan there is something strangely immaculate about the ego.…Where fragmentation as a concept might figure in Freud’s theory of the ego insofar as the ego is built up of fragments and shreds, in the early Lacan, fragmentation is what the fledgling organism experiences as its first disarray because of what Lacan theorized at that time as a Real biological lack concerning the human’s general prematurity, its motor uncoordination when compared to other species. The organism narcotizes itself against the feeling of fragmentation by identifying with and assuming the specular image. A. Viego, Dead Subjects
I open with this personal anecdote in order to situate myself in reviewing “Psychoanalysis in el Barrio,” a conference on psychoanalytic treatment with inner-city Latinos held March 8, 2014. As a whiteskinned, male, cisheterosexual island-born Puerto Rican clinical psychology student interested in race and social justice issues, I find myself navigating both the worlds of psychoanalysis and multicultural psychology. In traversing what are often turbulent waters, I am often assailed by questions and affirmations that get at the core not only of my work, but my subjecthood as a Latino. “But you speak English so well!” “You don’t really do psychodynamic therapy with Latinos, do you?” “We’d take more students of color into our program, but they’re just not that competitive!” “How can you be so white?”
This question implicitly invokes the age-old criteria of analyzability—psychological mindedness, frustration tolerance, ego strength, verbal intelligence, and so forth—and the way these criteria have served to not only exclude people of color from psychoanalytic treatment and training, but also exclude psychoanalysis from discussions of diversity and social justice (Altman, 2009). Contemporary Freudian Allan Frosch (2006) reminds us that “the analyst’s idea about psychoanalysis is an essential variable that contributes to our concept of analyzability. And the analyst’s ideas are always shaped by desire” (p.51, emphasis added; cf. Altman, 2009, p.92). Hence, in asking whether one can “do” psychoanalytic treatment with Latinos, whether Latinos
“You simply can’t do insight-oriented work with Latinos, they’re too concrete.” “These students are affirmative action admissions anyway. Well, no, not you! You know what I mean.” Each of these questions and assertions, along with others, bring into question not only my identity as a psychoanalytic therapist, but also my identity and “authenticity” as a Latino. Furthermore, they point to anxieties central to both multicultural and psychoanalytic discourses, anxieties that “Psychoanalysis in el Barrio” attempted to address, captured in the central question that framed the remarks of each presenter in this conference—can you do psychoanalytically oriented treatment with Latinos?
are analyzable, one must ask in turn, what is psychoanalysis? What is our desire for what psychoanalysis is or should be to begin with? How does this desire in turn structure how we perceive Latinos and their “analyzability”? At the same time, we must also problematize this concept—Latino. What is a Latino? What is our desire for what a Latino should look like, sound like, dress like, taste like, live like, speak like? How does our desire for Latinos structure how we perceive psychoanalysis and its applicability to this community? How is our desire complicit in the very terms of this question—can you “do” psychoanalytic treatment with Latinos?
[T]he analyst’s idea about psychoanalysis is an essential variable that contributes to our concept of analyzability. And the analyst’s ideas are always shaped by desire. Wishes and defenses organize our perception of the world, including the world of who is or is not analyzable. A. Frosch, “The Culture of Psychoanalysis There was a huge palo de mango, a mango tree, in my backyard growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I remember playing, running around, and sitting under that tree, kept cool beneath its shade, out of reach from the blazing sun. I would often help my grandfather—who lived with our family—pick up the mangos as they fell from the tree, ripe and ready to be feasted on. I would wash them, throw them up in the air, throw them at my grandfather and play catch with him. On more than one occasion when our house was broken into, my father would brandish the mangos, readying them to be flung at the robbers. I myself threw these sweet projectiles at lizards or snakes should they venture too close to me or to my younger brother. I did everything with these mangos—everything but eat them. “Como que no te gusta el mango?!” friends and relatives would exclaim in disbelief: “What do you mean you don’t like mangos?!” “Ah pues, este no es Boricua!” “Oh, but this one isn’t really Puerto Rican!” Something so simple as not participating in the culturally shared consumption of a sweet tropical fruit had marked me as not me. And more specifically, not Puerto Rican.
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Consider for a moment what comes to mind when you think of the word “psychoanalysis.” Consider what words and images come to mind, and close your eyes. It is highly likely you may have imagined a posh office, a couch, and had some sense about this office and this couch being used three to five times a week, with the patient on the couch, and the analyst sitting out of view. It is highly likely that—without conscious focus—you may have imagined what this analyst looks like. Perhaps they appeared to be a bearded (heterosexual) man in late adulthood or a more advanced age. Odds are less likely that you imagined either the person on the couch, or the person sitting behind the couch, as Latino. But this assertion presents a similar problem, and with it a similar exercise. What words and images
Barrio,” I will close my eyes and sit under the mango tree that still lives on in my mind, giving free reign to my desires. The conference was cosponsored by the Institute of Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) and the Clinical Psychology Department of the New School for Social Research. Chris Christian, a psychoanalyst affiliated with both institutions, moderated the panel, which consisted of presentations by Ernesto Mujica of the White Institute, Patricia Gherovici, who is in private practice in Philadelphia, and Carlos Padron, an advanced candidate at IPTAR.2 In his opening remarks, Chris Christian, who is Puerto Rican, called upon the audience to distinguish between two seemingly interlocking signifiers—“His-
come to mind when we meditate on this signifier, Latino? Take a moment, close your eyes again. Welcome back. Is it a person? What color is their skin? What are they wearing, what is the nature of their attire? What language do they speak?1 What affect is visible on the face of this person? What affect is invoked in us when we conjure up this visage? Each of these associations, questions, and projections are structured by desire, and one of the challenges of “Psychoanalysis in el Barrio” is to make us conscious of how these fantasies affect our work with poor Latino communities. In answering this challenge, I will proceed by providing a brief review of each presenter’s remarks, followed by my own reflections on and associations with the conference and the themes it addressed. And in order to reflect on the themes of “Psychoanalysis in el
panic” and “poor.” Although being Latino does not automatically denote, by default, being poor, Christian clarified that the title of the conference is meant to juxtapose a seemingly impossible pair, “psychoanalysis” and “barrio,” in order to draw attention to the challenges and promises of engaging in psychoanalytic work with Latinos who are poor. This population, like other communities of color, is often configured in the social imaginary of multicultural discourses as being too “concrete,” “present-focused,” and “action-oriented” to benefit from psychoanalytic insight, and thus it is argued that cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are a more culturally competent alternative. Christian questioned this narrative, and incisively argued that the willingness— Frosch (2006) might say desire—of clinicians to work psychoanalytically with Latinos
1. I am indebted to Chakira Haddock for noting that we assume Latinoness is defined by speaking a language, Spanish. However, not all Latinos speak Spanish, hence rendering our understanding of Latinoness more complex.
2. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am also an advanced extern at IPTAR. 34
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or other historically marginalized groups should not be confused with the latter’s ability to engage in psychoanalytic work. Christian argued that what defines psychoanalysis is not the use of the couch or the frequency of sessions (although these are important in their own right), but rather a process, a way of orienting oneself to inner experience, particularly those feelings, thoughts, fantasies, and behaviors of which we are not fully aware, which are cast out or dissociated from consciousness, and that go “bump in the night” beyond what is consciously “seen.” Ernesto Mujica, in his presentation, added that what ties together different psychoanalytic schools is a concern with what is unconscious, and with addressing those conflicted and splitoff regions of our desire in the context of an attuned other who—in Gherovici’s more Lacanian terms—desires that we come to know our desire. This emphasis on interiority, conflict, fantasy, and desire is often missing in multicultural discourses related to Latinos, who are often discussed as a homogenous entity without multiplicity, depth, or inner life. Drawing on his years of experience as an interpersonally oriented psychoanalyst working with Latino populations in New York City, Mujica gave us a complicated and nuanced account of the push and pull of sameness and differences that renders all identifications, ethnoracial or otherwise, divided, complicated, complex, and conflicted. As a Cuban psychoanalyst, Mujica outlined the wide-ranging and complex transferences Latinos may develop toward him—they may be interested in working with him because he is Cuban, while others may avoid his services altogether precisely because he is Cuban. Mujica advocated for moment-to-moment reflection about the analyst’s position in the patient’s unconscious ethnoracial fantasies, and vice versa. If I were to be assigned a Puerto Rican patient for treatment, would my being Puerto Rican in turn allow them to form a positive transference, providing a safe container free from the specter of discrimination and prejudice? Or would it invite competitive Oedipal feelings in which the mantle of “authentic” Puerto Ricanness serves as the desired maternal object? Perhaps a positive transference along ethnoracial lines would function to disavow differences in say, sexual desire, class, or skin tone? Or would it serve as an imaginary bond that conceals a much more traumatic kernel, an encounter with an uncanny double before whom the self dissolves? Mujica called on us to question any easy identification with the other, as well as any simple identification of self and consciousness, noting the various ways being bilingual may manifest in the clinical
setting. He shared an interesting clinical anecdote, in which a bilingual Latina client used Spanish and English to communicate dissociated parts of her self—in Spanish she would more readily express fear, anxiety, and terror, while in English she was more dismissing, disparaging, of others, at least performing an image of being “in control.” Patricia Gherovici, a Lacanian psychoanalyst of Argentinian origin, might speculate that this patient is psychically divided in a manner reflecting the increasing psycholinguistic division of the United States. She quipped, in light of the United States being the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world (with Mexico being the first), “Bienvenidos a Amexica!” It is from this context that Gherovici scrutinized how North American multicultural discourses reduce what are symptoms of structural violence—“concreteness,” passive relation to authority, focus on the present, etc.—into cultural issues somehow built into Latino subjectivity as such. Rather than seeing Latino patients as objects that require our guidance and direction, Gherovici argued a psychoanalytic approach would enjoinder us to listen to them as desiring subjects. Analytic space then carries emancipatory potential, empowering marginalized populations to give voice to their own internal otherness and take ownership of their subjectivity. Citing Elizabeth Danto’s (2005) work, she reminded us of psychoanalysis’s, and Freud’s own, progressive origins—many early psychoanalysts were broadly left leaning, were involved in political causes calling for social change, and advanced the belief that the poor have just as much a right to analytic treatment as the rich. With this history as a foundation, Gherovici advocated a “return to Freud,” and to the “strict and untendentious psychoanalysis” he called for, in contrast to the “alloy” of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy recently advocated for by Aron and Star (2013). Gherovici argued that Latinos are perfectly capable of analytic work, and that psychoanalysis should be considered a much-needed intervention for this population, not to be maligned in favor of other (behavioral) therapies or even integrated treatment (treatments that combine psychodynamic and behavioral elements). I will return to this dialectic in my remarks below. Last, Carlos Padron, an advanced candidate of Venezuelan descent, presented a rich case study of a psychoanalytic treatment with a Latino patient called “Antonio” (pseudonym) who experienced complex trauma in the form of early childhood, political, and community trauma. Over the course of his presentation Padron wove together a fascinating clinical narrative in which he and Antonio interpreted, made meaning, and played with evocative fantasies and symbols crystallizing core intrapsychic and
psychosocial themes in the patient’s universe. The richness of the case illustrated the importance of being exquisitely attuned to the patient’s metaphors, cultural symbols, and ways of thinking. Padron’s presentation implicitly raised the question of what is “concreteness” but a metaphor we have yet to connect to, a symbol we have not yet deciphered, a language we have not learned to speak? A very moving aspect of Padron’s work was the way in which his interpretations of Antonio’s conflicts contained a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” quality in relation to sociopolitical themes in the patient’s life. For example, Antonio described his identification with the indigenous people of his homeland, before the arrival of the Spaniards who enslaved
metaphor for the sociopolitical? Not only in the sense of intergenerational trauma being transmitted from parent to child throughout the generations, but more directly insofar as collective historical trauma structures psychic reality (see Altman, 2009; Gherovici, 2003). Could Antonio’s narrative of a mother who is passive and rendered victim to an abusive, psychotic father serve as a metaphor for generations of indigenous people and people of color who have been brutalized by whiteness and settler colonialism? Could such a history, and the power structures that maintain that history’s invisibility and the disparities produced by it, create an environment where—for some, at least—madness, passivity, and hopelessness is the only rational response? In this sense, then, Antonio’s identification with the
them and nearly wiped them out of existence. Padron and Antonio interpreted this as a metaphor for a fantasy of pre-Oedipal union with his mother before being intruded upon by his colonizing, psychotic father. Padron does not engage here in superficial reductionism of historicocultural processes to psychodynamics. He does not implicitly communicate, for example, “You think this conflict is about the indigenous people and the invading Spaniards, but really it is about your mother and father.” He holds both psyche and culture as sources of meaning, while at the same time searching for psychological depth, adding another dimension of psychological meaning to sociopolitical realities. A question left for me regarding Padron’s presentation is the degree to which this search for meaning can go the other way. Can sociopolitical conflict manifest itself in psychological/relational dynamics? In other words, can psychodynamics serve as a
history of slavery, exploitation, and genocide of indigenous people in Latin America is itself an interpretation of the violence and exploitation he witnessed in his own family. This helps clarify Padron’s theorizing when he stated that “metaphors are interpretations.” Coming full circle with Padron, the patient’s metaphorical productions of their cultural, historical, and political realities should not be exploited by a psychoanalytic colonialism that mines those fertile lands for “real psychic meaning,” but should be seen as attempts to interpret unconscious experience as such. What Mujica, Gherovici, and Padron’s presentations suggested, collectively, is that rather than see our function as that of interpreting Latino patients’ cultural realities into psychological discourse, something that is done to the patient as a passive object, we see our role as developing, nurturing, and nourishing the patients’ own interpretive activity, rendering them active subjects of analysis.
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Another rich clinical lesson to be gleaned from both Mujica and Padron’s presentations has to do with the mystery of the Latino body. Touched on in Mujica’s presentation, but also through a vignette with which Padron ends, is the question of how the Latino clinician’s body is configured by the patient. For example, Padron shared an interesting enactment in which his patient, Antonio, discussed the recent conflict in Venezuela, the struggle for freedom, between the common people and the government. Through this dialogue Padron wondered aloud what it is like for Antonio to identify with the Venezuelan people given that Padron himself is Venezuelan, and his family likely victims of political violence. Antonio disclosed that he had never been sure whether Padron was Venezuelan or Colombian, and now he knows (Padron assures us, in passing, that he had disclosed his being Venezuelan early in treatment). Antonio stated that he identifies with the Venezuelan people, subject to oppression by the powerful, crying out in protest to the point of erupting into civil war, where people might have to die for their freedom. Padron, empathically attuned, responded that he now understands Antonio’s fear of being overwhelmed by his rage at the civil war that raged in his home, much like how he is describing the protests in Venezuela. What is so interesting from Padron’s vignette and others shared by Mujica is the patient’s tendency to forget or dissociate the Latino analyst’s disclosed identity so that they may play with the analyst’s body. Depending on the Latino analyst’s phenotype, the patient may wonder, “What are you? White, black, Latino, Puerto Rican, Argentinian, Chilean, Mexican, Honduran? And if so, what am I?” Whether the analyst discloses their ethnic identity or maintains a neutral stance matters less than allowing the patient to play with their body, shifting and placing it in different coordinates of their ethnoracial object maps (Moss, 2006; cf. Leary, 1997). The sexual connotation here is deliberate, as I am suggesting we need to allow a kind of ethnoracial interpenetration between our own identity, our body, and the patient’s body and psyche (cf. Ellman, 2010). This demands a certain level of vulnerability on the part of the Latino analyst. Prematurely disclosing our identity or rigidly clinging to a “neutral” stance can both serve as defensive maneuvers that foreclose the patient’s play. But disclosure or restraint, guided by affective attunement, even when we are afraid of having our bodies misread, can both represent attempts at vulnerability, allowing our body egos to be related to in Winnicott’s sense; related and destroyed in order to be used and seen. There is something about the Latino body’s ethnic ambiguity that lends itself as a type of projection screen. Perhaps it is the fact
that there is no such thing as a Latino body as such. It is, then, an empty signifier. But it is not an absence; it is a presence that evokes the patient’s fantasy and desire. My own personal anxieties revolve around my ethnic ambiguity being rounded off to “white.” I am thinking of a white Latina patient with her own identity conflicts. To take a neutral, abstinent stance with her in relation to my identity, to be a “blank screen,” is to communicate to my patient that there is nothing there, and that they are to fill that nothingness with their fantasy. But to presume that there is “nothing there” in this society is to signal the invisible nothingness that is whiteness. What message regarding “passing for white” does this send to my patient? I have felt the impulse at times to disclose my Puerto Ricanness, to say, “Wait! I’m a white Latino, like you!” But my attunement at this point in treatment leads me to believe that rather than being a blank screen simply because I have not disclosed my identity, it is my presence that my patient is using to play in fantasy. This allows me to shift from fears of a blank screen that promotes ideals of passing as white to seeing our stance not as immaculate absence but moment-to-moment presence. We do not need to be “blank screens.” Whatever we do or do not disclose in this or that behavior will not foreclose desire, as the unconscious cannot be foreclosed upon. A lot of what we are trying to do through the concepts of neutrality or the blank screen is actually to be mindfully present. Being mindfully present of one’s body is neither to restrict responding nor to disclose prematurely. I want to end by returning to a dialectic framed by Gherovici. As stated above, she advocated for a “return to Freud,” to the social progressivism he envisioned for a “strict and untendentious psychoanalysis,” in contrast to an alloy that dilutes its most important elements. This dialectic calls forth distinctions between “real” psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, long-term and short-term, psychoanalytic and behavioral, each pair a source of controversy in our field. However, we must remember that the alloy she referred to is not original to Aron and Starr (2013), but actually Freud himself! In “Lines of Advance in Psychoanalytic Therapy” (Freud, 1919/1955), he writes that providing psychoanalysis at low cost to the poor “will compel us to alloy the pure gold of analysis freely with the copper of direct suggestion,” and that regardless of what the resulting “psychotherapy for the people” may look like, “its most effective and most important ingredients will assuredly remain those borrowed from strict and untendentious psycho-analysis” (pp.167–168; emphasis added). Freud here leaves us an inheritance that calls for something that is “strict,” implying clearly defined boundaries, an inside and an outside to psychoanalysis. We might say that we are invited to identify with Lacan’s ego, 36
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that image in the mirror that does away with all ambiguity and imperfection. At the same time, Freud’s psychotherapy for the people invites a blurring, an alloy that challenges such an immaculate image of psychoanalysis, revealing its fragmentary nature, resisting clear definition between analysis and suggestion (Aron & Starr, 2013; Gaztambide, 2012). In returning to the question “What is psychoanalysis?” we find, paradoxically, that it resembles Latinoness—Latinoness as a Frankenstein’s monster, put together from the body parts of black slaves, indigenous natives, and European colonizers, the product of five hundred years of loss, mourning, and melancholia. Latinoness, from this perspective, becomes a traumatic kernel that cannot be fully assimilated into symbolic categories of black and white. It introduces cracks in the mirror of ethnoracial identification, whose fissures become lines pointing to a plurality of realities always in motion. So, too, is psychoanalysis not a single entity that we can easily discover and identify with, but an alloy of different elements, a crack in the mirror that calls into question the binaries that structure identity as such, pointing us toward the failure of language in capturing desire. As Aron and Starr (2013) have suggested in their critical history of psychoanalysis, there is something about psychoanalysis itself that is a “half-breed,” a “mulatto,” and, I would add, a “mestizo.” Psychoanalysis and Latinoness alike arise from and burst forth in different directions, like a great mango tree, its roots grounded in the depths of the earth, its branches stretching out toward the firmament, carving trajectories into the unknown and bearing fruit that is not ripe and ready for feasting until it falls back upon the ground from which it is always coming into being. z REFERENCES Altman, N. (2009). The analyst in the inner city: Race, class, and culture through a psychoanalytic lens (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. Aron, L., & Starr, K. (2013). A psychotherapy for the people: Toward a progressive psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge. Danto, E. A. (2005). Freud’s free clinics: Psychoanalysis and social justice, 1918–1938. New York: Columbia University Press. Ellman, S. (2010). When theories touch: A historical and theoretical integration of psychoanalytic thought. London: Karnac Books. Freud, S. (1955). Lines of advance in psychoanalytic therapy. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 17, pp.157–168 ). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1919) Frosch, A. (2006). The culture of psychoanalysis and the concept of analyzability. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23, 43–55. Gaztambide, D. (2012). “A psychotherapy for the people”: Freud, Ferenczi, and psychoanalytic work with the underprivileged. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 48, 141–165. Gherovici, P. (2003). The Puerto Rican syndrome. New York: Other Press. Leary, K. (1997). Race, self-disclosure, and “forbidden talk”: Race and ethnicity in contemporary clinical practice. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 66, 163–189. Moss, D. (2006). Mapping racism. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 75, 271–294. Viego, A. (2007). Dead subjects: Toward a politics of loss in Latino studies. Kindle edition.
Cariou v. Prince: The Art of Negation Richard Prince, a member of the socalled Pictures Generation, came to renown in the 1980s. His artistic practices, like those of other contemporary appropriation artists, involved lifting images from mass media and entangling them in novel strategies of copying and reinscription. Over time, various artists of this school landed in high-profile lawsuits for copyright infringement. While the history of the courts’ responses to this movement has been a complex one and is largely outside of the purview of this essay, it may be said that throughout the relevant chain of precedents one common characteristic preponderates: judicial deliberation in this area adheres to a certain concreteness. The assessment by courts of the similarities and differences between an original work and its allegedly unauthorized derivative is a straightforward affair, based on what is accessible to the direct experience of the trier of fact. Interpretation enjoys limited scope and obeys the strictures of the law’s version of common sense. Yet the techniques of appropriation— quotation, excerption, substitution, combination—present a special challenge to this “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” approach. Appropriation art engages formative factors extraneous to the physical forms ultimately arranged before the viewer. Consequently, the art’s interpretability presumes the existence of connections and meanings that may only be inferred. It presumes, in other words, the existence of an unconscious, together with the mental operations reflective of the attributes of the unconscious. This leaves courts asked to decide these types of cases in a bind. How should they recognize claims that are not yet known? Seldom has this become more obvious than in the most recent controversy involving the artwork of Richard Prince. Cariou v. Prince contended over Prince’s use of images from a book of photographs of Rastafarians living in Jamaica shot by the professional photographer Patrick Cariou. In producing the Canal Zone Paintings in 2007, Prince tore out pages of Cariou’s book, Yes Rasta!, cut out and enlarged their figures and tropical landscapes, and transferred these by a process of ink-jet printing to canvases many times the size of the original photographs. He then arranged the cutouts into ludicrous compositions with other collaged elements, most starkly, coveys of X-rated photographs of nude, obscenely posed women enlarged to Brogdingnagian dimensions. In finished works such as Cheese and Crackers 2008, the pinups rub shoulders with the Rastas against depthless fields of wine-red acrylic. The feminine “found” images would be implausible
next to the Cariou ready-mades, were it not for the fact that the artist’s marks, applied with graphite and oil stick, deface the X-rated females and Cariou’s sentimentally depicted natives in the same jokey, outsize ways, including by covering their eyes with lozenges and painting chattering teeth over their mouths. The females’ apple-pie grins poke through ill-fitting, vaguely Neolithic masks. The men’s facial disguises are set alongside the original photographed features, intentionally failing to cover them up, yet boisterously making the gesture (Cariou, 2013, appendix). Willem de Kooning meets Halloween. The resulting confection of low-rent graphics, sight gags, and high-modernist
None of which entered the judges’ minds, of course, a fact whose ramifications will presently become clear. After a lengthy court battle, in May 2013, the highly influential US Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed down its ruling (Cariou, 2013). Judge Parker, writing for the majority, found Prince’s artwork “transformative” as a matter of law and thus eligible for the fair-use defense under the Copyright Act to the extent it manifested, in words quoted from the US Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., “a new message, meaning or aesthetic.” Reversing the trial court’s victory for Cariou, the court, having the last word, granted
instinctual agon is signature Prince. But what demarcates these paintings from his earlier reproductions of Marlboro Men and pulp-fiction nurses is the persistence in these martyred figures of a personal identification (Heartney, 2008). Cariou’s paradisiacal visions, accidentally happened upon by Prince on a trip to the Caribbean, clearly served him as a signifier of authenticity and nostalgic return—even as they incited impulses to use and destroy (Prince, 2014). If we haven’t gathered this from the title he gave the series before first showing them at the Gagosian Gallery in 2008, we are told as much in his numerous glosses. The Canal Zone is Prince’s birthplace. He appropriated Cariou’s images under the impetus to reclaim memory. Just one thing: the borrowed photographs document life in rural Jamaica, not Panama. The name, like memory, displaces actuality. It, too, is a mask.
summary judgment for Prince in connection with 25 of the 30 paintings at issue. It remanded the remaining five to the trial court for further fact-finding. So far, so good. The case does not yet founder on a failure to discern a grammar of the unobvious. This comes to pass only when Judge Parker explains the critical difference between the two groups. The source material in the transformative paintings, she writes, is virtually undetectable in the finished works (Cariou, 2013). What does not overtly appear, then, doesn’t count. The “new aesthetic” that the court has identified, in other words, obscures the theatrics of hatred and redemption energizing the whole of the series. Displaced (aestheticized) aggression, the appellate court in effect concludes, is not probative. Even with the help of Prince’s confessions, under this reading, we cannot track its lost object.
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To step back: in deposition at the early stage of the fight, Prince declared that he hadn’t given any special consideration to the meaning behind Cariou’s earnest portraits. Nor did he use them in order to comment critically on society—such activity being expressly sanctioned by precedent as fair use. He simply liked them (Appellee, 2012). This did not endear him to Judge Batts, the lower court judge, who promptly dispatched his affirmative defense of fair use. The Second Circuit, on review, took an opposing tack. It determined that authorial intent didn’t matter. What mattered was how the “reasonable observer” would react to Prince’s paintings—whether such a fictive viewer would perceive in them the requisite degree of innovation to meet the transformativeness standard (Cariou, 2011). In the briefs, however, written when the issue of intent was still in play, Prince’s lawyers defended their client’s glibness. Prince was “intentionally inarticulate” about the purposes behind his appropriation, they explained, alluding to theoretical concerns related to the structuralist definition of the text as a site of infinite meanings produced by communities of readers (Appellants, 2011, citing Eklund, 2000). Cariou’s team, for its part, hit hard at Prince’s insouciance. That Prince took the photographs lacking a constructive vision, they argued, under governing case law made his use unfair (Appellee, 2012). This point will doubtless continue to be debated as the winds of critical theory shift, but here I want to make another observation: the wrangling parties were, naturally enough, confining themselves to testimony in its legal sense. Statements made under oath have the weight of evidence, which makes them admissible in court proceedings such as the cross motion for summary judgment being heard here. Other first-person statements and expressions do not share the same presumptive status of truth. They are excluded, as if they were never articulated. Overlooked, then, in this universe of technical discourse, beginning with the title Prince gave the series, was testimony of a different order. In this other testimony, you could say Prince was unintentionally articulate about his attraction to and uses of the fundamental material. Such “testimony” went uncredited for the obvious reason—courts aren’t in the business of psychoanalyzing defendants. But it would probably not have been salient in any case because of Prince’s reception as a postmodernist. Unlike the movement from which it rebelled, postmodernism doesn’t valorize origins, originality, or authorial inspiration. It substitutes ready-mades, steals expression, displays fascination for and complicates its own retracements, copies freely and wantonly, hypes already-hyped
icons, and in general debases what it considers society’s fetish for authenticity (Wallis, 1984). Its strategy of ruthless eclecticism often consists precisely in visually and conceptually debunking the myth of the
postmodernism substitutes ready-mades, steals expression, displays fascination for and complicates its own retracements, copies freely and wantonly, hypes already-hyped icons, and in general debases what it considers society’s fetish for authenticity singular creator, the genius, the visionary source of new symbolizations. In the end, no doubt, it puts on trial (in the Kristevan, not judicial, sense) the progenitor himself (Kristeva, 1984). With reference to this last, however, Prince gave conflicting “testimony.” He explained in a printout at the recently reopened show of the series at the Gagosian Gallery, his victory lap, as it were, how when he first started working with Cariou’s images, white paint he had applied to the back of the cutouts seeped out during transfer (Prince, 2014). He liked the effect of the escaping pigment and substituted the paint for paste throughout the works. If the dripping white fluid that runs down the canvases may be interpreted as metamorphizing corporeal traces, then the follow-through is clear. Prince would be equating the quintessential modernist gesture, that is, “the movement of the hand,” with masturbation and ejaculation. Sperm/white paint doesn’t just smear and blur the edges of the picture, moreover, to pay homage to abstract expressionism. It pictorializes origin. (As Picasso put it, El Greco was his father; Cezanne, his mother.) The iconization of origin goes back to the name of the series. Prince appropriated Cariou’s work under the title of his birthplace. He expressly substituted the jungles of Jamaica for those of Panama. That was his starting point. This puts him on the modernist side of the line. It places him in a lineage in which dreamwork processes like condensation and displacement, or, as Lacan denominates them, metaphor and metynomy, have been deployed to open art up to the forces and intensities of the unconscious. And the viewer as well (Lacan, 1977a). Still, the Second Circuit, after years of besetting appropriation cases, defaulted to a postmodernist take (cf. Rogers, 1992; with Blanch, 2006). Postmodernism abolishes memory. Or, which is to say the same thing, atemporalizes it. It emphasizes the 38
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manipulation of signs for its own sake. In this vein, the court read Campbell to mean that the pirated stuff should not show through, or at least no more than it had to. It should not be, one might say, in evidence. Accordingly, the easy cases among the 30 paintings submitted on appeal were the most raucous, outrageous, faux shamanistic ones in the lot. Full of misquotations of de Kooning badly paraphrasing Picasso, these works display bluntly exhibitionistic women thrusting their weaponized breasts and buttocks against the foremost edge of the picture plane. The females splay their legs alongside masked, leering Rastas to form a kind of ghoulish chorus line (Totem and Taboo: The Musical?). The males disappear and reappear through a hail of deconstructing black paint that alternately flees and coincides with figuration. Such blends of anthropology and buffoonery, remember, were the transformative shoe-ins. By contrast, the paintings in the remanded group taxed the court’s conception of “new expression.” This was so because in the court’s explanation, they exhibit a palpable resemblance to their source images. Canal Zone (2008), for example, collages different jungle scenes into a conspicuously artificial meshwork. Charlie Company, for another, reconstitutes collaged fragments into a composite tableau, with vagrant strokes of white paint and torn picture edges marring its seamlessness. The court found the overall result in these quasi-imitations a little too familiar, despite the presence in them of the stock eye lozenges as well as other patently alien elements. It construed them as being, in essence, both too strange—the court characterized one as creating “a sense of discomfort”—and too evocative of their sources to be classed definitively as reinventions or originals (Cariou, 2013). The impasse is unsurprising. Disavowing origin, the court conflated a complex text with its manifest content and then scratched its head at what escaped its analytical model. The comparison with Freudian dream interpretation is apt inasmuch as Prince’s works are full of aggressive absurdities akin to those in jokes and dreams (Freud, 1905/1960). In addition, the court’s discussion of appropriation sounds very much like Freud when he notes that a dream’s production involves mixing up and rearranging “the material of which [it] is built” and then “form[ing] it into a new whole” (Freud, 1900/1953, p.497). But whereas Freud regarded the appearance of a dream as a text to be revealed through extrapolation to its invisible determinants, the court did the opposite. It saw the paintings as, in effect, achieving textual status only after freeing themselves of their genesis (Freud, 1900/1953). This explains why
the paintings that stalled the panel were precisely those that traced Prince’s path of destruction. They were the ones, such as Back to the Garden (2008), that depicted not only the taken image, but the traces, symptoms, and betrayals of its being taken. The court did not have the “language” to interpret that these paintings were not about replicating Cariou’s jungle scenes but rather about retaining the shadowy outline of the jettisoned object, with which Cariou’s images had become irretrievably implicated. Does not the rule of “new expression,” then, amount to a kind of operative censorship of the shadow objects? All of the Canal Zone Paintings flicker with ambivalent forces of affinity toward their source images—even, or especially, in the act of covering them over. The titanic figures are parceled, altered, manipulated, pulverized, mashed together with other signifying matter, paraded as abject—as if it is the physical embodiments of the reused images, not their signifieds, that must be mutiliated. That is why the images are always thereby looping back in the logic of their desecration to their roots in the insistent gaze of a scantily clad, coffee-table-book-size image of a black man with Rapunzel-length “dreads” standing by himself in a jungle full of lush growth (Appellee, 2012). As in dreams, camouflage and restoration of shredded meaning intertwine. In what is for my purposes a fortuitous choice of metaphor, Freud put it this way: “A negative judgment is the intellectual substitute for repression; the ‘No’ in which it is expressed is the hallmark of repression, a certificate of origin, like, let us say—‘Made in Germany’” (Freud, 1925/1961, p.236). Defense counsel, cued by precedent, argued that Prince “needed Cariou’s utopian images to make a new and very different statement in the Canal Zone works” (Appellants, 2011). But having eschewed the dynamic of origins, they were at a loss to explain why. Anymore than Freud would essay an explanation of why certain among a day’s residues are recruited by the dreamwork. Condensation, displacement, and considerations of representability provide the key to the dream’s dissimulations (Freud, 1900/1953). But the availability of signifiers that may be repurposed in service to the dream’s “wishful purposes” depends on coincidences of sound and meaning, linguistic and pictorial, themselves activated by random encounters, such as a stop at the hotel gift shop on a Caribbean vacation. Just so, Cariou’s semantically freighted images became unavoidably ensnarled in Prince’s deepest aims. The text testifies. It allows the interpretative possibility, for example, that Prince’s appropriations attack what hides inside the enclosure of the not-
yet-subject. Each painting obsessively inverts this inside by ejecting the original scenes into an anonymous outside, from a three-dimensional jungle to a vertiginous wine-red void, which recalls blood, extrusion, birth. Or to a viscous white nowhere, which figures the nonspace of prehistory, the other scene where the subject intuits its own nonexistence. Freud’s certificate of origin. Appropriation is ordinarily associated with work that excerpts advertising and mass media stereotypes. Commenting on commodity culture, it has been argued, offsets the harm caused by the taking of another creator’s property. First Amendment rationales of this ilk have underwritten support for other flagrant copyists, like Jeff Koons and Sherrie Levine. And they have been advanced in reaction to this case in support of Prince (Jasiewicz, 2014). But Cariou’s quiet portraits (now turned lascivious) were not mass culture icons whose artistic disgrace we are bribed into enjoying with promises of
utopian images? Rhetoric aside, Prince appropriated them to make them the butt of his jokes. And jokes forestall horror—the horror of the missing outside. “[L]aughing is a way of placing or displacing abjection” (Kristeva, 1982, p.17). Indeed, Prince’s jocularity is so integral to this “placing or displacing” as to invite inventorying. The Rastas, for instance, those masters of the controlling, “phallic” gaze, now present as porn stars, as wheedling, lurid entertainers, not gazing but soliciting the other’s gaze (Doane, 1987). How did this happen? By placing into the altered mittsized hands of one of the subjects an outof-scale photograph of George Harrison’s Richenbacker guitar. By crudely painting in elephantine legs and flailing giant arms with pointing hands that fuse the Gumby-like advertisements glimpsed on street corners in some American cities and the beautiful, oversized, precisely veined upper limbs in
initiation into its higher meaning. The artist and his work were little known before this controversy. Why did Prince “need” Cariou’s
Oskar Kokoschka’s Self-Portrait. Post-tweak, a jaunty swing of the hip materializes. Dialed-up eye contact turns smarmy.
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More visual jokes: the second in a pair of two left hands holds a cigarette at a rakish angle. A zombie seduction? A centerfold given an S-shaped twist morphs into Venus de Milo. Masks appear to the side or below the faces they are meant to cover, functioning like double entendres. Multiple sets of mammoth hands wave to the viewer and bionic feet kick up their heels, recalling the motif of surrealist mutilation, but with a festive twist (Hegarty, 2014). What we are looking at could be a cross between the doodlings of a five-year-old with impulse-control issues and an abstract expressionist poster announcing a blow-out sale at the local morgue. These add-ons don’t just come off as burlesque one-liners. They also bring the men’s poses into weird attunement with the X-rated females. The females, recall, are prodigious, as if to outdo billboards for sheer specularity. So too the Rastafarians loom to tapering heights—the black paint elongating them makes for tall tales (tails). Perhaps they are appearing to us the way Jacques Lacan says the mirror image first presents the subject to itself (Lacan, 1977b). Is this, one starts to suspect, Prince projecting himself into different abject positions? I, for one, needed no further convincing once I stepped in front of Tales of Brave Ulysses. In an inversion of the usual dimensions, the original figure of a Rasta has become a series of small, floating, doll-like objects tucked between warring porn goddesses. The little bewildered Rasta clones conjure dildos floating in a sea of castrating/Gulliverizing breasts and vulvas. And there’s more! Black pigment yields a visual pun by extending the Rastafarians’ hair extensions. The donkey one of the subjects is riding in relative intactness, save for his guitar, sheds its innocence as a religious symbol (or simply an animal with an uncorruptible gaze) to become a term in the phallic series, a counterpart of the oversized guitar and the extra long dreads and the human dildos. “I’m trying to make a kind of fantastic, absolutely hip, up to date, contemporary take on the music scene,” Prince said in deposition (quoted in Cariou, 2013). To which, in a William Gaddis novel, louche opposing counsel might shoot back: “And where did you suppose they were going to plug in the guitar?” Granting their visual magnetism—Cariou’s work also pulls you in—what distinguishes these shenaningans from adolescent hijinks, if indeed they are distinguishable? (Schjeldahl, 2007). Precisely their unconscious dynamics, their umbilicus to the hidden, to the interplay of the signifier and “signifiable excitation” that, as Julia Kristeva posits, thrills through the symbolic system without getting caught in it (Kristeva, 1982).
This knot between representation and its surplus goes unappreciated in those who applaud Cariou v. Prince on the grounds that Prince’s works are more interesting and experimental than Cariou’s. Holding to the “new expression” standard, they neglect the fact that the new often advances a gambit for summoning the (always disappearing) old, in a way parallel to, say, a condensed structure in a dream that synthesizes from an element shared by two or more dream thoughts a wholly new unity. This is an unnecessarily univocal proposition, one, unfortunately, the decision encourages. As an alternative, let us return to Freud’s discussion of judgment in his essay “Negation”: The study of judgement affords us, perhaps for the first time, an insight into the derivation of an intellectual function from the interplay of the primary impulses. Judging has been systematically developed out of what was in the first instance introduction into the ego or expulsion from the ego carried out according to the pleasure principle. Its polarity appears to correspond to the opposition between two of the groups of instincts which we have assumed to exist. Affirmation, as being a substitute for union, belongs to Eros; while negation, the derivative of expulsion, belongs to the instinct of destruction. (Freud, 1925/1961, pp.238-239) Negativity as a derivative of expulsion maps the outside. It renders the elsewhere that is origin, only in a different place. It establishes the beyond that is birth, only in morbid trappings. It resurrects the I, when it isn’t killing doing its stand-up routine. Prince’s art rockets between an unlocatable inside and outside. It would be a shame if a legal rule blinded us to its gyrations. And not just because of the interests riding on this case. But because nuanced interpretation, which arguably is only made possible by the positing of a deep code, enhances the art experience. It contributes an enjoyment that is impoverished by false binaries. Besides, no sooner has Prince found the line he is always searching for than he rubs it out. This past summer, he began toying with the perceptual object on Instagram by taking “selfies” from famous people’s accounts, rephotographing them, and uploading them as his own. Not long thereafter, his ink-jet prints on canvas of the redeployed selfies debuted in the rear space of the Gagosian Gallery’s ground-floor bookstore on Madison Avenue, heralded by the grandiose title New Portraits (Saltz, 2014). It appears the artist hasn’t learned his lesson. Or maybe he has learned it too well. 40
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The court fight was, after all, itself an expulsion. It exteriorized into legal discourse the internal conflict over possession of the primitive body. It translated the symbolic dismemberment of the imaginary corpus into a contest over private property rights. The advantage of such a contest to the abject continuously threatened by engulfment is that it always issues a winner and a loser, an affirmation and a censure, a judgment. Is it possible that such violent artistic ricocheting between desire and repudiation is compelled to seek its barrier in the legal superego? If so, we can rest assured of one thing. The artist’s traversals will not stop (t)here. z REFERENCES Appellee. (2012). Brief on behalf of Patrick Cariou (pp.1–12, 46). Filed January 25, 2012. [11-1197]. Retrieved from http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca2/11-1197/148. Appellants. (2011). Brief & special appendix on behalf of Appellant Lawrence Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, Inc. and Richard Prince (p.29). [11-1197]. Retrieved from http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ ca2/11-1197/100. Blanch v. Koons. (2006). 467F. 3d 244 (2d Cir. 2006). Cariou v. Prince. (2013). 714 F.3d 694, 706-709 (2d Cir. 2013). Cariou v. Prince. (2013, appendix). 714 F.3d 694 (2d Cir. 2013) (appendix). Retrieved from http://www.ca2.uscourts. gov/docs/opn1197/11-1197apx.html. Cariou v. Prince. (2011). 784 F. Supp.2d 337 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). Doane, M. A. (1987). The desire to desire: The woman’s film of the 1940s (theories of representation and difference). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Eklund, D. (2000). The Pictures Generation. In Heilbrunn timeline of art history. Retrieved from http://www. metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pcgn/hd_pcgn.htm. Freud, S. (1953). The interpretation of dreams. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 5, pp.354–355, 497). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1900) Freud, S. (1960). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 8, pp.252–257). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1905) Freud, S. (1961). Negation. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), Standard edition (Vol. 19, pp.235–239). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1925) Heartney, E. (2008, March). The strategist. Art in America, 144–151. Hegarty, L. (2014, April 26). Toe to head: Magritte and Bataille. DIVISION/Review, no. 10 (Summer), pp.34–38. Retrieved from http://www.divisionreview.com/ the-arts-of-psychoanalysis/2014/4/24/lawrence-hegartyon-magritte-and-bataille. Jasiewicz, M. I. (2014). “A dangerous undertaking”: The problem of intentionalism and promise of expert testimony in appropriation art infringement cases. Yale Journal of Law & Humanities, 26(1), 143–182. Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of horror: An essay on abjection. (L. Roudiez, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Kristeva, J. (1984). Revolution in poetic language. (M. Waller, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Lacan, J. (1977a). The agency of the letter in the unconscious or reason since Freud. In A. Sheridan (Trans.), Ecrits (pp.146–178). New York: W. W. Norton. Lacan, J. (1977b). The mirror stage as formative of the I. In A. Sheridan (Trans.), Ecrits (p.2). New York: W. W. Norton. Prince, R. (2014, May 8). Press release issued by Gagosian Gallery. Retrieved from http://www.gagosian. com/exhibitions/richard-prince-may-08-2014. Rogers v. Koons. (1992). 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir. 1992). Saltz, J. (2014, September 23). Richard Prince’s Instagram paintings are genius trolling. Vulture. Retrieved from http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/richard-prince-instagram-pervert-troll-genius.html Schjeldahl, P. (2007, October 15). The joker: Richard Prince at the Guggenheim. The New Yorker, p.4. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2007/10/15/07. Wallis, B. (1984). Art after modernism. Boston, MA: David R. Godine.
A Meditation without Punctuation As psychoanalysts we’ve long been taught to recognize that thought follows its own drift. We’re reminded of this on an hourly basis in our offices (not to mention, on a nightly basis in our dreams). Ideas will slide into associated ideas. Organized thought is a civilizing, daytime afterthought. Poets know this, too, of course. They know that even the organizing gestures of punctuation (which appeared late in written language historically) can be dispensed with if the flow of language is true to the experience it is evoking. And no contemporary poet knows this better than W. S. Merwin, who writes wonderfully evocative poetry free of punctuation’s constraints—poetry that relies instead on line break and breath stop and internal associative logic. “Before the Flood”1 is a fine example of his work. Merwin is a former consultant to the Library of Congress, much admired and much honored in the world of contemporary poetry.2 In his long career and in his prodigious output he worked in many forms before arriving at the unpunctuated verse that has become his stylistic signature. I think you will agree that “Before the Flood” is wonderfully evocative of essential psychological experience. But clearly, essential doesn’t mean simple. Indeed, the hallmark of essential may be complexity. How complex the evocation is here—even as it is achieved in the simplest diction and in a few short lines. The ideas flow the way a child’s ideas flow. There is the child’s plaintive repetitiveness (“why” and again “why,” and “ourselves” and “ourselves,” “could we do that” and “I want to,” and “nobody will believe,” “nobody ever believed,” “nobody would believe”). But at the same time it’s clear that the “I” of the poem is an adult absorbed in the memory of his own childhood experience. There is, strikingly, an absence of metaphor—which signals the concreteness of a child’s thinking—but which signals too the still lingering concreteness of childlike thinking in the man. But more, and this, of course, is the genius of poetry, even in the absence of metaphor, the poem reaches well beyond its concrete origins and becomes metaphorical in a larger sense. It evokes not only the tragicomic relationship of the child to his father, but also the relationship of the (remembering) man to himself. There is little doubt that “Before the Flood” is an autobiographical musing. Merwin’s father was a Presbyterian minister. Many of his other poems deal with their relationship. As a child Merwin must have heard the story of the Flood (and perhaps heard his father tell it) long before he could make any sense of the story, when he could only picture, with dread but also excitement, the waters rising around his house in Union City, New Jersey. In a poet’s hands, memory becomes meditation—and here a meditation that evokes something in the experience of all men. (Perhaps I should say all people—although this poem is so clearly located in the relationship between a son and his father that I’m inclined to leave it gendered.) If we heard this from a patient in our consulting room, we’d think, ah yes, this is his sad and puzzled disappointment in his idealized father—the father who could build an ark if he wanted to, who would not idly promise what he couldn’t deliver. We’d note the self-object failure. And we’d hear the sweet and touching yearning for a father he could believe and believe in. z
Henry M. SEIDEN
“Before the Flood”1 Why did he promise me that we would build ourselves an ark all by ourselves out in back of the house on New York Avenue in Union City New Jersey to the singing of the streetcars after the story of Noah whom nobody believed about the waters that would rise over everything when I told my father I wanted us to build an ark of our own there in the back yard under the kitchen could we do that he told me that we could I want to I said and will we he promised me that we would why did he promise that I wanted us to start then nobody will believe us I said that we are building an ark because the rains are coming and that was true nobody ever believed we would build an ark there nobody would believe that the waters were coming 1. This poem is in the Library of America edition of Merwin, Collected Poems, 1996–2011 (2013), J. D. McClatchy (Ed.), pp.411–412. Used by permission. 2. For a brief bio of Merwin—and to see other poems of his—see http://www. poetryfoundation.org/bio/w-s-merwin.
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NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS Paula L. Ellman is a psychologist and psy-
choanalyst in private practice in Bethesda She is a training and supervising analyst in the Contemporary Freudian Society CFS, and coeditor of Battling the Life and Death Forces of Sadomasochism: Clinical Perspectives (Karnac, 2013). Daniel Gaztambide, PsyM, is a doctoral candidate at GSAPP-Rutgers University. His interests are in the area of psychoanalysis and liberation psychology, race and Latina/o identity, psychotherapy integration, spirituality and religion, and alliance rupture research.
Nancy Goodman is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Bethesda, MD. She is a training and supervising analyst in the Contemporary Freudian Society and coeditor of The Power of Witnessing: Reflections, Reverberations, and Traces of the Holocaust: Trauma, Psychoanalysis, and the Living Mind (Routledge, 2012).
Ronald C. Naso, PhD, is in independent practice in Stamford, CT. He is a consultant and supervisor in the Internship and Postdoctoral Fellowship training programs at the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut. The author of numerous papers on psychoanalytic theory and practice, his book, entitled Hypocrisy Unmasked: Dissociation, Shame, and the Ethics of Inauthenticity, was published by Aronson in 2010. Gregorie Novie, PhD, is in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona and has written articles and book reviews on topics such as countertransference, borderline states, Lacanian concepts in clinical practice, and trauma. Robin Ridless is a practicing attorney in New York City specializing in intellectual property law. She holds a PhD in political philosophy. Henry M. Seiden is a regular contributor to this review and editor of the On Poetry column. He maintains a private practice in Queens, NY.
Danielle Knafo, PhD, maintains a private practice in Manhattan and Great Neck, NY. She is a professor in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at Long Island University and faculty and supervisor at NYUâ€™s Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis. Her most recent book is Dancing with the Unconscious: The Art of Psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalysis of Art (Routledge, 2012). Bettina Mathes, PhD, is a Manhattan-based writer, and culture critic, and is training to be a psychoanalyst. She is the author of numerous books and essays including most recently Psychoanalysis Interruptus (Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 2011). Marilyn N. Metzl, PhD, ABPP, is a psychologist/psychoanalyst in independent practice in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a member of the teaching faculty of the Kansas City Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Kansas Psychoanalytic Institute.
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Rachel Sopher is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. She is on the faculty of the Stephen Mitchell Center for Relational Studies, an associate editor of Psychoanalytic Perspectives, and is a member of the education committee at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, where she also acts as cochair of the annual conference. Manya Steinkoler, PhD, has done analytic training and clinical work in Paris. She is in private practice in New York City and a professor of literature at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Carlo Strenger is chair of the Clinical Graduate Program, Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv University. He has published numerous books and academic papers, most recently The Fear of Insignificance: Searching for Meaning in the Twenty-first Century and Israel: Introduction to a Difficult Country (in German).