Benedek Lectures Now Available Online
Past curators of the Helen McLean Library and Franz Alexander Archives at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute have left behind an extensive, well-organized and well-preserved collection of archival materials. Library staff are working to digitize and share some of this material as time permits.
One of the best examples of their work is the archival collection of Therese Benedek, M.D., one of the first faculty members of the Institute, who taught and practiced here from 1936 to 1969.
Benedek joined the Institute at the invitation of director Franz Alexander, M.D. She followed a similar path as Alexander: both were Hungarian Jews who emigrated to the U.S. to escape the growing Nazi threat. During her tenure here, Benedek authored or co-authored nearly a dozen books and nearly three dozen journal articles. She is known best for her studies of the psychosexual functions of women, although she also wrote about depression and veteran’s issues.
In 1959, Benedek published the article, “Parenthood as a Developmental Phase—A Contribution to the Libido Theory.” The article was groundbreaking in challenging the long-held notion that personality integration concludes in adolescence. “Personality development continues beyond adolescence,” Benedek wrote, “under the influence of reproductive physiology, and…parenthood utilizes the same primary processes which operate from infancy on in mental growth and development.”
Benedek left the Institute more than a dozen archival boxes and loose materials. Below are links to surviving transcriptions of lectures Benedek gave in 1954 and 1955 for her course, “Evolution of Psychoanalytic Concepts.”
We are working to digitize and catalog more documents like these to benefit professionals and researchers interested in learning more about the roots of the psychoanalytic profession. If you are interested in specific archival materials, please contact librarian John Leonard at (312) 897-1419 or email@example.com.
Former Director Jerome Winer, MD
With sadness, we share that Jerry Winer died Dec. 28. Among his many accomplishments, he was the Institute Director for two terms and within APsaA helped educate the membership on the need for analyst assistance committees. Jerry had been living in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania for the past several years, close to his children.
Jerry is survived by his wife of 53 years, Inge, and his children, Rebecca, Liz and Sam, his grandchildren, Noah, Naomi and Benjamin, a sister and an uncle. The funeral took place Sunday, December 30 at Ohev Shalom Sanctuary in Wallingford, Pa.
The family has asked donations in Jerry's memory be sent to Ohev Shalom in Wallingford or Beth Israel in Media, Pennsylvania; KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago, or to the American Civil Liberties Union. A brief obituary and place to leave messages for the family is online here.
Kudos to our authors & honorees- 2017-18
The following list reflects publications and honors of Institute faculty, students and recent alumni from November 1, 2017 to October 31, 2018. Faculty, students and alumni are invited to send news of your accomplishments to Librarian John Leonard, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Child and Adolescent Clinical Services Director Denia Barrett served as section editor for “So you want to start a psychoanalytic school? Succumbing to an ‘almost irresistible temptation,’” Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Volume 71, 2018, pp. 130-136 and 201-204.
Denia co-authored with board and faculty member Tom Barrett “On Prepuberty and the Role of Testicles in Psychosexual Development,” Moscow, NLO Publ.,Vestnik MPO [Bulletin of the MPS], no. 5, 2018, p. 129-156 (in Russian). Tom also authored a chapter on "Clinical Interventions with Sexually Abused Children" that is forthcoming, The Rape of Childhood: Developmental, Clinical, and Sociocultural Aspects of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Salman Akhtar, ed., Lexington Books 2019.
Faculty member Harold Bendicsen’s book Psychoanalysis, Neuroscience and Adolescent Development will be published in February by Routledge. It explores how new research in the fields of neuroscience and developmental processes can inform psychoanalytic treatment.
Open Classes Student Denise Davis published “Bounded Openness: A Secure Base For Expansion and Creativity” in Psychoanalysis, Self and Context, Volume 13, Number 3, 2018, pages 288-298.
Faculty member Ed Kaufman had two poems and a photograph published in East on Central: A Journal of Arts and Letters from Highland Park, Illinois, 2018-19.
Faculty member Jonathan Lear’s article "Gettysburg Mourning," appears in Critical Inquiry 45, no. 1 (Autumn 2018): 97-121.
Faculty member and graduate Gavin Mullen’s collection of Arnold Goldberg’s Selected Papers, organizing the thought and writings of our retired faculty member and former director, was nominated for the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis Book Prize for 2017. Mullen wanted to collect Goldberg’s contributions when he retired as a useful reference for psychotherapists and to distinguish his contributions from those of his mentor, Institute luminary and father of self psychology Heinz Kohut.
“It’s easy to think of Goldberg’s work as an extension of Heinz Kohut, until you read each article and see, over the span of 50 years, the development of Goldberg’s thoughts,” Mullen says. “Goldberg makes use of the foundation of self psychology but he really built the structure.… In many ways he is completely his own person.” Goldberg commented that he gave Mullen complete freedom to choose from among the 80 books and 150 articles he has authored to date.
Board member Martha Nussbaum received the 2018 Berggruen Prize for her work that “shows how philosophy, far from being merely an armchair discipline, offers a greater understanding of who we are, our place in the world, and a way to live a well-lived life.”
Clinician Aileen Schloerb contributed a chapter on her work with at-risk youth in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, “The City Project,” to Violent States and Creative States, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018.
Institute President Erika Schmidt’s article “Educating Psychoanalysts for the Future of Psychoanalysis” appeared in Progress in Psychoanalysis: Envisioning the Future of the Profession, edited by Steven D. Axelrod, Ronald C. Naso, Larry M. Rosenberg. Routledge, 2018.
Recent graduate Christopher Skeaff’s book, Becoming Political: Spinoza’s Vital Republicanism and the Democratic Power of Judgment was published by University of Chicago Press (2018).
Candidate Maranda Sze edited and contributed articles to Infant and Young Child Observation in China (Mind in Mind Education and Counseling, 2018). The book includes 14 articles by graduates and faculty of Mind in Mind’s Observational Studies Program as well as U.S-based faculty members from the Washington School of Psychiatry, with which Mind in Mind is affiliated. Sze writes that this is the first book to collect original theses, written in Chinese, based on observational materials of local families in China.
The new book includes sections on methodology, vignettes from infant and nursery observation, and the connection between observational skills and clinical work with parents and infants, children and adults. “Besides universal interests like the affective world of infants, the relationship between the mind and the body, sibling rivalry, aggression, separation, playing, and entering into nursery,” Sze says, “the book also illustrates perhaps more unique experiences in China, for example, multi-caretakers and yue saos - nannies that take care of the mother and the baby in the first months.”
Board and faculty member Jesse Viner authored several essays and presentations: “How Neuroscience Informs Treatment of Trauma,” International Society for Study of Trauma and Dissociation, Chicago, April 2018; “How Neuroscience Informs Treatment,” National Association of Therapeutic Schools & Programs Midwest Conference, Lake Geneva Wisconsin, September 2018; “Deep TMS for MDD and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse Disorder,” presented at International Clinical TMS Society Meeting, NYC, May 2018, and “Deep TMS for Obsessional Thinking: ACC Deregulation & Genomics as Outcome Markers,” presented at International Clinical TMS Society Meeting, NYC, May 2018; the latter two will be published in Brain Stimulation.
Jan L. Fretland, LCSW (1950-2018)
We're sad to share the passing of faculty member and graduate Jan Fretland. A brief obituary is re-posted here courtesy of Kelley & Spalding Funeral Home:
Janet L. Fretland, 68, of Highland Park, born October 9, 1950, passed away unexpectedly on December 2, 2018 at Highland Park Hospital surrounded by her family. Beloved wife of the late Donald; loving mother of Christopher and Katherine; loving daughter of the late Richard Van Arsdale Sr. and the late Vera Van Arsdale nee Bonardi; cherished sister of Joan Newmark of Plymouth, MA, Laura Jacobson of Libertyville, IL, Doug of Chicago, IL and the late Richard Jr.; dear aunt to many.
A visitation will be held on Thursday, December 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm at Kelley & Spalding Funeral Home, 1787 Deerfield Rd. Highland Park, IL. A funeral Mass will be held on Friday, December 7, 2018 10:00 am at Immaculate Conception Church, 770 Deerfield Rd. Highland Park, IL 60035. Interment St. Mary Cemetery, Lake Forest, IL. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Immaculate Conception Parish.
For info or directions, please contact Kelley & Spalding Funeral Home at 847-831-4260. (More details at the funeral home website here).
The Institute salutes all veterans
From the Archives, kudos to our authors and other content are among regular features Institute Librarian John Leonard features on our Facebook page. Recognizing that not everyone accesses Facebook, we're re-posting content here, today featuring a salute to some of the Institute's veterans over the years:
Psychoanalysts are veterans also. Members of the Institute community past and present who have served in the military include the following: Roy Grinker, David Powell, Ed Goldfarb, Joel Susman, Jim Wilson, Arnold Tobin, Arnold Goldberg, Dacia Harrold and Jerome Grunes.
Roy Grinker, MD, was a faculty member of the then Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Director of the Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Research and Training Institute at Michael Reese Hospital and many other Chicago medical institutions. He mentored several generations of psychiatric residents who went on to become psychoanalysts. He was also a veteran, serving in the United States Army Medical Corps during World War II.
Grinker along with John Spiegel authored two books on war-related trauma: Men Under Stress (1946) and War Neurosis (1945), based on their work with men suffering war-related trauma in North Africa, and later in Florida with Air Force pilots and crew who had been sent to their special facility. Their two books were important contributions to war-related trauma.
An ongoing tension in the psychoanalytic literature on war-related trauma is whether the traumatic symptoms represent a “new” illness caused by the stress of war, or whether symptoms represented an acute activation of pre-existing neurotic structures. Grinker espoused the later perspective. His treatment approach emphasized integration of the overwhelming experiences that led to acute symptomatology, while taking into account the personality structures of the specific veteran.
Jerome Grunes, pictured here, passed away last month at the age of 93 after a long battle with cancer. As an army private in World War II, Grunes was there for the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Because he spoke Yiddish, camp survivors were able to tell him of their experiences. Helping these liberated prisoners cope with their trauma led Grunes to decide to become a psychoanalyst.
As a young army psychiatrist, faculty member Arnold Tobin, was stationed at the Oakland Naval Hospital in California, treating soldiers and marines returning from the Korean War with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was able to reduce what had been frequent outbreaks of violence on his ward by encouraging veterans to talk about their experiences in that conflict.
Other materials on veteran’s issues in the McLean Library and Archives include the following:
- Psychotherapy of the Combat Veteran, by Harvey Schwartz, MD
- War Stress and Neurotic Illness, by Abram Kardiner, MD and Herbert Spiegel, MD
- Anniversary Reactions In Traumatized Combat Veterans: An Opportune Time to Process the Experience Through Narrative, by Ann Newman, RN, MSN, CS
The Institute thanks all its veterans, and veterans everywhere, for their service. We invite all veterans in the psychoanalytic field reading this post to reply with a brief description of your service and how it shaped your life.
Jerome Meyer Grunes, M.D. (1925-2018)
Obituary re-posted from the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society
Jerome Meyer Grunes, M.D., former President of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society and former faculty member at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute, died on October 25th, 2018 from cancer. A member of the "Greatest Generation," Jerry was born in Brooklyn May 11, 1925. He graduated Thomas Jefferson High School at age 16. His high school yearbook wrote of him, "Is that the Aurora Borealis? No, that’s Grunes' brilliance shining."
He was a Private 1st Class, 488th Light Engineering Battalion, which preceded the front line. As Jerry was among the first at the liberation of Dachau and spoke Yiddish, camp survivors were able to tell him of their experiences. Their sharing their stories with someone who empathized with the "incomprehensible" was the moment Jerry’s life was decided. He knew he would become a psychoanalyst.
On the G.I. Bill, he received his BA from Brooklyn College and went on to receive his MA in Psychology from Columbia University and his M.D. from State University of New York Medical College. He completed his internship at Boston City Hospital and psychiatric residency at Michael Reese Hospital. He received his Psychoanalytic Certificate from the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. He was Director of Residency Training at Chicago State Hospital from 1956-1958 and Director of Psychiatric Services at Drexel Home for the Aged from 1954-1981. With his participation, a documentary was filmed at Drexel Home called "Home for Life" which illustrated challenges faced by aging individuals.
He pursued helping those in need, including working as a Psychiatric Consultant at United Charities and the Council for the Jewish Elderly. Academically he was Senior Attending Psychiatrist at Michael Reese Hospital, where he developed their program for the aged; and Associate Professor at Northwestern University and Evanston Hospital. He co-founded a PhD program in Gerontology at Northwestern University. His honorary positions include: Life Member of the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychoanalytic Association, Fellow of the American College of Psychoanalysis, the International Psychoanalytic Association, and the American Gerontological Association. A pioneer in the field of gerontology and in using psychoanalysis in the treatment of older adults, he published numerous books and chapters. He felt strongly that all people should have access to psychoanalytic care. People who work with older adults, he explained, have a strong attachment to older people in their lives (as was the case with Jerry), or those who denied their own aging process.
He continued to work until age 92. He never hesitated to stand up for his beliefs and to give a voice to those oppressed. He proudly marched with the Reverend Martin Luther King and supported unions and social causes. Family holidays would often be trips to war-ravaged countries. He was a lover of all arts, both contemporary and ancient, and an ardent Savoyard. "Good art," he explained, "should be pretty, but great art should stir something deep inside you and make you dizzy." He was a great lover of literature and a poet himself. Botany was another great passion, from planting a Rose of Sharon in the cracks of the sidewalk on Alabama Avenue, Brooklyn, to visiting the great gardens of the world and tending to his own extraordinary garden.
He is survived by his beloved five children, Allen Grunes, Reba Kraus-Georgiadis, Tina Olander, Louis Kraus and Dorothy Grunes, his 11 treasured grandchildren, Marissa, Avi, Natalie, Claire, Suzanna, Noah, Ethan, Natalie, Noah, Madeline and Beatrix. He is also survived by his beloved nieces and nephews Carol Kornsweig, Helen Shor Grunes, Evan Mayerhoff, Helen Mayerhoff, Marc Mayerhoff, Perle Moreau and Neftali Espar, Lisa Maniff and Jeffrey Maniff. He leaves behind his great love, his wife of 50 years, Barbara Joan Grunes, a love which words cannot capture.
"A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once."
Jack Buffington, December 5, 1924 to October 9, 2018
We're sad to announce the death of Jack Buffington, MD. Dr. Buffington graduated from the analytic program in 1976 and was affiliated with the Institute as a Research Associate, a Clinic Associate and as a Continuing Education faculty member. He was an active member of our analytic community. Both his wife Bobbie and daughter Marilyn graduated from the Institute's Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Program.
One of Jack's interests was older adolescents and young adults. He contributed a chapter titled "Emerging Values in a University Community" to Dean Brockman's edited volume Late Adolescence: Psychoanalytic Studies. The chapter will be available in the McLean library for anyone who would like to read it.
A memorial service will be held at the 1st Presbyterian Church, 600 9th Street, Wilmette on Friday, October 26 at 2p.m. The family would like to include the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute as one of the places to make donations in honor of Jack, for which we are very appreciative. His obituary is available online.
Former faculty member Richard Telingator, 1927 - 2018
Longtime faculty member Richard Telingator passed away September 4. His obituary is reprinted here from Legacy.com:
Telingator, Dr. Richard "Dick" Howard was born in Chicago on December 13, 1927 to Fanny Balaban and Harry Telingator, emigrants from Russia. He was brother to Albert Telingator and May Brottman, both of whom pre-deceased him.
He received his A.B. at the University of Chicago in 1946 in Political Science, and attended Chicago Medical School, earning his M.D. in 1953, thanks to the financial support of The Jewish Federation. He worked for the U.S. Public Health Service stateside during the Korean War and went on to do his residency in Psychiatry at Michael Reese Hospital He began his private psychiatric practice in 1959.
He subsequently pursued training at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and graduated in 1967. His other professional experience includes serving as an attending psychiatrist at the Michael Reese Hospital Department of Psychiatry. He served on the Faculty of the Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis and was appointed a Training and Supervising Analyst in 1974. He served in that capacity and saw patients throughout his entire career, until he finally retired from the profession he loved in November 2016 just before turning 89 years old.
He and Judy lived a full life and enjoyed seeing the world and the diversity of cultures. They were passionate about the arts, opera, anything Wagner, and of course, theater, starting with their first date at the Goodman. In addition to Judith (Broder), his wife of 61 years, he leaves behind his four children, Kathe, Cindy (Maggie), Susan and Eric and four grandchildren, Devon, Quinn, Will and Ryan. There will be no funeral.
Donations may be sent to the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute at 312-922-7474, ext. 324 or 122 S. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1300, Chicago, IL 60603.
We extend our sympathies to his family.
Psychotherapy as impossible profession -- and why we choose it anyway
When Aleksandar Dimitrijevic spoke at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society in June on "Why Devote Your Life to Psychoanalysis, the 'Impossible Profession?'" former Institute President David Terman served as discussant.
Terman’s reflection on why individuals choose the "Impossible Profession" struck a personal note, as well as restating the ideals that motivate analysts to do their work: ”They are operating principles for all of us,” he says. We’re presenting his comments here as being of general interest to our community.
Discussion of Aleksander Dimitrijevic paper, “Why Devote Your Life to Psychotherapy”
Chicago Psychoanalytic Society, June 2018
David M. Terman, M.D.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss Aleksander Dimitrijevic’s paper with its provocative title that amounts to “why do this?” As someone who has done it for a lifetime, I am happy to share the perspective that I have developed over the years.
Dr, Dimitijevic has presented us with much interesting data. I can certainly affirm at least two of his points from personal experience. One is his documentation of the decrease of empathic capacity as medical students progress in their training. One of the teachers in my residency, Herman Serota, used to talk to us about the necessity to shed what he termed our “autopsic encombrances” that we had acquired in medical school. By that he meant that we were not to regard our patients as inert things to be acted upon, but as partners in a collaborative attempt to investigate and understand their sufferings and its sources. The attitude of the autopsic encombrance toward patients is, of course, antithetical to trying to take a position inside their subjective experiences –to attempt an empathic grasp of their inner world. Interest in subjectivity, and attention to feelings and fantasies, was – to the somewhat insecure scientists of the medical establishment – quite suspect and certainly “unscientific.” Rather, one needed to examine the patient and the data with extrospection – the use of our senses to attend to external phenomena that could be measured, ideally mathematically. And this approach rigorously excludes knowledge from introspection and empathy. In addition the medical students were frequently in a state of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the patients’ illness or suffering and the total inability to engage, and/or ameliorate psychological distress. The response of many students is, understandably, to shut off and shut down. No wonder that the empathic pathways in themselves do not enlarge. They shrivel. And finally, the new technologies offer an exponential increase in the physician’s capacity to diagnose and intervene in the course and treatment of organic disease, and this fosters the young physician’s further distance from and stunts the growth of his/her empathic capacities.
In my own personal experience as a medical student who had gone to medical school so that I could become a psychoanalyst – the only route to psychoanalysis in those dark days - I had to contend with my feeling very much out of synch with many of my peers – and certainly the faculty – whose disregard and disdain for the subjective and especially for the affects that our encounters with the nitty- gritty of medical phenomena stimulate – the corpses in our freshman year, the seriously ill patients in our clinical years, the overwhelming amount of data of the basic medical sciences – left me feeling both enraged and isolated. I was fortunate to be able to go into a psychotherapy with one of the storied analysts in Chicago (who refused to undertake an analysis with me at the time in spite of my entreaties. I would have to wait for that, he told me, until I was old enough to benefit from such an enterprise.) So I was able to maintain my interest and investment in my own subjectivity and know also that my own inner turmoil could be respected and understood.
Of course, I was not the “typical” medical student, because I was already on the road to becoming a therapist and an analyst when I entered medical school, and so – point two from my personal experience – I conformed to the model that Dr. Dimitrijevic has constructed about those of us in our field. Like the 75% of therapists in the one study, I had to deal with psychological trauma in my family when I was a child. My mother became severely depressed after our family had moved back to Chicago after my father suffered an ill-fated business venture in California. I was 10 years old at that time, and though my mother recovered after several months of treatment, I became and remained a source of some comfort as I was mindful of trying to enliven and cheer her up. I knew that her pride in me was important for her own sense of well-being and that our sharing of some intellectual and cultural interests was also important. The need to be empathic to a distressed parent became deeply engrained in me. As with many of my colleagues, my training in empathy and therapy began very early – with all of its attendant strengths and problems. For those, I also had the good fortune to finally undertake the analysis I had sought in medical school. And I think that had allowed me to work through many of the issues that the premature parenting of my mother caused so that I could be reasonably open to my patients and be able to deal with myself when I got in the way.
But there was another developmental experience that I believe was the source of my empathic capacity. I think it was the nurture and comfort I had received from my mother earlier in the course of my childhood in a rather unique way. Dr. Dimitrijevich discussed this element of the development of empathy when he quoted Ferenczi’s observation that “children who had suffered morally or physically had the appearance and mien of age and sagacity.” However, what was left out – if perhaps implied – was how that suffering had been responded to.
I had had repeated and prolonged bouts of otitis media middle ear infections - from before I was a year old until about age 9. These were the days before antibiotics – especially penicillin. In fact I happened to be one of the first children to receive the medicine at around age 10 when I was hospitalized for a week to get injections of the new miracle drug every 4 hours – to avert a frequent complication of otitis media in those days – mastoiditis. Mastoidits meant that the infection had spread from the ear to the skull , and if that were to have occurred, it would then invade the brain. The only way to arrest the progress of the infection was to remove the mastoid bone, and of course that surgery also had great risks - there being no antibiotics to prevent the infection that the surgical procedure might well produce. So penicillin, barely available to the civilian population in 1944, saved my life and heralded the end of the excruciating periods of pain I had undergone.
But the point of this tale of childhood illness is to relate what my experience in those 9 years was. Since there were no antibiotics to treat ear infections during my childhood, one simply had to wait until the infection reached a point when it would perforate the eardrum. The swelling of the drum prior to its rupture took several days, and the pain of the swollen drum was often excruciating. It was during such times that my mother would try to comfort me. She held me, and I recall her often pacing the floor – often at night – holding me as I whimpered on her shoulder. Her ministrations were somewhat effective. The pain seemed to ameliorate somewhat, and I recall that I was often able to sleep after such a siege. She did all of this with great patience and without complaint. She was truly empathic to my pain and anxiety without becoming anxious or resentful herself. In later years we never discussed those quite selfless acts. She took it as a matter of course . And I, too , never quite realized the significance of those experiences of being empathically connected in my suffering with my own inclination to be sensitive to pain – especially psychological pain – combined with my own desire to try to alleviate such suffering. Interestingly, it was only after I had retired from practice that I became aware of this important origin of my own sensitivity to my patients’ psychological pain and of my own patience I had felt in listening over the many months and sometimes years – trying to understand, of course, but also with some hope and expectation that my efforts would eventually be rewarded with the patient’s relief from the suffering and the bonus of psychological growth. Maxwell Gitelson called these attitudes and expectations of the analyst “the diatrophic attitude.” He defined it as the predisposition of the analyst to want to nurture and heal. He felt that this was essential for any analysis to succeed.
One further observation about the curious fact that I did not make the connection between my illness and my mother’s deeply empathic response to it with my own empathy until some time after I had retired from clinical practice. Perhaps I needed the distance from my everyday immersion to observe that something that was so deeply a part of my early experience and later character that I had not marked it out as a discreet part of myself.
I apologize for this lengthy autobiographical excursion, but I have taken us on this trip to make several larger points that I think are related to Dr. Dimitrijevic’s thesis. Though he has referred to Ferenczi’s observation that I have just discussed, and he has also cited the importance of resilience in dealing with these childhood traumas, his main concern has been in calling our attention to the conflictual elements in many of our backgrounds. And, as you have heard, my own history is consistent with his findings. But my own history also suggests that there may be less conflictual determinants of our later empathic capacities. There may also be some leading edge components of our abilities. Might there also be deeply positive experiences of empathic connection in many of our histories that have been overlooked by our understandable investigations of the trailing edge determinants? It is a question that I think would be interesting to investigate.
This is not to diminish the significance of our conflictual sources. It is surely important to be aware of them and the problems they give rise to. And I think this effort – our mindfulness about our roles in helping or hurting our patients is a facet of another value that we and our profession embody. That is the commitment to prolonged empathic immersion in the service of the healing and growth of our patients. That is the hallmark of psychoanalysis. If we step back to view our work in the broader context of society, we may become aware that what we do is quite unique, and I hold, greatly beneficial to our community and perhaps to civilization itself.
I think I need to explain and perhaps justify this rather grandiose claim. The benefits that accrue to individuals are self-evident to all of us. The enrichment of lives, the release from the sufferings of chronic depression or emptiness, the discovery of meaningful work in the world, the ability to engage in intimate relationships, even the saving of lives are among the many benefits that all of us have experienced. But very often such positive outcomes are hard won. They require the many years of the work of empathic engagement that do not invite triumphalist bragging. We know how hard and uncertain the process is. And we are very mindful of the ongoing demands of our current work. There is little time, space or even permission for this kind of self-validation. It was likely no accident that my own awareness of the positive roots of my empathy came only after I had retired from practice. But I think it is necessary to remind us of the virtues, as it were, of our work. Like the positive elements of structure formation in development, we also need to pay attention to positive value that is inherent in the work that being empathic.
But it is not only the benefits to individuals that benefit society. The knowledge that we have gained from studying and understanding human psychology that has been generalized into theories about subjectivity and relatedness has and can further illuminate who we are and what we do to and with each other. In an increasingly interdependent world, such knowledge is crucial. For with this knowledge we may be able to help construct institutional and political structures that foster both individual growth and group cohesion. We may even be able to help illuminate processes that permit sustained productive and peaceful relationships among and between groups. (Though I must admit that in this area we have been notable failures in our own professional relations. The splits and mutual demonizations of our theoretical schools are both legendary and shameful.)
Finally, in this very perilous time, when truth, empathy, decency, the wish to help or heal others are absent, and the converse of those values and actions, - the lies, the selfish use of others for one’s personal gain, the lack of constraints, and the wish to hurt and humiliate - are frighteningly present, our work of prolonged empathic emersion is both a model and bastion. Though obviously, this does not and cannot mean that the relationship that is present in a therapeutic situation can or should exist or be expected in everyday adult life. Other than a parent, adults in any kind of relationship with peers cannot put themselves in the position of requiring them to enter in to such a lopsided position. But the values and importance of mutual respect and the need to understand the other that are the guiding principles of our work can help maintain the importance of such attitudes in the everyday world.
So I think the answers to the question that Dr. Dimitrijevic poses to us, “why devote your life to psychotherapy?” are quite deep, manifold, and compelling. In addition to the opportunity to gain further mastery of childhood precocities, one has the deep satisfaction of developing one’s own empathic capacities, and the even deeper satisfaction of seeing the effect of our prolonged empathic immersion in relieving suffering and witnessing growth in our patients. Yes, this not an easy process, and we often fail in our efforts to understand. But persisting and suffering through and ultimately restoring the empathic connection bring often surprising transformations. And while doing this work, we may have the satisfaction of knowing that we benefit not only our patients and ourselves but our society.
Separating Children from Families is Poor Policy
Insights from World War II led to changes in policy to reduce the separation of children from their families
The evacuation of children from London for their protection during the Blitz created an unfortunate “experiment in nature” from which psychoanalysts such as Anna Freud, John Bowlby, and Donald Winnicott and others learned a great deal. Their observations of the effects on children deepened our understanding of the importance of primary relationships and continuity of care. This image poignantly captures the distress, bewilderment, and anxiety of children separated from those they love.
The insights gained during WWII led to enlightened approaches to caring for children in situations when they are apart from their families. Nearly 80 years later, the enforcement of the official policy of separating children from their parents when they are caught trying to enter the United States illegally was greeted with outrage and widespread protests until the President ordered it ended this week. The Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute supported the formal statement of protest issued by The American Psychoanalytic Association and recently joined other mental health practitioners and organizations in a petition to policy makers urging a more humane immigration policy.
Many Chicagoans will be marching Saturday at the Families Belong Together rally, hosted by Indivisible Chicago, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Women’s March, and other organizations, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Daley Center (check local news for details).