Perhaps psychoanalysts in America suffer from Rodney Dangerfield syndrome: “We don’t get no respect.” Entering what will be my 11th year of psychoanalytic training, I often get looked at as if I am crazy. But it did make my morning to wake up to this Sunday’s New York Times front page article, “Do Argentines Need Therapy? Pull up a Couch.” The tone and timbre of this piece was easy to take in. But it also called up a different feeling in me, a lamentation perhaps, for working analytically in America. I felt homesick for a place I have never lived.
When I visited BSAS a few years back, I remember a taxi driver discoursing upon Melanie Klein. At the hotel where I was staying, the concierge spoke to me of the mirror stage. I was in heaven. Many Jewish friends describe having a similar feeling when they go to Israel; one can stop defending and explaining oneself. In BSAS, I could just be.
It is worth remarking that this blog exists, among other things, to defend and protect the unconscious and psychoanalysis–and on this blog are housed a plethora of letters to the NYT in response to an opinion piece that maligned psychoanalysis published last April. That said, I want to ask the reader to imagine living somewhere where one did not feel an ongoing need to justify one’s work as an analyst or one’s pursuit of a psychoanalysis? Indeed, this NYT ‘s article brought into sharp relief how American psychoanalysis must constantly prove itself again and again. Rather than our time being spent listening to our analysands, expanding our theories, and conversing with colleagues, I would wager a bet that for many of us, we also spend time protecting the profession–if only in our own minds.
Of course a word must be said about this article’s conflation of psychology with psychoanalysis and the use of the term, “psychoanalytic counseling”. These sorts of conceptual errors reflect a cultural bias or ignorance regarding psychoanalysis. An analyst may be also a psychologist, or not. And counseling is usually much more short term and less dynamically focused than analysis. Analysts are not counselors. Counselors may also be analysts. Analysis is its own wild animal, unique, specific, and not actually diffuse. That said, more articles of this ilk by the paper of record would be terrific. Perhaps an article analyzing why Americans reject the talking cure could be put on the agenda, followed by articles about the way one comes to think and perceive differently after an analysis…of course, this list could go on and on. It might be worth it to write to Simon Romero, the author of this piece, and pitch further ideas to him on the subject.