From 1934 -1945, the Rundbriefe was a top secret newsletter that circulated among a small group of socially and politically committed refugee psychoanalysts. Otto Fenichel, its founder and one of Freud’s most eminent followers, urged this small group of analysts not to isolate themselves. He wrote in the Rundbriefe, “Where there is still truth, it will be preserved, even if it must fling far… the fate of psychoanalysis depends on the fate of the world.”
The world survived but the fate of psychoanalysis took a turn Fenichel couldn’t have predicted. The power of psychoanalysis to address man’s conflicted, rapacious desires and the dehumanizing impact of civilization degraded over the decades. Many of the revolutionary aspects of psychoanalysis that were not aligned with the economic or political aims of new host cultures were repressed or marginalized.
For the past sixty years, the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) promoted a radical classical analytic position often at odds with the internal and external pressures facing psychoanalysis. When psychoanalysis in America was monopolized by the medical profession, IPTAR provided rigorous training to social workers and psychologists. As more mental health practitioners gained access to training, IPTAR opened its doors to individuals from non-mental health backgrounds and to foreigners without access to analytic training in their native countries. When available community mental health services dwindled, IPTAR’s clinical center provided thousands of New Yorkers access to low fee psychoanalytic treatment. The Clinical Center has also provided individual and group treatment in six schools over the past fifteen years and has partnered with other agencies to provide free treatment to refugees and asylum seekers.
But what does all this have to do with IPTAR’s newsletter ROOM: a sketchbook for analytic action?
As it turns out, everything. At root, psychoanalysis holds that making room for the unconscious is critical to the understanding of ourselves and our society. It is one thing to facilitate treatments that make room for the silenced. It is another thing for analysts to plumb our own experiences. Like Fenichel’s Rundbriefe, ROOM is devoted to maintaining a connection to each other and to our analytic roots in the midst of a frightening political reality. Unlike the Rundbriefe, ROOM is not sequestered within a closed analytic circle. Like psychoanalysis, ROOM is open to all.
The first issue of ROOM took us by surprise. Mental health professionals across the United States and from London to Jerusalem responded with enthusiasm. ROOM hit a chord with non-analysts as well. As one novelist told me, “None of us can stop watching the news. We all need help with this. Everyone wants to know what people in the mental health profession are thinking now.”
“Finally”, she said, “mental health professionals are speaking.”
In this issue of ROOM are Jared Russell’s impassioned response to Elizabeth Cutter Evert’s thought provoking essay (which appeared in ROOM 2.17) on the bridge between psychoanalytic and religious endeavors, C. Jama Adam’s literary and musical reminder that we do not exist in isolation from each other, Richard Grose’s creative take on our sudden addiction to television, and a philosophical essay by Carlos Padron which speaks of psychoanalysis as a radical practice of otherness which has the power address the blindness in our souls. ROOM 5.17 ends with an old toast by Sheldon Bach to a future we have come to inhabit.
Psychoanalytic therapists of all stripes are stepping up to contribute poetry, critical essays, ideological arguments, biographical reflections, – and when words just won’t do, art, photography, and music. Beginning with this issue we have added a permanent section at the end of ROOM called DISPATCHES, which is devoted to announcements and different actions analysts are taking in their communities.
We don’t know where this analytic newsletter will take us next, but we do know we can go further than homeland security asks us to go. If you see something, don’t just say something—submit something to ROOMinIPTAR@gmail.com
Your contribution will help us all. We expect our next issue will be coming out in September. Submissions for ROOM 9.17 are welcome through the end of August. –
- Hattie Myers is a Training and Supervising psychoanalyst at IPTAR.