The 9/11 terrorist attack punctured America’s innocence, inflicting massive trauma on people across the country. Almost without delay, psychoanalysts felt compelled to shed their mantle of neutrality to better assist survivors, first responders, and those who were vicariously affected by the tragedy.
The Analyst stares into the steam of his green tea. Some of the more proactive flakes escape a tear in the frail nylon sachet, wending to the surface, a morning Rorschach for no one to interpret.
The first of his five patients for the day is out in the waiting room, flicking through one of the old copies of the LRB fanned out on the scuffed coffee table with splintered legs. After all, the Analyst wanted to make and maintain the right impression — urbane, intellectual, and playful were three adjectives he hoped crossed some folks’ minds some of the time.
Democracy, psychoanalysis, and Room share a powerful connection. They were created to contain and facilitate the many voices that comprise (and conflict with) our polities, ourselves, and, in the case of Room, the space between ourselves and our societies. This is not coincidental. As Jill Gentile explains in her book Feminine Law, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire, there is a resonance between the method of free association underlying the work of psychoanalysis and the right of free speech which is the bedrock of democracy.
From my very first contact with psychoanalysis, a fascination in the theory and practice took hold of me. But becoming a psychoanalyst was a bit unimaginable. How would a lower-middle-class Palestinian immigrant navigate such a life goal? How could I possibly pay for years of analysis and navigate an environment I perceived as potentially hostile to me? I really did not know, but the calling did not subside.
In addition to the political controversies that they ignite, the contents of presidential tweets are subject to diverse statistical analyses as evidenced by postings on the internet.
Two years ago, an article in the New York Times1 about Donald Trump’s “friends” made me want to collect the little we know about such friendships, some or all of which may apply to Trump himself.
In mythology, in fairy tales, and in psychoanalysis, losing one’s sight often indicates that a disaster has occurred, an event so unbearable that it is no longer possible to look at it. Yet in the ongoing scourge that is the Trump administration, Trump cannot bear that we look away from the disaster.
In a recent interview1, Adam Phillips ventured the hypothesis that psychoanalysis was invented to address the problem of misogyny. This was a bold and unusual statement, and though we’ve long been initiated into Phillips’s refreshing, even scandalous, takes on often otherwise mundane or familiar assumptions, this seemed, at least to me, an astonishing statement, striking not because it was outlandish, but because it was utterly, perceptively true.
I am writing in the spirit of #MeToo to bear witness to damage that has been done to a subset of women I have known personally in my thirty years of practice as a psychoanalyst, who felt pressured by the value placed on sexuality in the cultural milieu of the 1960s and, 70s and in the psychoanalytic circles they came to for help. I am also writing because I think these women’s stories offer a window into ways the mid-to-late-twentieth-century sexual revolution was experienced differently in various parts of the United States. This inquiry is part of a larger project, where I have been exploring ways to bridge cultural divides that block collaboration on a humanitarian political agenda.
I’m taken aback when Gloria Steinem, the “face of feminism,” announces on the Today show that she’s had “a little fat removed from above my eyes so I didn’t look like Mao Zedong.” Steinem is referring to the puffy-faced Chinese revolutionary who died in 1976, around the time when her model-thin figure was featured on a Manhattan billboard, erected by antagonists intent on reducing Steinem to her body.