EMPTY PHANTOMS: TRUMP’S GHOST THAT NEVER WAS
By Gregory J. Stevens
I will disappoint you – and this will bring you to life. These articles will leave you wanting and keep you alive. This newsletter will fall short of your hopes, as will your colleagues, this field, your life – and your ache from each of these shortcomings will further enliven you. For this is part of what makes us human – our ability to envision impossibilities that keep us striving and fuel our dreams of the next impossible with every letdown.
Generations of psychoanalytic thinkers, including Freud (1911/1973) and Bion (1962), have theorized that our capacity for thought results from our uniquely extended helplessness as infants. We begin in wombs where most of our needs are preemptively met to the point of having little to no cause for want and as a result, we are near-constantly satiated into a coma of consciousnessless. That is until what is for most of us, our first trauma – birth. Compared to the womb, postnatal life is an eye-opener and therefore a mind-opener. Continue article
Reparations in the United States is my white responsibility
By Christine Schmidt, LCSW, CGP
I owe a debt. My debt was incurred when the English settled in Jamestown in 1619 with 20 people stolen from Africa (Higginbotham & Higginbotham, 1978). A promise towards payment of my debt was made after the Civil War when the government authorized a meager redistribution of wealth – forty acres and a mule – to formerly enslaved black farmers (Foner, 1988, p 70). That promise, approved by President Lincoln, was never honored. Instead, the only monetary compensation granted by my government for the institution of slavery was $300 payouts to former white enslavers to compensate for labor lost due to emancipation (Hunter, 2019). Perversely, they called these payouts reparations. I am white and I embrace Reparations for slavery in America as I accept responsibility for the kidnapping, murder, rape, separation of families, exploitation of labor, terrorism, and deprivation of human rights that my racial group has taken from African-descended people for four hundred years.
By Selma Zaki
Three years ago, I moved to New York City to pursue my master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Teachers College, Columbia University. I had moved from Lebanon after graduating with a BA from the American University of Beirut. Most of my education in Lebanon had been through Western and American institutions. Thus, I did not expect my educational experience in the U.S. to be vastly different; I was not completely wrong. That being said, one noticeable difference between both educational experiences is that there appeared to be more room at Teachers College for students to express their thoughts and feelings around sensitive topics such as gender, race and class. Hence, through class dialogues and discussions, TC offered students an opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with one another, and also encouraged them to look within and examine their own identities and narratives.
Special Edition: 70th Anniversary of the Nakba
INTRODUCTION TO SPECIAL EDITION
By Lara Sheehi
I am honored to be the guest editor of this special edition of the Psychoanalyst Activist which commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the Nakba. Nakba, or “the Catastrophe” is the Arabic term that refers to the dispossession of more than 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 by Zionist forces.
Seventy years later, Trump’s White House contravened long standing international norms, UN Security Counsel Resolutions, and official US policy by moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. Finding kindred political visions with the ethno-nationalist Netanyahu regime, Trump’s administration punctuated the prejudice of this unilateral decision by announcing that the United States embassy in Jerusalem will be inaugurated on the anniversary date of the Nakba.
Continue to all articles for the Special Edition.
Past-President’s Column 2018
By Lynne Layton
I haven’t yet had much time to settle into the role of past-president of Section IX, in part because it’s only been a week from the end of my term to the beginning of writing this column, but perhaps even more so because I don’t feel any diminishment in my commitment to the Section. There is SO much work to be done. But how to contribute to that work in this different role? I’ll begin to try to figure that out by talking about what these past two years of working with all of you have brought to me personally and politically.
Trump’s Pathology Is Also His Brand
By Stephen J. Ducat
The Problem of Diagnosis
Debates rage in the increasingly politicized world of mental health clinicians about how to name and understand Trump’s evident psychopathology. Is he a narcissistic psychopath, a psychopathic narcissist, or simply a ruthless con man who managed to grift his way into business and then into the White House?
There are those cautious souls that still abide by the “Goldwater Rule” a proscription against clinicians diagnosing politicians and others in public life who haven’t been interviewed directly. This was an attempt by the American Psychiatric Association to prevent the kind of reductive and politically motivated pathologizing that was directed against Barry Goldwater in the 1960 presidential campaign. As it turns out, the rule was an overreaching corrective for an overreaching use of diagnosis. We have a wealth of data on what those in public life do and say in the world, something we don’t have access to with our patients. Although patients behave in certain ways in the context of treatment, we can only speculate how that translates to other relational contexts.
Nazism, Chaos, and Order
By Neil Altman
It took me a long time to recognize the psychological significance of national identity. I remember staring at the title of Vamik Volkan’s Killing in the Name of Identity and, while recognizing the phenomenon of identity, wondering why it was such a big deal, so big as to prompt murder. At the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I remember thinking, with wonder, that a few miles at the border between Alberta or Saskatchewan and North Dakota or Montana would make the difference between fierce support of, or indifference to, or skepticism about, the invasion. The election of Donald Trump has brought home to
me the significance of national identity, and not only because his election was concrete evidence of nationalism, or rather white nationalism, in the United States. As my illusions about the virtue of the United States, about which I had been intellectually skeptical for many years, melted away, I experienced a depression that showed me how much my own sense of goodness depended on my identification with an imaginary national group inspired by virtuous values. Continue article
The Commodification of Loss: The integration of a capitalist critique into clinical work.
By Karen Maroda
I am a liberal, as were both my parents. In fact, my father, forced to leave high school after the Depression and work in a factory to help support his family, organized the first union in that factory. On the verge of being fired or beaten, he was happily drafted into the Army. He never overtly subscribed to any particular ideology, but made it clear that laws of common decency were not often followed when it came to business and the distribution of wealth. (He became self-employed when the war ended.)
Coming from this background, I have always been interested in critiques of our materialistic society, even though I admittedly succumb to some of the guilty pleasures of middle class suburban life. I try to limit my purchases and encourage my patients to look at what they are feeling when they experience the sudden need to buy something. Yet I cannot honestly say that anything I have read about capitalism has informed my clinical work beyond encouraging some measure of self-awareness regarding the urge to buy.
Reading Todd McGowan’s book, Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets, provided one of those rare moments where I not only was captivated and intellectually stimulated, but also discovered new insights and tools for helping both my patients and myself.
Memory, Mourning and Manhood in A Lie of the Mind, A Play by Sam Shepard
By Jan Haaken
Years ago I was invited to speak at the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre after a performance of Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind. The play invites reflection on remembering and forgetting, and human complicity in the varies lies of history—topics at the center of my own work as a psychoanalytic psychologist and feminist scholar. After Sam Shepard’s death on July 30th, I thought again about this wonderful man and the enormity of his contribution to the world. And in returning to some of the ideas in that talk in Pittsburgh, I hope to pay tribute to Shepard by showing his deep affinity with feminist critiques of manhood—and with psychoanalytic ways of thinking about human memory. My alliterative title—memory, mourning and manhood— serves as a structuring device in working through key motifs in the play. I also speculate on how our responses to the play are shaped by the historical moment, having lived through a period of heightened American nationalism. It may be useful to enlist Shepard’s work to reflect on current national failures to remember the violence in our political past and how this failure to remember is related to a refusal to mourn.
Welcome to the Spring 2017 edition of the Psychoanalytic Activist!
This edition is a unique one for us. It involves a collaborative project of several voices sharing their concerns about the current Presidential administration in the United States. Entitled the First 100 Days, the concerns each author shares are diverse, and show a breadth of what is under attack. All told, we have had 33 submissions. If you have not already looked through them, please do check them out.
Next we turn to activities occurring within Section IX, discussed by Lynne Layton’s presidential column as well as Karen Rosica’s spotlight of Section IX member, Nancy Burke and the exciting clinic where she works in Chicago. Nancy’s work reminds me of the concept of Freud’s free clinics, an incredibly worthy mission. I am grateful for Karen’s work in bringing this new feature for us, there is a great deal of inspiring members of Section IX, and we will be hearing more about their projects.
One exciting project underway at the Psychoanalytic Activist involves a writing mentorship program. In the Spring of 2016, Nadine Obeid and I realized the desire for younger clinicians to be mentored, and we announced a Writing Mentorship. This project pairs a writing mentee with a more experienced writer to help them grow in their psychoanalytic and cultural sensibility. Today, we have our first published result of one of these mentorship relationships. Eva Blodgett has written a piece focusing on the way a student status can further reify the split present in psychoanalysis between clinical work and politics. I am grateful for her hard work and her mentor’s Steven Botticelli’s patient thoughtfulness.
Our next piece is written by Stephanie Heck and discusses our societies failure to attend to parent’s psychological changes. She argues this failure serves to perpetuate intergenerational trauma. Stephanie asks, when will we attend to the changes parents undergo in psychological development, to help create a kinder more empathic society?
Finally, Oksana Yakushko focuses on the struggle of being a professor focused on teaching in a liberatory manner. She explores the struggle of holding and validating diverse emotional states in a classroom, all while evaluating and grading her students. It is an important read for any trainer who values social justice.
It is true that the work of those that contributed to the works listed above is extensive, painstaking and difficult. I would like to thank those who have contributed so much, certainly all the authors, but also our Assistant and Associate editors. Our wonderful Assistant editors include Macy Wilson, Andrea Recarte, and Maria Christoff. Our Associate editors for this edition include Lara Sheehi, Batsirai Bvunzawabaya, and Karen Rosica. Without these editors we would not have as robust a newsletter as we do.
If you enjoy our newsletter, please consider writing something. Contributions are what keep us growing. Any ideas for submissions should be sent to Matthew LeRoy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you all and hope you enjoy!
President’s Column 2017
By Lynne Layton
President of Section IX
How to begin? Perhaps with something I often have heard my mother say in her later years: “Oy! I’ve lived too long!” As one who grew up in the somewhat egalitarian (for aspiring white folks) 50s and went to school while the social movements of the 50s, 60s and early 70s were taking shape, I feel as horrified by the Trump administration’s early days as my mother felt when Ronald Reagan began to dismantle the welfare state initiated by her beloved Franklin D. Roosevelt. The very word “president” is operating for me as a trigger, which may have something to do with why I’ve procrastinated writing this column.
Teaching to Transgress: Reflections on Transgressive Dialogues and Cultural Enactments in Graduate Psychology Psychoanalytic Education
By Oksana Yakushko
At Pacifica Graduate Institute, where we proudly maintain a privileged stance for “depth” psychologies (all psychologies that acknowledge the presence of the unconscious), the election results unusually disrupted and disturbed an otherwise common tendency for all of us to freely engage in political and cultural discourse. The emotional charge of our discussions, paired with the pervasive impact of the election results on the lives of ourselves, clients, and communities, ignited.
Raising a Better World
By Stephanie Heck
It is commonly accepted that a person’s mental world is formed in very early childhood and remains stable throughout their life. Beginning in the late 1950s with the work of Harry Harlow, and, later, that of John Bowlby, the field of psychology has introduced and elaborated the phenomenon of attachment; which has, in turn, shaped the way that our society understands the critical importance of the parent-child relationship. Attachment theory helped us to understand the vital role of human connection in shaping a child’s development. We know now that physical contact and social relatedness is crucial in order for a child to develop in healthy ways. In fact, society has accepted this developmental necessity to the point where there are popular models of parenting that use it as a foundation (i.e., attachment parenting).
To Speak or Not to Speak: Is Political Speech and Engagement the Privilege of Licensed Clinicians?
By Eva Blodgett
In the tumultuous post election times, daily news of gun related violence, heated political rhetoric regarding various issues such as immigration, economics, and the foreign relations, it has been impossible to remain politically impartial, non reactive and unaffected. I closely follow the political news, listen to political analyses, and engage in heated discussions with friends and family. I consider myself an active and engaged citizen, except when I step outside my home and my social environment and put on a hat of a fledging clinician who is still a graduate student navigating the life of dissertation concerns, endless internship hours, and attempts to balance self care vs. patient care vs. requirements of internship sites and supervisors. The identity of an active political citizen takes a step back, disengages, and, at times, disappears altogether. Clinical concerns, patients’ lives, the time spent honing case formulations and analyzing transferential relationships take over silencing the part that wonders how patients, supervisors, and colleagues are affected by the socio political scene and who questions our role in it. Many times, this wondering part does not dare to come out gauging that the level of safety is not adequate. Other times, it adopts the attitudes and views of my supervisors who, for the most part, exclusively focus on clinical issues detaching them from their socio political contexts.
Member Spotlight: Nancy Burke
By Karen Rosica
Nancy Burke is on the board of an organization called Expanded Mental Health Services, (EMHS-NFP). This organization, as Nancy told me, “had the privilege” of creating a psycho-dynamically-oriented clinic called The Kedzie Center in an underserved neighborhood in Chicago.
First 100 Days Project
With the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, the United States enters into uncertain times. This reality is specifically true as it relates to the future of progressive movements. Some of us reassure ourselves that President Trump said certain things to get elected, and that he does not really believe them. We grow more anxious as we look at the selections for his cabinet, a collection of lascivious businessmen, Christian social conservatives, and neo-fascist populists. In today’s America, there is so much to fear, not from without, but from within our body politic. At the Psychoanalytic Activist, we would like to explore these myriad fears, and plan on doing so with several contributors sharing their concerns about the future. These will be conducted in brief format, largely jargon free to be as accessible as possible. Continue to First 100 Days Articles.
Full Letter of Apology to the Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian People, from Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility, Section 9 of Division 39, the Division of Psychoanalysis, American Psychological Association
The United States is a settler colonial nation that grew wealthy, in part, by the theft and despoiling of Native American land and culture. The Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is a movement resisting the further theft, loss and despoliation, which makes the present moment an important one in which to speak out against the longstanding harm afflicted on native peoples, including much psychological harm. As members of Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility (Section 9 of the division of psychoanalysis, Division 39, of the American Psychological Association), we respectfully offer a full apology to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, and we stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock resistance movement.
The discrimination and traumas Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians have suffered include abusive assimilation efforts, such as forced relocation and boarding schools, and lack of voting rights and religious freedom well into the 20th century. Continue article.
Welcome to the fall edition of the Psychoanalytic Activist!
This edition we are honored to have an impressive range of pieces. The first is from Richard Brouillette lending his attention to politics as they exist in 2016, (particularly in the United States), the role psychoanalysis could play in understanding politics, and why psychoanalysts struggles to engage in this part of life. Jan Haaken shares her experience as a documentarian film maker to explore the role of stories in movements of social changes. She shares experiences in working on her film Milk Men and examines how progressive stories are told . Our third piece by Lama Khouri movingly explores her experience in working with Adolescents of Arab descent, while also sharing her own cultural experience. It is a touching and powerful article, very much needed in our current times. Finally, for those interested in Section IX, we hear from involved members about what initially interested them in Section IX, and why they continue to love it deeply.
2016 as Turning Point: Psychoanalysts Can No Longer Be Silent on Political Issues and Remain Competent
By Richard BrouilletteEmbed from Getty Images
The world is on fire and we need psychoanalysts, in particular, to help reestablish faith in humanity’s ability to cope and recover. Psychoanalysts can no longer pretend that the world does not enter the consulting room. It’s crashing in.
Over the last 30 years a particular form of irrationality has become dominant at the crossroads of daily life and the political/economic sphere. Simply put, there is a gap between what needs to be done about our problems, and what the current political system presents as “possible.” It has become clear that it is no longer rational to believe that the current global political/economic system is capable of addressing these crises. Climate change, the failure/dominance of austerity economics and resulting inequality, and global mainstreaming of hatred all pose immediate threats and palpable changes to experience in daily life. These are the most urgent problems of our time— likely of all time—and they are being met by either disavowal/disbelief from the political right, or transparently insufficient solutions from the left. Continue article.
By Jan Haaken
During a stint as visiting professor at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2014, I met weekly with a group of activist doctoral students who were working with narrative material in their field research. We came together out of our shared interest in thinking critically about the role of stories in movements for social change, and of generating methods to identify our own blindspots in social action research. Although most students in the group were not psychoanalytic, we found common ground in theoretical traditions that attend to aspects of mind and society that are cast to the margins, whether the social or political margins or the margins of consciousness. Enlisting a term I have used in my previous work, we decided to call our new website Subversive Storytelling. I describe that term here through the lens of my work as a as a psychoanalytically-informed filmmaker and field researcher. Continue article.
Can You See Me? The American Adolescent of Arab Descent
By Lama Z. Khouri
I was invited by the president of Section IX of Division 39 of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Lynne Layton, to share with you, the readers of the Psychoanalyst Activist Newsletter, my thoughts about an organization I founded a few years ago, the Circle Of Arab Students In Schools (Circle OASIS). The purpose of the organization is to help middle- and high-school–age students who are first- or second-generation immigrants from the Arab world adjust to school and life in the United States.
When I began writing this essay, I thought I would start by placing the population I work with, American adolescents of Arab descent, in the sociopolitical context of present-day America: I thought I would tell you about the racism, discrimination, and alienation they experience. My first draft was peppered with statistics, results of studies about this population, and the sociopolitical dynamics that frame their experiences. I decided, however, to refer you to my previous writings on the topic (Khouri, 2012, 2013, 2016). Instead, I would like to share with you the personal journey that led me to founding Circle OASIS—a journey that dates back to 2004, when I began making my way into the mental health field. Continue article
A Conversation About Section IX: Present Work and the Future.
Like many inquiries these days, it started with a Google search. It was the fall of 2013 and I had just begun my first semester in the George Washington (GW) University PsyD program. With a career that began in community organizing now taking a clinical and psychodynamic turn, I wanted to know who else was linking these worlds. Google seemed like a good enough place to start and I’m pretty sure the search terms that day were “psychoanalysis” and “activism”— if you’re reading this now, you already know where that search led me.
Emboldened by my awareness of Section IX, I took my search offline and met with Richard Ruth, PhD, a GW Associate Professor, profiled in the April 2013 issue of the Psychoanalytic Activist, who became a supervisor and mentor in my program, and, in 2015, with Lara Sheehi, PsyD, also a GW Associate Professor and Section IX Member at Large, whose close mentorship led me to seek out Section IX at the 2016 Spring meeting in Atlanta. It was Lara who connected me with Nancy Hollander (past president), Lynne Layton, (current president), and Matt LeRoy, (Editor of Psychoanalytic Activist).
My interpretation of a psychological motive for the pervasive evasion of the massive dangers of climate change: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-relating-existing/201312/death-afterlife-and-doomsday-scenario
In addition to Dr. Stolorow’s blog, visitors might enjoy Section V’s blog as well. It can be found here: http://sphinxonthebrink.tumblr.com/
From current Section IX’s President, Lynne Layton: I will soon be sending you some amendments to our by-laws for your approval (they need first to go to the voting board). But I want to hear from you on substantive things as well. What projects would you like to see Section IX undertake? Last year, we had readings go out once a month — there wasn’t much conversation but we heard from many people that they appreciated getting such fine articles. Do you want something like that to continue? Might you be interested in starting a community project on the model of Reflective Spaces/Material Places? Do you see other ethical or educational or political projects that we might take up? Are you interested in being on the board? If so, you might want to come to this year’s meeting.
Please reply on this thread so we can begin a dialogue. There will be a lag between posting and it appearing as each comment needs to be approved to reduce spam.
Hi Lynne, I might be interested in being on the board. I also was Beth Kita’s mentor so know about her reflective spaces and think it would be a wonderful idea