Sunday, May 25, 2008

Psychoanalysis and Campaign 2008

Rupture and Repair and the 2008 Presidential Campaign

Kim Vaz, Ph.D., Chair of the Womens Studies Dept. at the University of South Florida, and advanced candidate in psychoanalytic training at the Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, shared with me recently some interesting insights about the presidential campaign, and about one candidate in particular, Barack Obama.

Noting that our nation is in a crisis of identity, confronted by otherness, she sees parallels between Obama's stance and that of the analyst: If our nation is in a crisis, having to integrate the multiple selves/identities that are Americans--no longer the faceless of Montana or West Virginia--then Obama, Vaz says, asks us to look to him to "hold'' these "multiple identities that have fomented his imagination and his life of public service."

Obama tells us, as an analyst would, there will be 'ruptures.' And, like an analyst, Vaz notes, Obama tells us that though, 'not a perfect man, nor born of a perfect man, he will be, unlike his father, there, to listen, to learn, to lead, to fulfill promise.' "In other words," says Vaz, "there will be repair."

Vaz further notes that the 2008 campaign brings the "outsider identities of gender, age, and race" center stage. She expects, "We will need all our identities, foreign and U.S. born; male and female; old and young; black, white and brown, to solve the complex global problems America faces."

In Memorium

Remembering Charles Brenner, M.D.

It was with great sadness that I read of the death of Dr. Charles Brenner on Monday, May 19, 2008. Dr. Brenner was my first supervisor during my training at NYPI. He was gentlemanly and generous, and he modeled for me the interminable patience that psychoanalytic work requires.

He was, as a supervisor, neither didactic nor pedantic. Instead, he patiently listened to me week after week, year after year, describe to him my first control case. He saw within two weeks the analysand's developing erotic transference. But he did not push the point. He wanted me to grow to see what was in the analysand's material (just as the analysand must develop readiness to see), and it took me --for whatever reasons--six months. It was an invaluable lesson. By his example, I learned to wait with my patients.

And he was unflappable. He listened with great equanimity. With both of those traits as a guidepost I live daily in my consulting room. While more contemporary thought informs me today, Br. Brenner's example remains with me, the foundation for listening to the narrative. His memory is cherished by me, and he will be missed by many.