Saturday, March 27, 2010

Post by Bob Stolorow

Bob Stolorow has recently posted this on the Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalylsis (ICP) listserv in Southern California, in response to what he feels are unfair and ad hominem attacks on him and his work by Phil Ringstrom. (Bob Stolorow spoke at the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society on January 9, 2010, and Phil Ringstrom spoke here on March 21, 2010.)

Until now I have not wanted to dignify Ringstrom's activities in relation to me with a response, but the time has come for me to address squarely the question of "theoretical disagreement" versus "personal attack" and hopefully put it to rest. This will be my only listserv post on this matter.

Last Spring Ringstrom distributed a 38-page version of his "review" of my trauma book to members of the ICP community, including his students, some of whom were my analysands and supervisees. On the title page of the review appeared the words, "Submitted for publication in the International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology." These words indicate beyond any doubt that this version was not merely a working draft and was intended for a wide audience.

This 38-page version contains, interspersed among Ringstrom's theoretical criticisms (many of which were ill-founded), many obviously disparaging attacks on my account of my personal experience of a traumatic loss and its aftermath. (I will email this version to anyone who wishes to see it and judge for himself or herself.) Ringstrom submitted this same version to the program committee for last October's international self psychology conference. Some time after the title of this version appeared on the conference program, a letter of concern signed by 38 people was sent to the program committee co-chairs. The letter objected, among other things, to the tone of the "review," characterizing it as "unprofessional,"
"disrespectful," "contemptuous," "trivializing," and "personally disparaging." In response to this letter, the program committee took a closer look at Ringstrom's "review" and required him to delete the disparaging, attacking aspects before presenting it. The program committee co-chairs sent me an apology, my (abridged) reply to which appears below. It speaks for itself.

"June 22, 2009


"Yes, this second letter from you does help. Thank you for acknowledging that you made a mistake, apologizing for it, and expressing remorse about the pain that has resulted.... Thank you also for requiring Ringstrom to clean up his act before presenting it and for your commitment to making sure that he does so....

"As you probably know, I ordinarily enjoy spirited intellectual debates with critics of my ideas, and I am a veteran of many psychoanalytic wars over the decades. But, in its cruelty and viciousness, what Ringstrom has done far exceeds anything I have experienced or witnessed in such wars. He has attacked and disparaged me in the sacred place of my greatest suffering, to which I gave him access when we became "friends" in the immediate aftermath of Dede's death; he distributed his unrevised attack to members of my psychoanalytic community, including his students at the institute I helped found; and he managed to get a presentation, with the very same title as the version he distributed, to appear on the program of an international conference. No amount of clean-up can alter the emotional harm Ringstrom has already done to me and those in the psychoanalytic community who care about me and who have been helped by my ideas on trauma....

Sincerely, Bob [Stolorow]"

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