Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cross Cultural Psychoanalysis: Elise Snyder speaks to the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Societ

Not only were we posed this morning with the most provocative of questions about security –far beyond our wildest concerns about confidentiality and sufficient to make all in the audience a bit paranoid –oh wait, you’re not necessarily paranoid if it is really happening—but we were also exposed to a charming, lively, cosmopolitan speaker, Elise Snyder, MD, founder of CAPA (China American Psychoanalytic Alliance). Snyder definitely thinks outside the box!

She reminds us that all analyses are cross cultural in some ways: boys grow up in a different culture than girls, young people in a different culture from their aged analysts. Moreover, when analysts assume their cultural experience is similar to their analysands, they may take for granted a certain mutual understanding of references— and so fail to explore what is meant by a certain reference— such that less analysis may be going on. When CAPA analysts ask their Chinese patients to explain (their different culture), more exploration about the inner life of the patient may actually be taking place.

An analyst’s fantasy about the inscrutable Asian may lead to questions of analyzability. Whether an American, white analyst working with an African-American analysand, or a NYC, Jewish analyst working with a non-Jewish Midwesterner or Southerner, we are each confronted with the Other, with alien-ness. But psychoanalysis, after all, is concerned with meaning, not with external form. One cannot think that learning about a particular other'd culture is sufficient to understand one’s patient: Is our patient’s thinking or behavior culturally normative or is it peculiar to the patient? If we know about ancient Chinese culture, is this as relevant to Chinese students, supervisees, and analysands as knowing that the USA burns (burned) witches at the stake?

Negotiating how to be with one another is of the same significance in similarly cultured analytic dyads as it is with cross culture analyses. Snyder actually put it this way: “When a patient and analyst speak the same language, the analysis is over.” In other words, we have sufficiently negotiated a meeting of the minds such that the skills we have garnered here between us can now be applied in a good-enough fashion in the world at large.

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