Clinical Implications of the Psychoanalyst's Life Experience
When the Personal Becomes Professional
Steven Kuchuck converses with NBiP about his newly edited book Clinical Implications of the Psychoanalyst’s Life Experience: When the Personal Becomes Professional (Routledge, 2013). It focuses on the impact of the analyst’s life experiences vis a vis their clinical mode and mien. The book, with 18 essays, (written by mostly relational or interpersonal analysts with the notable exception of the venerable Martin Bergmann) covers a lot of terrain. It is divided loosely into two parts, with the first section focusing on early life events and the second on later ones. So we read about the impact of surviving Auschwitz and how it colors Anna Ornstein’s clinical demeanor. And how Susie Orbach, growing up in a family full of both fiery left-wing passions and a plethora of secrets, found herself in possession of a heightened desire to bring things hidden out into the light. Eric Mendelsohn describes the end of his marriage and explores his work with patients during that time. Philip Ringstrom reviews certain familial themes regarding ecumenism and improvisation and iterates how they play out in his work as an analyst. Galit Atlas explores her interest in the vicissitudes of sexuality as derived from many sources, prominent among them her Mizrahi outsiderness. Noah Glassman and Steven Botticelli think through their becoming fathers together of a son and how their clinical listening was impacted. Variety abounds.
Many of the essays are deeply autobiographical. The reader is given a moment to peek into the analyst’s oft’ hidden inner workings. As such, the book satisfies something perhaps prurient. But what is discussed in the interview largely concerns what this book is also symptomatic of; it is no mistake that many writing herein are self-described refugees from what they perceived to be a more austere classical training where what the analyst brought into the clinical encounter was to be redacted. Additionally, the rigors of analytic work are myriad. In a culture that does not embrace the work of analysis, but rather sees fit to attack it, are analyst’s suffering from certain forms of deprivation? Certainly this book indicates a wish to be seen more fully. And the move towards analytic self-disclosure reaches a kind of apex in this publication. It is one thing to self-disclose to a patient in a session but this book can be read by all and sundry. So in the interview we also discuss the analyst’s needs and what stands in the way of their being met and how the psychoanalytic culture might begin to more frankly acknowledge their existence. The need to be seen stands in stark contrast to the ideal of neutrality. This book is reflective of the ever-swinging pendulum, and also the never-ending tension within 21st century psychoanalysis, regarding the now-perpetual lure of exploring the analyst’s subjectivity alongside the extreme importance of leaving room for the patient to elaborate, in an unimpeded way, fantasies, transferences and more.