Editor’s Introduction:

by Michael Stuart Garfinkle, PhD

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     I was always a good student, but unwaveringly preferred independent work to group work. Group work generated too many encounters with social loafing, an unhelpful force given my natural social wariness. An exception to this trend was in the small group readings in college of Freud, beginning with the “Project for a Scientific Psychology” through Civilization and Its Discontents and “Mourning and Melancholia.” These small groups recalled the mode in which we learned Talmud in high school – in pairs, examining controversies evoked by the text, rather than searching for God’s truth in every letter. This particular foundation in critical reading prompted me to read Freud as an important beginning for independent thoughts about psychoanalysis. 

     By the end of college, I decided that being a psychoanalyst would be the best way to combine an interest in healing, previously thought possible only by becoming a medical doctor, with the ability to remain flexible enough to change my practice based on evolving philosophical beliefs. I became involved with the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute with the hope that I would find conservative psychoanalytic thinkers interested in reading Freud carefully, with an intent to study the gap between what is said and what is knowable. To my ultimate dismay, the number of smart, engaging conservatives I met were dwarfed by the heavy hand of orthodoxy, most prominently seen in an unyielding, rigid bureaucracy. Readings of Freud were exegetical and left little room to be curious; rather, there were obvious solutions to every problem, a compromise formation around every corner. There was a form for each incoming candidate to sign where some sort of promise was made to not describe oneself as a psychoanalyst until the Institute administration decided you were “kosher,” a phrase used all the time by Jews and non-Jews alike at NYPSI, which I found particularly unwelcome given my origins. How bizarre, I thought, that in a state that allows people with doctoral-level training to use the term without training, this place demanded loyalty and the relinquishing of entitlement for the sake of becoming meat Jews can eat.

     Belonging tends to be thought about as a positive aspirational or declarative: how nice it would be to belong to x, or, it’s so nice to belong to x. Sometimes it’s used to enforce politesse, as in: part of belonging to a family means seeing your mother-in-law. Seldom is it used to describe the burden of belonging, except when used as a threat: if being your daughter means listening to this, I’m leaving home, or Groucho Marx’s “I don’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”

     For psychoanalysts, trained to engage the mind of the individual under the auspices of a profession, a larger group, the question of what it means to belong has been neglected.[1] Instead, and in keeping with fashionable ideas, much discussion has been dedicated to analytic identity and the like, while far less has been discussed in terms of the Civilization and Its Discontents in our profession.[2] The idea for this issue came into being precisely because the nature of belonging to a psychoanalytic group and its related phenomena, like attachment, identification, etc., needs a closer look, and because psychoanalysts ought to know that the most interesting possibilities lie between defiance and compliance, dependence and independence.

 

Endnotes

[1] There is a much-discussed, poorly-documented observation of the disappearance of courses on Freud on groups from the Institutes of the American Psychoanalytic Association in New York, and other reports that suggest the same is true elsewhere.

[2] A noteworthy exception is the New York-based group, Das Unbehagen, which has among its adherents several members of the editorial board of The Candidate.

 

Address correspondence to:

Michael Stuart Garfinkle, PhD
80 University Place, Suite 5C
New York, NY 10003
michael.garfinkle@mssm.edu

Michael Stuart Garfinkle, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst in private practice in Greenwich Village, New York. He is on the faculty at the Derner Institute/Adelphi University, the New School, the externship-internship program of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Teachers College/Columbia University. Dr. Garfinkle is on the editorial boards of The Candidate, Frontiers in Psychoanalysis and Neuropsychoanalysis, and the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Along with Dr. Manya Steinkoler, he devised and conducted the 2014 psychoanalytic conference in Reykjavík, Iceland (“Psychoanalysis on Ice”) and is working with Dr. Steinkoler on a second conference in Iceland for 2017.

 

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