David S. Werman 1922-2014


Click Here to Read: David S. Werman Obituary in the New York Times on June 11, 2914.

Click Here to Read:  Description of the Applied Psychoanalysis: Explorations and Excursions by David Werman on IPBooks.net,

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One Comment on “David S. Werman 1922-2014”

  1. Bill Meyer Says:

    David was my most important teacher in my clinical career.

    I wrote this essay about him, in Memoriam.

    Regards, Bill Meyer (

    David S. Werman, M.D. – In Memoriam
    By Willliam S. Meyer, MSW

    It is disconcerting for me to self-acknowledge that I am at, or near, what David Werman’s age was when I first met him, shortly after my arrival at Duke several decades ago. David, who passed away last week, was far and away the single most important mentor to me in my professional, and in many ways personal, development. I met him in the early 1980’s and I had an enormously meaningful, sometimes complex, relationship with him until his retirement in 1992.

    When we first met, he was a full professor and I a relative novice; his children were grown, and mine, little more than babies; he was an established training psychoanalyst, whereas my psychoanalysis had not yet begun. He was an urbane, worldly, well-traveled man with refined tastes in art, music, and fine cuisine, whereas I was a pedestrian social worker who, prior to coming to North Carolina, had rarely ventured beyond my blue collar, Chicago neighborhood.

    From the very beginning, regardless of the differences in our ages, backgrounds, and life-experiences, he never related to me in any manner that felt condescending. My fondest and warmest memories are from the countless informal chats he and I had in his Duke office, over lunch in Duke’s cafeteria, and in professional meetings and seminars offered by the Duke Department of Psychiatry and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society. Our talks covered most everything – from personal issues (he was for me a trusted confidante), to affairs of the world (he was fervently progressive in his politics), to the sharing of irreverent and salacious – even tasteless – humor. He was a fantastic source of good jokes, and it gave me great pleasure seeing him enjoy one of mine. Much of our conversations centered on matters related to mental health, child development and psychoanalytic controversies. I must have asked his opinion on clinical matters thousands of times. What a privilege for me to have daily access to such a well-read and wise teacher.

    David, a Professor Emeritus at Duke, was a training psychoanalyst, trained at what was originally called, the UNC-Duke Psychoanalytic Education Program. He was a fellow with the American College of Psychoanalysts and, as far as I know, the most prolific writer and the most accomplished scholar our local psychoanalytic community has ever known. He obtained his MD degree from l’Ecole de médecine at the l’Université de Lausanne in Switzerland. First trained as an ob/gyn, he came to UNC in 1967 and to Duke’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in 1975. Always nattily dressed, David was good-looking, and his remarkable lack of gray hair and youthful appearance would leave others guessing as to his true age.

    David was the author of numerous papers (please see below for a partial listing) on a vast range of topics that showcased the breadth of his interests and scholarship. He also authored a highly regarded book, The Practice of Supportive Psychotherapy (1984), in which he focused on the provision of therapeutic care for those patients with more severe psychological deficits. In these pages, one can see evidence of David’s great compassion, as he instructs, “The most regressed, bizarre, or intractable patient is no less deserving of the therapist’s concern and respect than any other patient” (p. 183). In regards to how such work may be experienced by distressed patients, “it may offer them a symbolic form of love through the contact with an empathic, helping therapist; and it can help soothe angry, guilty, despairing, or humiliated feelings” ( p. 8). Of the therapist who provides supportive psychotherapy he or she takes on “a courageous task ….difficult and arduous….the importance of such work is rarely appreciated by colleagues” (p. 88), yet, “there is no more worthy effort than to help relieve a little human misery” (p. 184). David did not hesitate to insist that personal psychotherapy was essential for the mental health professional. He addressed this subject without the usual apologetic hedging. “The therapist,” he says, “must have a reasonably good idea of his own psychological makeup…. The individual who has reached an adequate insight into his own makeup without having had personal therapy is exceedingly rare. I myself have never met one” (p. 54).

    In the psychotherapy seminars that David provided at Duke, he was an engaging and entertaining teacher. He knew how to tell stories to drive home a clinical point, sometimes using himself as an example of what not to do. One of my favorites: David is a psychiatry resident treating a very disturbed man who, in sessions, reports in excruciatingly graphic detail, about the near-tortures he inflicts on his hapless cat. But, the man says, there is one thing he does, and due to his great shame, he simply cannot bring himself to talk about it. David feels horror in imagining what it might be that this patient cannot reveal. One day, David is on-call in the hospital and he gets a call that this man is in the emergency room, intoxicated, wishing to share with David his deep, dark secret. David, with trepidation, agrees to meet the man in the ER consultation room. The man divulges that some nights he wanders through the neighborhood peeping into bedroom windows. Relieved that “this is all” the patient is doing, David reassures the man that his actions are “really not so terrible.” David tells our group that he committed an egregious therapeutic error, not only because it was unempathic, but because it closed off the opportunity to explore why the man did what he did, and more importantly, why the man felt this was so much worse than torturing his poor cat!

    David could be a dazzling speaker and a brilliant discussant. I recall when he was the discussant for a paper that was delivered locally by the world-renowned psychoanalyst, Jacob Arlow. Not many people would be willing to attempt such a feat in so public a forum. While I don’t remember the topic, I do remember Arlow’s unmistakable respect and admiration for the psychologically rich, psychoanalytically sophisticated and erudite commentary that David provided.

    What many of us will recall about David was him sitting in the front rows of various presentations for the Psychoanalytic Society or at Duke’s Grand Rounds. Many of us would await, with eager anticipation, what would take place in the Q&A that followed the talk. This was where David would demonstrate his talent for critical thinking. It was rare that David would not have a comment or more frequently a question, sometimes to the chagrin, of the speaker. If the presentation was well presented and intellectually sound, David’s incisive questioning would often result in spirited debates between fine minds. If, however, there was a soft underbelly in the cogency of the material, or especially if the presenter seemed arrogant, pretentious or superficial, David’s penetrating, even blistering, questions would expose these characteristics for all to see. In many ways I idolized David’s nimble mind, yet there were times when his competitive nature contributed to a strained rift between us.

    When he retired and moved to New York, our contacts, even e-mails, were reduced to a mere handful over long stretches of time. My wife and I visited him once and we shared a pleasant dinner. When I sent him a paper I had written, asking for his critique, he responded – generous with his praise and sparing with his criticism.

    David’s passing brings me back to a different world in the psychiatry department at Duke. It was a time when there was a strong cohort of senior psychoanalysts who for better and worse held many of the key clinical and teaching positions. It was before the days of treatment manuals, evidenced-based psychotherapy practices, and before the days of those soulless stated objectives that are now required for every lecture. It was a time when people stayed far too long on inpatient units, usually to their own detriment, but also when trainees felt neither pressure about making patients change nor the insistence by their supervisors to hasten the patient’s therapy termination. Rather, the focus was on slow and steady progress through understanding and caring.

    At least that is how I remember it. It is an experience from which I am removed many miles in time and space, and I am well aware how untrustworthy memory can be. Perhaps, though, my nostalgia for such a time is, as David describes in one of his most quoted papers (1977a), “bittersweet, indicating a wistful pleasure, a joy tinged with sadness” (p. 393). He goes on, “Whatever else the sadness indicates, it always acknowledges that the past is in fact irretrievable. It is the subtlety, iridescence, and ambivalence of these feelings that gives nostalgia its inimitable coloration” (p. 393).

    David was a man who valued authenticity. What I sought from him, he gave me many times over, in spite of the relationship’s sometimes painful imperfections. What remains from my knowing David is my regard for key essentials of the man; representing for me what some would call – an ego ideal. I’m pleased that several years ago, I made a small donation to our local psychoanalytic foundation in honor of David and all that he taught me. I knew that he would be notified of this tiny gesture. I received from him a warm, gracious and grateful acknowledgement; our first, and final, contact in many years. I will continue to think of him often.

    Werman, D.S., Rhoads, J.M. (1976). The Faust Legend Seen in the Light of an Analytic Case. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 24:101-121.

    Werman, D.S. (1977a). Normal and Pathological Nostalgia. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 25:387-398.

    Werman, D.S. (1977b). Sigmund Freud and Romain Rolland. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 4:225-242.

    Werman, D.S. (1977c). James Jackson Putnam: Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. Am. Imago, 34:72-85.

    Werman, D. (1979). Methodological Problems in the Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Literature: A Review of Studies on Sophocles’ Antigone. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 27:451-478.

    Werman, D.S. (1979). Stefan Zweig and his Relationship with Freud and Rolland: A Study of the Auxiliary Ego Ideal. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 6:77-95.Werman, D.S. (1977). On the Occurrence of Incest Fantasies. Psychoanal Q., 46:245-255

    Werman, D. S. (1979). Chance, Ambiguity, and Psychological Mindedness. Psychoanal Q. 48:107-115.

    Werman, D.S. (1980). Effects of Family Constellation and Dynamics on the Form of the Oedipus Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 61:505-512.

    Werman, D.S., Jacobs, T.J. (1983). Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Well-Beloved’ and the Nature of Infatuation. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 10:447-457.

    Werman, D.S. (1983). Suppression As A Defense. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 31S:405-415.

    Werman, D. S. (1984). The Practice of Supportive Psychotherapy. Brunner/Mazel, NY, NY.

    Werman, D.S. (1985). Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents—A Reappraisal. Psychoanal. Rev., 72:239-254.

    Werman, D.S. (1986). The Analytic Attitude. Roy Schafer. New York: Basic Books, 1983, xiv + 316 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 73C:398-403.

    Werman, D.S. (1986). On the Nature of the Oceanic Experience. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 34:123-139.

    Werman, D.S. (1987). The Psychiatric Clinics of North America: Symposium on Multiple Personality: Edited by Bennett G. Braun. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1984, 198 pp., $21.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 35:771-776.

    Werman, D.S. (1988). Freud’s “Narcissism of Minor Differences”: A Review and Reassessment. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 16:451-459

    Werman, D.S. (1989). The Idealization of Structural Change. Psychoanal. Inq., 9:119-139.

    Werman, D.S. (1989). Reply to Irving B. Harrison. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:563-564.

    Werman, D.S. (1989). Virginia Woolf and the “Lust of Creation.” a Psychoanalytic Exploration: By Shirley Panken. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987. 336 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 58:131-134.

    Werman, D.S. (1989). James Ensor, and the Attachment to Place. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 16:287-295.

    Werman, D.S. (1990). Addendum to the Review of Dr. Shirley Panken’s Book, Virginia Woolf and the “Lust of Creation”: A Psychoanalytic Exploration: Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987. 336 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:102.

    Werman, D.S. (1993). Edgar Allan Poe, James Ensor, and the Psychology of Revenge. Ann. Psychoanal., 21:301-314.

    Werman, D.S. (1993). Fifth IPA Conference of Training Analysts. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1271.

    Werman, D.S. (1995). Psychotherapy: The Analytic Approach.: Edited by Morton J. Aronson, M.D. and Melvin A. Scharfman, M.D. Northvale, NJ/London: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1992. 376 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 64:791-796.

    Werman, D.S. (1997). Psychoanalysis: the Basic Concepts. : Edited by Burness E. Moore and Bernard D. Fine. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1995. Pp. 577.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:170-173.

    Werman, D.S. (1998). Film Reviews Guest Editorial. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:387-388.

    Werman, D.S., Guilbert, Y. (1998). Freud, Yvette Guilbert, and the Psychology of Performance: A Biographical Note. Psychoanal. Rev., 85:399-412

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