The future of psychoanalytic education:thoughts on exclusion.
Jane S. Hall
August is a time for rest and relaxation for many psychoanalysts. For me, a time to read, write, enjoy, and to realize that life continues after loss. This short essay is my way to connect and also to share some thoughts about the future of institutional psychoanalytic education which I believe holds the present and future life of psychoanalysis in its hands.
Awhile ago I started to explore the roots of exclusionary practices and how prevalent they are in our lives. The whole world seems engaged in one form of exclusion or another, making the planet a more dangerous place due to our advanced weaponry. Probably based on greed and envy, common human traits we share to varying degrees, these deadly sins seem to plague psychoanalytic institutions too.
Exclusion is the first thing that happens to us all. Pushed out of a safe, comfortable womb where nothing was expected of us, we are forced to face the world.
After a period of time, we are denied the breast or bottle that gave us that blissful feeling of oneness. Some babies graduated to the cup with ease or at least we adults liked to see it that way. And we will never really know if part of the infants willingness was based on the wish to please and the praise involved.
Next we had to face excluding a part of ourselves by using the toilet.
Then, off to school most of us went – feeling a mixture of excitement and exclusion from our own homes.
During those early years we all felt excluded by our parents who did things together that left us out. Sometimes siblings took their attention, leaving us with less.
And so it all began.
No matter how gentle or difficult those first years were – we were excluded since day one and it left its mark. These exclusions are inevitible.
We marvel at our toddlers who take huge delight in exerting their independence but, hopefully, always with mother in sight. The child’s love affair with the world is accompanied by the pull to the safety of merger. Conflict is born.
Adam and Eve expelled from the garden of Eden are prototypes. Biting the apple (infant biting the breast?) propelled them forward consequently excluding them from that heavenly special place.
Life is necessarily built on exclusion and we repeat it over and over in amazing, sometimes creative, sometimes cruel ways.
Need I list the ways?
Clubs, cliques, frats, classes, farmer in the dell with the cheese standing alone, circle games, teams, all hierarchies, nations, contests, spelling bees, dog shows, horse shows, gymnastics, olympics, segregated public bathrooms, country clubs, political parties, organized crime and disorganized brutality, religions, all in the service of overcoming the loneliness of exclusion while at the same time excluding others. Our lives are repetitions of the original exclusions. One team has to win. We develop sportsmanship or we bear grudges. And we learn that aggression serves separation. But we also know that libido binds and I wonder how comfortable we are with our loving natures. Perhaps the original exclusion is the template for life.
People adjust to exclusion in various ways. Those whose exclusions were tempered by steady, empathic love are less prone to exclude others in hurtful ways. Those who felt prized by one parent over the other, or felt like a favored child, or teacher’s pet pay the price with entitlement, and guilt, sometimes covered by egotism. And those who were traumatized by exclusion find ways to retreat completely or to wreak vengeance.
I am not suggesting that the world order be any different because we all share the effects of primary exclusion. But I wonder if we become more aware, we can willfully soften some of our practices. As psychoanalysts we should understand the hurt of exclusion. Do you remember what it felt like as a kid to be chosen to be on a team or how painful it was not to be? It had nothing to do with winning after you were on the team – it was the feeling of inclusion that mattered most.
I would like to offer a few ideas that might effectively make psychoanalytic institutes thrive by lessening their exclusionary practices, practices that often do more harm than good.
• Committee formation: abide by term limits. Holding on to a committee is injurious to those who are interested and skilled and have new ideas. Rotate by alternating membership of committee members and chairs so that old members can pass along their experience while listening to newer members. Fiefdoms injure institutes.
• Encourage those who are interested in education by seeking and welcoming their new ideas. Open all study groups to all interested.
• Sunset the training analyst category by honoring experience in practicing and supervising psychoanalysis. Change the concept of analyzability to connectibility. Change ‘training’ to education. Change ‘control’ cases to learning cases. Respect students, do not infantilize. Why are we so militaristic and top down in this day and age?
• Create on-line, interactive journals or newsletters where interested parties can post opinions, letters to the editor, op ed pieces, and articles, of course with guidelines. (a money saver)
• Express appreciation to past presidents, officers, chairs of committees, and office staffers with annual parties where their achievements can be toasted. Criticism can be replaced by gratitude. This June, CFS honored its past presidents at the graduation ceremony.
• Make sure that evaluative committee members often called progression committees serve for two years maximum. Create rotating committees on education. Here is especially where chairs can rotate off so that new people can participate.
• Welcome and interact with other institutes in order to expand ideas.
• Last but certainly not least, change prevailing atmospheres from measurement to generativity, from isolationism to inclusivity, from hierarchy to democracy, from superiority to humility, from the insistence on being right to the agreement that there is no right, from complacency to searching; and always exercising patience, tact and manners.
These are just a few things that would improve morale at all psychoanalytic institutes in my opinion – and good morale inspires growth. If psychoanalysis is to survive, a new ethos must be embraced – one that centers on inclusivity and generosity. Clinging to old is sure to sink the profession.
A quote speaks to this topic: “The middle path makes me wary. . . . But in the middle of my life, I am coming to see the middle path as a walk with wisdom where conversations of complexity can be found, that the middle path is the path of movement. . . . In the right and left worlds, the stories are largely set. . . . We become missionaries for a position . . . practitioners of the missionary position. Variety is lost. Diversity is lost. Creativity is lost in our inability to make love with the world.” by Terry Tempest Williams.
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