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The Unsung Psychoanalyst

The Unsung Psychoanalyst: The Quiet Influence of Ruth Easser

Mary Kay O’Neil
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 240
  • Book Info
    The Unsung Psychoanalyst
    Book Description:

    While there are many books on psychoanalysis, few address what it is like to live one's life as a psychoanalyst.The Unsung Psychoanalystfocuses on the challenges, tragedies, and rewards of a psychoanalytic life using as an example the pioneering and prescient Canadian analyst Ruth Easser (1922?1975). Gifted as a clinician and teacher, Easser had a formative influence in New York and Toronto on a generation of psychoanalysts, many of whom are today's leaders in the field.

    Based on interviews with more than thirty of Easser's teachers, colleagues, students, analysands, family and friends, and a review of her papers, Mary Kay O'Neil builds a portrait of life as a psychoanalyst. The author traces as well some of the developments of psychoanalytic thought during the past fifty years.

    The Unsung Psychoanalysttouches on the founding and growth of New York's Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, and on the development of the Toronto Psychoanalytic Society and Institute where Easser taught during the last five years of her life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8251-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)

    Psychoanalysis was described by Sigmund Freud as one of the ‘impossible’ professions, along with teaching and government. Psychoanalysis has also been a rather mysterious profession. A variety of mystiques and idealizations have grown up around the process of psychoanalysis and the person of the psychoanalyst. Awe, envy, anger, dread, longing, and many other profound emotions have been aroused by the image of the all-knowing, silent, impenetrable, immovable, powerful psychoanalyst ‘who could read one’s mind,’ knew the meaning of one’s dreams, and could relieve one’s personal agonies. The many psychoanalytic jokes and cartoons that have been a mainstay of middle-class humour...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    This book is about psychoanalysts. It is about the unsung psychoanalysts and their careers. It is about living one’s professional life as a psychoanalyst.

    It is about beginning, becoming, being, and integrating as a psychoanalyst. It is about people who happen to be psychoanalysts, about their social and cultural context, the time and place within which they live and work, about the passing of knowledge, the psychoanalytic legacy from one generation to the next. It is about the professional heritage of psychoanalysts. It is about their future and the future of their profession.

    This book is written first for today’s...

  6. 1 Beginning: The Background
    (pp. 14-59)

    Our psyche is the essence of ourselves as human beings, and our personality the expression of ourselves as individuals. From the beginning we have tried to understand our life experiences, our thoughts, our feelings and passions, our behaviour, in our quest to fathom how our minds work. Psychoanalysis is one among our many groping efforts towards understanding this essence of ourselves. Psychoanalysis was born out of struggles to comprehend illness of the mind of which confused thoughts and painful emotions are not the only manifestations. Behavioural and bodily changes can also be expressions of mental illness, and they account for...

  7. 2 Becoming
    (pp. 60-100)

    By its nature, psychoanalysis cannot be learned or practised in isolation. Psychoanalysis involves relational attachments: attachments in the mind and attachments in external reality. Attachments imply external and internal needs, physical and emotional needs; knowledge of self and of others, similarities and distinction of self from others; communication; boundaries, boundaries to be maintained, boundaries to be crossed. Some attachments remain stable, while others do not; some flourish, some are just there, some are stifled, some destroyed, others are lost. Many develop in complexity and depth, others are superficial and merely functional. Psychoanalytic attachments are both professional and personal and uniquely...

  8. 3 Being
    (pp. 101-170)

    Beginninginvolves choosing, being chosen, and training to become a psychoanalyst.Becominginvolves doing the work of psychoanalysis through attachments, that is, through professional and personal relationships which form the basis for being a psychoanalyst.Beinginvolves the gradual unfurling of a psychoanalyst’s way of thinking and working. InBeginning, hopes, dreams, and efforts to achieve the status of psychoanalyst are realized. InBecoming, the psychoanalyst as therapist emerges. Having passed through the striving of beginning and the elation and trepidation of becoming, the next challenge is to settle intoBeinga psychoanalyst, into carving out a career, a professional...

  9. 4 Integration
    (pp. 171-198)

    Integration in a psychoanalyst’s life involves, among other things, merging one’s work with one’s sense of self. It means living with contradiction, inconsistency, and incongruity; working with ambiguity, dilemmas, and puzzles. Alignment of work with self is prerequisite for maintaining effectiveness, work satisfaction, and ultimately, integration. Anthony Storr believes that ‘work especially of a creative kind which changes, progresses, and deepens over the years can provide the integrating factor within the personality.’¹

    Integration of one’s work with one’s sense of self is a process that takes place over time. Several variations of this theme emerge as being of particular relevance...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 199-208)

    Ruth Easser did not and could not tell her own story. This is not the story of her life as an individual but the story of an image of her life as a psychoanalyst in the minds of others. What of the reality of this image as example? Arnold Modell refers to Freud’s deep insight that memory is retranscribed in accordance with later experience. His understanding of Freud’s concept ofNachträglichkeitwas ’influenced by the novelist Italo Calvino, who examined the significance of levels of reality in literature and made the importantobservation that each level of reality acts upon...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 209-210)

    I am one of the beneficiaries of Barbara Ruth Easser’s quiet genius. Senior to me by fourteen years, she was my psychotherapy supervisor during my psychiatric residency, then my psychoanalytic teacher and supervisor during my psychoanalytic candidacy, ultimately a friend and colleague, and always a mentor. When I began to teach and supervise, she was a powerful model. As a result, my students and supervisees are also the beneficiaries of her genius; most know of her through my accounts of experiences with her and with the patients she supervised.

    That is the way it has always been in psychoanalysis. The...

  12. Appendix 1: Collected Papers of Ruth Easser
    (pp. 211-214)
  13. Appendix 2: Interviews
    (pp. 215-218)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 219-234)
  15. References
    (pp. 235-240)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-250)