Leading historians of psychoanalysis and cultural history interpret the rise and fall of psychoanalysis amid twentieth century American cultural, social, and intellectual movements. Beginning in the introduction with the premise that, ”ideas have consequences,” the essays explore the impact of Freud’s new science on American institutions and society, and the effect that American practitioners had on psychoanalysis.
The book is most interesting for what it implies about America and Americans. Many of the essays seek to understand the rapid popularity of psychoanalysis in the United States. Freud’s only visit to America, a conference at Clark University in 1909, is re-examined closely, and three of the essays discuss the accepted belief that Freud considered Americans to be greedy materialists and sexual hypocrites. The authors point out that some of these opinions were common prejudices of cultivated Europeans, and that Freud also believed America would be an important source of financial support for psychoanalysis.
George Makari writes about how after World War I the leadership of the movement devolved from Sigmund Freud to four centers of psychoanalysis; London, Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest. At the same time, in the opinion of most European psychoanalysts, Americans seemed to produce little original work.
Elizabeth Lunbeck explains how Heinz Kohut Americanized Freud by challenging the primacy of drive theory. Other essays deal with the “age of anxiety” and anxiety over the cold war and totalitarianism, i.e. “can it happen here?”
Regarding the decline of psychoanalysis in the 1980s, Dorothy Ross relates psychoanalysis with modernism and writes, “When modernism was appropriated by a radical, political and cultural left, the intellectual class was splintered, weakening the authority of modernism and opening the way for a retreat from Freudian ideas.”
This book is recommended because readers will find fresh opinions and new material from previously explored and unexplored sources.
Daniels, Lucy. With a Woman’s Voice: A Writer’s Struggle for Emotional Freedom. Madison Books, 2001
This deeply detailed memoir examines an adolescent’s painful struggle to overcome anorexia and break out of an oppressive relationship with her parents. Lucy Daniels, who spent her high school years confined in a mental hospital, where she endured force feedings and ECT, finally triumphs over anorexia, leaves the hospital, and publishes a novel.
Caleb My Son, which she wrote during her hospitalization, won a Guggenheim Fellowship and was a New York Times bestseller. This was followed by High On A Hill, a fictionalized account of life in a mental hospital. The trajectory of her life may have changed, but there were still frightening experiences to endure and crippling emotions that held her back.
Shortly after her discharge, Daniels reached out to psychoanalysis and held onto it against her parents’ wishes because she believed it was the only treatment that would help her to understand her shame, guilt and fear. Because her parents had always wanted her to be a writer, she gives it up and turns instead to marriage, children, and a career as a clinical psychologist.
This is an intimate narrative, grounded in psychoanalytic terms, in which the details of formative childhood experiences are fully revealed in a novelist’s style. Insights that lead to gradual changes in the narrator’s identity from victim to healer are found in dream interpretations, and reconstructed dialogues with her psychoanalyst. The profound societal changes that took place in the 50s, 60s and 70s make up the background of Lucy Daniels’ story. The reader can recognize in her story the growing acceptance of psychoanalysis, the de-institutionalization and greater understanding of the mentally ill, and the women’s liberation movement with its re-examination of gender roles.
Although Lucy Daniels did not train to become a psychoanalyst, for her contributions to the field, she was named a Distinguished Friend of Psychoanalysis by the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1991.
Grosz, Stephen. The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves. W.W. Norton & Co., 2013
Stephen Grosz is a practicing psychoanalyst and a storyteller. The stories in The Examined Life, his first book, revolve around universal life situations: love, loss, change, lies, envy. Reviewers of this book describe the case vignettes as “deceptively simple,” “illuminating fiction,” “miniature detective stories.” They depict both common and uncommon behaviors of people in therapy, without jargon or heavy theorizing. There are no footnotes or citations in the text. If the reader wants an academic discussion of the content there is a handy appendix with references to the Standard Edition and psychoanalytic journal articles.
Grosz’s skilled synthesizing and re-telling of the stories he has heard over 25 years of psychoanalytic practice shows us that the therapist may also be changed in the process of talking and listening to patients. Readers who are interested in psychodynamic case studies, will find this book easy to take up and hard to put down.