Last Sunday evening friends of the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center assembled to discuss the movie about Fred Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” directed by Morgan Neville. CPC faculty member and child psychoanalyst Joanne Naegele led the discussion. If you have something you would like to say about the movie or Joanne’s remarks, we invite you to comment below.
Ms. Naegele’s Introductory Remarks:
When I first saw the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” it blew me away. I had read A.O.Scott’s review in the New York Times and I was curious. I did not grow up with Fred Rogers. He came after my childhood, when I was an adult. But, of course, I knew about Mr. Rogers.
The first broadcast was in 1968 on Station WQED-TV, in Pittsburgh. Thereafter small children were glued to the long-running PBS Program “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” focused on the total acceptance they felt looking at the face of Mr. Rogers, listening to his songs, seeing his puppets, especially Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat, and loving the ordinariness of Mr. Rogers’ routine: strolling in, going to the closet, taking off his jacket, putting on a sweater, changing from his loafers into his tennis shoes, feeding his fish and singing.
When Academy Award-winning film-maker Morgan Neville began work on a documentary about Fred Rogers a couple of years ago, he said he needed to try to figure out who Fred Rogers was as a man. Where did Mr. Rogers end and Fred Rogers begin? As it turns out they were one and the same genuine human being. Fred Rogers was a classically trained musician, a composer who could relax by playing the piano. He could express his feelings by putting feelings to music. He was a puppeteer, an ordained Presbyterian minister, devoted husband to Joanne, father of two boys, John and James who as adults are in this movie, making comments. In his career he won a Peabody award, four Emmys and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him in 2002 by George W. Bush for his work with a national audience to educate children.
I had not previously known that Fred Rogers was an ordained minister. He was a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in 1963. When he heard about television, before he had even seen a television, he thought television and reaching the inner life of children might be his ministry. A creative man he was, someone who thought out-of-the box! Born Fred McFeely Rogers, March 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pa. he died February 27, 2003 of stomach cancer, a month short of his 75th birthday. He recorded 895 episodes of his show, “Won’t you be my Neighbor.” These taped episodes are available at his foundation now named Fred Rogers Productions. The Fred Rogers Company was founded in 1971 and it was the nonprofit producer of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood for PBS.
I did not know how carefully he prepared for each program. Each program had a theme important in the life of children—there was a week on death, on assassination when Bobby Kennedy was killed, on divorce, on the Vietnam war, on prejudice which he introduced by his white feet and Officer Francois Clemmons’ brown feet being in a kiddy pool together. They cooled off their feet in the same tiny pool. They shared a towel to wipe off their feet. This was at a time when integration in swimming pools was a “no-no,” and swimming pools were being drained if a black person went in it, to cleanse it for the “white” folks. The message could not have been clearer: tolerance, acceptance, every person is a person who deserves respect because they exist. He even tackled the question of his tiger puppet, Daniel, who sang, “Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mistake.” It was beautiful dialogue and singing, that allowed for not only reassurance but for the persistence of doubt and ambivalence—just as these episodes played out in the inner life of Fred Rogers. (David Brooks in the New York Times identifies that the tiger puppet stood in for Rogers’ inner child.) These conflicts play out in the real lives of our patients, who take lifetimes to come to terms with them. In the world of Mr. Rogers, problems are not “whitewashed” but worked out patiently, conscientiously and it takes time.
His message was children have deep feelings just the way everyone does. “Won’t you be my neighbor” translated into an invitation for someone to be close to, to let each child know that they are loved and are capable of loving.
Why was I so moved by this documentary? As a psychoanalyst for the past fifty years, getting trained first as a child psychoanalyst then moving to include adult psychoanalytic patients as well, I work on these very issues with individual patients. I help teach and train the next generation of analysts. It is endlessly interesting and challenging. I have a lifetime of clinical experience of people confronting their life experiences with adoption, death (think of Erna Furman’s book A Child’s Parent Dies), identity issues, (“Who am I? Was I a mistake?”) challenges in loving their own newborn child, (think of Selma Fraiberg’s paper, “Ghosts in the Nursery.”), fears which cause undo restrictions, anxieties. I have come to value the importance of stuffed animals and the use young children make of them to tell us how they are. (See Winnicott, 1953, “Transitional Objects & Transitional Phenomena- A Study of the First Not-Me Possession”) I would like to hear of parallel experiences from those who work clinically with patients.
Lastly, how did Fred Rogers get to be Fred Rogers? One part of it is that he remembered, with affect, his feelings about his early childhood experiences. Revealed in this documentary is the history that Fred was often ill as a child, and spent lonely hours in his bed. But he made the blankets of his bed into mountains and with his play figures and puppets he had imaginary adventures. This translates for him, into a life’s work talking to children, valuing each child as he wished he had been valued. This translates into Daniel the striped tiger, a people-loving creature who lived inside of a cuckoo clock. This translates into King Friday XIII, and the little trolley that went around the neighborhood and Rogers’ testimony in 1969 to John O. Pastore, Chairman of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. He gave an example of how he works directly with children…Rogers makes feelings “mentionable and manageable” and he gave him an example of a question a child asked him: “What do you do with the mad that you feel…when you feel so mad you could bite.’’ He goes on to say that you can stop. You can take control.…” This was when they wanted to cut ten million dollars from public television. And in just six minutes of testimony by Fred Rogers, he got the twenty million dollars restored to Public Television.
This completes Joanne’s remarks. If you enjoyed the discussion we would love to hear from you. Click on “leave a comment.”
On June 19, 2018 Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center voted unanimously to pass a resolution to condemn the practice of our government to forcibly separate children from their parents. Also, our Center formed a Social Responsiveness Committee to address the issue of government’s child abuse and human rights violation when they forcibly separate children from their parents or families and or lie or distort the facts in the press.
Our center and its members joined other organizations in the country like the Association for Child Psychoanalysis, the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) and Div 39 of the American Psychological Association (APA) among them, to protest and influence our government to stop these inhumane practices.
Dr. Justine Kalas Reeves, speaking on behalf of child therapists members of the Association for Child Psychoanalysis about forcibly separating children from their parents, wrote: “The quickest way to hurt a child is to separate him or her from caretaking parents (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980; Freud, A., 1941; Rutter, 2002). Our country’s child protection laws protect this basic human right of children and parents to stay together unless there is evidence of harm in the parent-child relationship. Likewise, most religions also consider the parent-child relationship sacrosanct. Slavery, mandatory boarding schools for native Americans or internment of the Japaneseforced separations of children and parents and in so doing dehumanized these groups.
Parents are severely harmed by this as well, as in the father so devastated by separation from his child and wife he took his life. The border patrol who wondered why Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, would commit suicide and never see his family again failed to recognize that children and parents alike suffer profound psychological and physiological separation distress that can be fatal. The image of the two-year old Honduran girl in the red top crying as her mother is searched in McAllen, Texas has brought tears to the world’s eyes. The inconsolable two-year old described at a facility where they are not allowed to touch the childis evidence of toxic trauma wrought by these forced separations (Freud, A., 1972).
Spitz showed that children who are not touched can die (1951). We are not like machines that just need any old electrical outlet to run; we are highly programmed to be in close physical contact with caregiving figures, and the food, ministrations, cleaning, clothing and comfort provided by those caregiving parents go together with this caring figure. An infant who loses his or her mother but gets formula and clothes is nonetheless a starving infant. Though older children with speech and the ability to hold in mind that they will see said parent again can survive separations, they too will suffer profoundly if they are given no information as to when next they will see a parent. Older children and adolescents are still highly psychologically dependent on parents for their physical and mental well-being. By law, the first eighteen years of a child’s life are protected from forced separations from parents in this country. It is imperative that infants, toddlers, school-aged children, including adolescents, and their parents have this most basic human right inviolate to effectively protect physical and psychological health.
Other therapists added their voices and images, like Phillip Hirshenfeld’s photos.
Children cannot wait for changes in legislation. Separating children from parents, parents from children, and compelling government workers to do it has to stop now.
From research on the transgenerational transfer of trauma, it is clear, such governmental practices will leave a permanent mark on this generation and future generations not just of immigrants and their children, nor just workers and their children, but may influence all of the children who will respond with terror to the news, see or hear of their parents’ explicit or hidden responses. Lenore Terr studied in 1977 the impact of child abduction on children, their families, and the community when 26 children were abducted in California. Studies of the Chowchilla children published in her book Too Scared to Cry showed that the impact of trauma is very broad and may affect even those who were just hearing the story of abduction.
Gabriele Schwab wrote in Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma of the haunting legacy of trauma of children of perpetrators. She explored trouble with idealization of politics, of government, and of family members and not facing the reality of loss of faith in their capacity for compassion and respect for rights of others. She described how having a perpetrator in the family or belonging to a nation perpetrating violations of human rights affects identity formation derived from guilt, shame and mortification. Shame and mortification leads to hiding. The identity formation that allows continuous lies and secrets due to inability to save face, leads to hiding for generations. The question which one of us or which group of us are despicable, who are “good” people and who are evil is present in our daily life on the streets, at the borders of our country and in our families. The particular forms in troubled identity formation described by Dr. Schwab have to do with emotional conflicts over ethnic, cultural or national interpellations. We are in the middle of a crisis of anti-black, anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant feelings, just to name a few. She brings forth Althusser’s definition of interpellation as the lumping together of subjects into specific cultural, political or legal positions. In other words there is no such thing as different race; all human beings are Homo Sapiens. However, if we walk down the street and hear the policeman say, “Hey, stop immediately!” or we see a police car behind us with lights flashing we feel interpellated in the same way as a criminal would even if we have never committed a crime, if we are not black, Muslim or an immigrant.
President Trump signed the order to stop policies to separate children from parents, but did not comment on how 2500 children will be reunited with their families and how our government will begin reparations and/or stop inhumane immigration policies. For all our children there is no time, it has to happen now. Adults have to do the work in a short foreseeable future.
Bowlby J (1999) . Attachment. Attachment and Loss (vol. 1) (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00543-8. LCC N 00266879. OCLC 11442968. NLM 8412414.
Bowlby J (1973). Separation: Anxiety & Anger. Attachment and Loss (vol. 2); (International psycho-analytical library no.95). London: Hogarth Press. ISBN 0-7126-6621-4. OCL C 8353942.
Bowlby J (1980). Loss: Sadness & Depression. Attachment and Loss (vol. 3); (International psycho-analytical library no.109). London: Hogarth Press. ISBN 0-465-04238-4. OCL C 59246032
Freud, A. (1972). Comments on Aggression. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:163-171
Rutter, M.(2002). “Nature, Nurture, and Development: From Evangelism through Science toward Policy and Practice”. Child Development. 73 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1111/1467-8624. 00388. PMID 14717240.
Spitz, R.A. (1951). The Psychogenic Diseases in Infancy—An Attempt at their Etiologic Classification. Psychoanal. St. Child, 6:255-275
Washington Post, May 31, 2018: ” ‘Barbaric’: America’s cruel history of separating children from their parents,” by DeNeen Brown.
Washington Post, June 9, 2018: “A Famly was separated at the border, and this distraught father took his own life” by Nick Miroff.
New York Times, June 16, 2018: “How Trump Came to Enforce a Practice of Separating Migrant Families,” by Julie Hirschfeld David and Michael D. Shear.
Washington Post, June 16, 2018: “ ‘America is better than this’: what a doctor saw in a Texas shelter for migrant children,” by Kristine Phillips.
The Association for Child Psychoanalysis offered this text to send by email, FAX, or phone message to your congressman and senator.
Please feel free to copy and change it as needed.
Use Find My Representative or How To Contact Your Elected Officials to obtain your representative’s name and contact information.
Here is the suggested text:
This is _________ your constituent from (city or zip code)
I am contacting you to express my deep concern and outrage about the current administration’s new policy of forcefully separating young children from their parents at our Southern border. Tearing children from the arms of their parents and sending them to unknown locations is a form of child abuse and torture. It is also cruel and abusive to the parents who are often looking to get out of poverty or for an asylum to save their lives and the lives of their children.
As a child and adolescent psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist (state your particular discipline) and (psychoanalyst when applicable) with over XX years of experience treating youngsters and their families and teaching child development and child psychotherapy I and my colleagues know that this type of separation causes children shock and unbearable fear, with anguish and depression for the rest of their lives. It has a similar effect on the workers who separate children from their parents or take care of them as caretakers and it is called in adulthood “burn out syndrome.”
Child development research on attachment and loss (see for example John Bowlby 1973) has conclusively demonstrated that young children who were separated from their parents abruptly for even a few days, or weeks suffer from lifelong post-traumatic stress disorder. Having been traumatized they often struggle with chronic anxiety, depression, night terrors, and bed wetting. They develop significant difficulties concentrating, playing, learning, and forming trusting relationships with others. Feeling deeply betrayed and abandoned they may harden and over time become antisocial as a result.
I strongly urge you to do whatever is in your power to end this immoral policy that is destroying the lives of innocent parents and their children.
A recent post on PsychologyToday.com entitled “Revisiting Child Psychoanalysis,” asks the question, “Why are young children in therapy without their parents?” The author, Claudia Gold, MD, a child analyst, was prompted to write the article after attending a presentation and panel discussion at the 2018 APsaA convention. This particular program, “The Name of the Piggle,” was organized by CPC faculty member Dr. Vera Camden, and was a reconsideration of D.W. Winnicott’s famous case study on the analysis of a little girl nicknamed “The Piggle.”
The program, a presentation by Deborah Luepnitz with a response by Justine Reeves, included past interviews with the grown up Piggle, whose real name is Gabrielle. Having read “The Piggle” Dr. Gold knew that Gabrielle’s mother did not accompany her to sessions with Dr. Winnicott, so she inquired of the presenters, why not? This led to a debate about the advisability of parental involvement in child analysis. In the article Dr. Gold presents a case of her own that illustrates the utility of treating the parent and child together, and in the following quote from the article she summarizes some of the supporting research.
But contemporary developmental science offers abundant evidence of the value of treating parent and child together. Arietta Slade’s compelling work illuminates the role of facilitating parental reflective functioning as I describe in my book, Keeping Your Child in Mind. Ed Tronick’s mutual regulation model, which he developed out of decades of observational research with infants and parents, shows us that healing and growth occur by repairing the countless moment-to-moment mismatches in the relationship between child and caregiver.
Dr. Gold concludes that Winnicott saw Gabrielle alone because that is how adult psychoanalysis is conducted, and at that time, practitioners were concerned that child analysis be considered true analysis.
Continuing education at the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center seeks to provide the mental health community with a number of stimulating and thoughtful programs designed to enhance clinical skills and clinical understanding. Programs include lectures by prominent psychoanalysts, courses for clinicians, and special topic seminars. Following is a list of upcoming programs.
Saturday, March 24, 2018
“The Pragmatic Psychodynamic Approach To Couples Therapy”
Terry Tobias, Ph.D., Psychologist
For licensed professionals only
9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
3 CEUs included
Cost : $90.00 CPC members, $105.00 non-members, $30.00 students with ID
Saturday, May 12, 2018
“A Discussion Of Current Perspectives On Clinical Practice From An Intersubjective View Point”
Kim Thompson, Ph.D., LISW, Social Worker
9:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.
3 CEU’s included
Cost : $90.00 CPC members, $105.00 non-members, $30.00 students with ID
Saturday, June 9, 2018
“Understanding And Misunderstanding Perversions”
Devra Adelstein, MSW, LISW-S, Child, Adolescent Psychoanalyst, Adult Psychotherapist
Judith Pitlick, MA, LPCC, Child, Adolescent, Adult Psychoanalyst
9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
3 CEU’s included
Cost : $90.00 CPC members, $105.00 non-members, $30.00 students with ID
Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center
Heights Medical Building
2460 Fairmount Blvd. Suite 312
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44106
Parking in rear of building
Online registration is available, please visit our website at psychoanalysiscleveland.org under the Continuing Education tab or contact:
Mrs. Deborah Morse, Administrative Coordinator
216 229-5959 x103 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Please visit our website at psychoanalysiscleveland.org for additional information about our workshops and the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center.