When I was a boy I wanted to be a super hero with special powers that I could use to save humanity. Well, life doesn't always turn out the way you plan it. Or does it?
May 9 marks the 100th anniversary of the American Psychoanalytic Association, my professional organization. APsaA was conceived in liberty a year after Freud's first and only trip to America, and dedicated to the proposition that it is good to talk about your feelings. Now we who have committed ourselves to this enterprise are engaged in a battle to keep talk therapy alive, against social and cultural forces that make Lex Luthor and the Joker look pretty tame by comparison. We are fighting for nothing less than the survival of humanity- at least, as we know it. Before Darwinian forces turn the human larynx into a vestigial organ, in favor of digits more favorably adapted for computer gaming and related endeavors.
While violins and cellos have their upside, the larynx is the instrument of human self expression par excellence. The evolution of the human larynx transformed our hominid ancestors into creatures who could produce articulate speech, giving us words, in all their varied splendor. While it may seem hard to believe that it is beneficial to one's health to put one's emotions into words- sometimes it's the most simple things have the most profound impact. And that's what we've found over and over again, as talking therapy has provided an alternative route to communicate pain otherwise expressed through a myriad of physical symptoms that our bodies generate to convey what is going on inside of us.
Of course, just as it doesn't really matter if a tree falling in the forest makes a sound or not if there's no one to hear it, talking about one's feelings doesn't do much unless there's someone listening. For over 100 years, we who practice what Freud called an "impossible profession" have devoted our best efforts to listening to what our patients tell us. What they have told us is how badly they wanted to be listened to by significant others throughout their lives, and we have learned a lot about how the absence of such listening can do serious damage to human development- just as it's availability can do so much to promote it. So, aside from being champions and protectors of the larynx, we are the guardians of the human ear, doing all we can to keep it from defaulting into a usb port dedicated to downloads and streaming from Apple products yet to be invented.
So on May 9, please take a moment to take a deeper look at psychoanalysis. Think about APsaA. Check out it's website. And learn about our local branch, the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society, as well as our local treasure, the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, which has been training psychoanalytically informed clinicians since 1932. The future of humanity is at stake. At least, as far as the larynx and the ear are part of the design.