I’ve just finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. As a psychoanalyst I found his story totally compelling, but for reasons different from those you might expect. My interest was not in trying to understand what made him tick. It had more to do with the way he ticked, and how he got everyone to tick along with him. Apple is the most successful business in the world. On the other hand, psychoanalysis is perpetually beleagured and, in the view of many, one step away from extinction. I found myself wishing that Mr. Jobs was still around, so that I could request a business consultation. But I’m inspired to provide it for myself, on his behalf. So here goes:
Steve Jobs was on a life mission to combine art and technology to create astonishing products like the Macbook Pro I am using to write this piece. He was guided in his efforts by certain core principles that found expression in everything he touched. Among these were an insistence on making things of the highest quality, a refusal to cut corners just to make more sales, and a determination to focus on projects that would change the human experience in fundamental ways. “Think Different,” he told us. In fact, he got us to do just that., even those of us whose first impulse was to run away from computers.
Well, I know this may seem like a stretch- but we psychoanalysts really do attempt to combine art and science to do something extraordinary for our patients. And we, too, hold fast to the core principles of approaching problems in a deep and thorough way, rejecting superficial quick fixes in our efforts to help our patients achieve a different experience of life. In fact, Psychoanalysis is the "think different" enterprise par excellence. We're the field that deals with the unconscious. No one else does this-at least, consciously. And everyone from columnist David Brooks (“The Social Animal” ) to Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman ( “Thinking Fast and Slow”) is coming to realize that this is where the action is.
Mental health treatment is big business, whether we like it or not. As a big business it’s become dominated by large organizations whose mission is to provide services based on cost effectiveness and maximal profit. In this world (and I could make the same argument regarding medicine as a whole), sales has taken precedence over the quality of the product. Except for Psychoanalysis, where, like in Apple, the product comes first. Our product is the unique relational setting we attempt to provide and protect for our patients.
Oh- and one final thing (that’s how Jobs used to introduce his latest and greatest inventions) This week the American Psychoanalytic Association will be holding it’s 101st Annual Meeting right here in Chicago, at the Palmer House Hilton on Monroe and Wabash . I am very excited to have my colleagues share in the delights of our wonderful city, and I know that our great town will provide a welcoming setting for a creative meeting of the minds,. While we won’t be rolling out any new technology like iPods, iPhones or iPADS, we psychoanalysts do live very close to “the intersection of the Liberal Arts and Technology,” where Jobs built a home for Apple. In our case, it’s where “I” meets “me.”
Please forward to the Apple human resources department.