When I was a little kid, I thought my uncle was hysterical. He told no jokes, but he didn’t treat me like a kid, either. He was always a problem for the rest of the family. At one point, my mother told me, “If people in suits come looking for your uncle, you don’t know where he lives.” Actually, he lived down the block. My uncle always had a job but never seemed to be working.
In the lead up to our anniversary issue, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Arnold Richards. A recipient of the 2000 Mary S. Sigourney Award and the 2013 Hans W. Loewald Memorial Award, Dr. Richards is a leading figure in the democratization of psychoanalysis and in bringing psychoanalysis to the world at large.
When I was a child in the Bronx in the 1940s, whenever a plan for the future was proposed, it would be followed by the phrase
“after the war.” My parents would say, “after the war” my father would quit Ritz radio and start his own business.
And then it was over. yes, he was finally impeached. >>> No, despite his claims to the contrary, he was not exonerated.
Today, we may be facing that same crisis, a different kind of sudden death. I feel both too old, at thirty-four, and not old enough to see history repeat itself.
There was no way I could have known when I went to Germany to interview the descendants of perpetrators of the Holocaust for my film Afterward that this journey would take the form of a personal analysis. On the surface, I wanted to rid myself of my hatred for these Germans, who had done nothing wrong but whose ancestors tried to kill my people. I wanted to stop the cycle of hate
and othering before I passed it on to my own sons, to the next generation.
If the usual formula is that the negative affects hide in positive speech, overtly racist discourse flips the polarity, but the possibility that a racist discourse might hide a forbidden love, sexuality, or attachment is all too often ignored in clinical treatments that have been published.
Psychoanalysis—the word hung in my mind like a revelation. People could tune in to one another, literally the other (“al otro”), like a frequency. And when we’re on the same frequency, understanding can happen. And just like that, on a patio resting under the shadow of a great mango tree, psychoanalysis was born in Puerto Rico. At least, as far as my eight-year-old mind was concerned.
The term “analytic action” assumes new complexity when we use it to enhance meaningful discourse about our unsettling and turbulent political reality. It opens doors to the possibility of kindling a deeper connection to parts of our psychoanalytic heritage, such as Freud’s free clinic movement. It brings to mind concerns expressed by early psychoanalysts Otto Fenichel, Wilhelm Reich, and Erich Fromm about the way sick societies produce troubled minds. Most importantly, it introduces two pressing questions. First, what issues occurring outside the consulting room demand analytic action? Second, what renders “action” outside the consulting room “analytic”?
Think back, if you will, to the halcyon days of the Reagan regime, with the Great Communicator’s elaborate economic agenda he called “trickle-down economics.” The alleged benefits never trickled down to most of us, and we know now that the whole thing was little more than a hoax disguising further wealth distribution upward. (We’ll put aside, for now, the fact that the current administration has once again duped the nation and resurrected this bogus plan with its recent tax cuts and other deep discounts for the wealthy and superwealthy.)