The Ghosts of Christmas: Was Scrooge the First Psychotherapy Patient?

For much of my adult life, I believed, inaccurately, that I knew the story of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”—that I remembered it from childhood. It was about a miser called Ebenezer Scrooge who, when wished a “Merry Christmas,” always said, “Bah, humbug.” Then three ghosts came, from the Past, Present, and Future, and showed him how he was, and had previously been, an asshole. Then he saw his own grave and understood that Christmas was real, so he finally spent some of his money and bought a giant turkey for a disabled child…

Elif Batuman – The New Yorker


A Story about Psicanálise (Psychoanalysis) in Latin America

Please consider attending the next event sponsored by the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought on Friday, January 22nd, 2016:

A Story about Psicanálise (Psychoanalysis) in Latin America

The Association for Psychoanalytic Thought (APT) is pleased to present a viewing of an episode of the HBO Latin America Channel series, Psi about a psychoanalyst living and practicing in Saõ Paulo, Brazil, based on the writings of Brazilian psychoanalyst Contardo Calligaris. Calligaris trained in Switzerland and France and moved to Brazil. He is a columnist as well as a clinician and has written several psychoanalytically oriented novels. He is the creator of the series.

The viewing will be followed by a discussion by Natalia Jakovkis, professor of Modern Languages at Xavier University, and Karl Stukenberg, professor and chairman of Psychology at Xavier University and a CPI faculty member.

The event will be held in the Kapp Memorial Library of the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute, 3001 Highland Ave., Suite C, Cincinnati, Ohio 45219. The event begins at 6:30 pm with wine and cheese and the program begins at 7 pm. Admission is $5.00.

Please RSVP early by calling 513-515-6836 or by emailing

How Traumatic Memories Hide In The Brain, And How To Retrieve Them

CHICAGO — Some stressful experiences – such as chronic childhood abuse – are so overwhelming and traumatic, the memories hide like a shadow in the brain.

At first, hidden memories that can’t be consciously accessed may protect the individual from the emotional pain of recalling the event. But eventually those suppressed memories can cause debilitating psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociative disorders.

A process known as state-dependent learning is believed to contribute to the formation of memories that are inaccessible to normal consciousness. Thus, memories formed in a particular mood, arousal or drug-induced state can best be retrieved when the brain is back in that state.

In a new study with mice, Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time the mechanism by which state-dependent learning renders stressful fear-related memories consciously inaccessible…

Marla Paul – Northwestern University

You might be surprised about Freud’s advice on how to “cure” a gay child

Freud’s stance may surprise you…

A 1935 letter from Sigmund Freud about how to “cure” a gay child may not be what you expect…

Some assume positions on controversial issues such as gay “cure” therapies evolve over time. This letter from Freud comes ahead of its time.

The famed father of psychoanalysis does contemplate that “conversion” therapy may be possible and that “curing” someone’s sexuality might work.

Continuing, he considers the case of whether he could make the child into a “normal heterosexual”, but instead of “treatment”, recommends “analysis”, to “bring him harmony, peace of mind”.

His eloquent response to the letter, which shows the curiosities of his genius, is multi-layered…

Joseph Patrick McCormick – Pink News

The Irruption of the Real in the CW’s The Flash


Something that’s been zooming around my head these days is the current television series, The Flash. I read the comic as a kid and the new series fascinates me. The whole series is constructed around Barry’s childhood trauma and is, therefore, ripe for symptomatic reading.

“To understand what I’m about to tell you, you need to do something first. You need to believe in the impossible. Can you do that? Good.”

Right from the first voiceover, in his invoking narration at the beginning of the very first episode, he’s openly asking us to believe in the impossible.

His powers are impossible. That’s the irruption of the Real in the series. His powers signify nothing possible. They are the symptomatic, the return of the Real.

That Real is based in trauma, the traumatic murder of his mother.


Yes, Barry has serious mommy issues. His mother was murdered and his father is in prison for the crime. That’s Barry’s self-stated desire: finding who killed his mother, to clear his father’s name and have him released from prison. The murder of his mother is a repetition of the original separation from his mother that occurred in the development of his subjectivity earlier in childhood. This is the original lack at his core, setting his desire in motion.


Barry also has daddy issues. His real dad is in prison, an absentee father but one with whom Barry still communicates. He was raised by Detective Joe West. Barry also works as a forensic scientist with Joe at the Central City Police Department. Joe was the physically-present father, but still doesn’t believe Barry’s memories of what happened the night of his mother’s murder. Dr. Harrison Wells, too, serves as a father figure for Barry until he is revealed to be the Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne, whose desire is to return to the future, at any cost.


The overdetermined father figures in his life can’t make up for his lacking mother, however. His real desire is to become fast enough to race back in time and change the past; not to find his mother’s killer, but to save his mother’s life. In this way, he seeks to fill that original lack at his core, the desire to be the phallus for the mother, to be her object of desire.


Barry has further familial issues. He is in love with his foster-sister, Iris. His, at first unknown and then unrequited, desire for her is, again, symptomatic of the lack he feels at his core.


As Barry grows into his role of The Flash, he hears voices in his head. Through the audio transmitter in his mask, we typically hear the voice of Dr. Harrison Wells (Eobard Thawne), Cisco Ramon, or Dr. Caitlyn Snow instructing Barry on what to do or where to go. There are moments where Barry leaves behind the comm system or it goes out, but for the most part, he is guided not by his own conscious motivations, but by voices in his head.


The series is fruitful for a psychoanalytic reading.

The Bordwell-Žižek Antagonism

Cinema and Media Studies: Key Concepts

Many philosophers, film critics, and other parties interested in the debate between Slavoj Žižek and David Bordwell, perceive the two thinkers as being fundamentally different in many ways. Indeed, when observed with one eye closed, Bordwell’s analytical/cognitive “middle-level research” of film cannot share anything in common with Žižek’s Marxist/psychoanalytic (i.e. Continental) “interpretation” of film’s meaning. However, the particularities of the theoretical and philosophical discord between the two authors are numerous, complex, and tangled in an endless amount of disciplines so much so that the simple word “antagonism” does not provide enough descriptive power to express the intricate relationship between their relatively different standpoints on film. I intend to deconstruct this often-simplified interpretation of the dispute (summed up in the word “antagonism”) between Bordwell’s and Žižek’s theories of film and media, North-American and European intellectuals, and analytical and continental philosophies. I will perform a close reading of Bordwell’s and Žižek’s writings…

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The Second Coming of Sigmund Freud |

Just as the old psychoanalyst seemed destined for history’s trash heap, neuroscientists are resurrecting his most defining insights.

The party is at a trendy Harlem restaurant, in the private rooms downstairs. It is crowded and, for a science event, glamorous. Many women are in sparkly cocktail dresses. Men are wearing expensive ties. Everyone has fashionable eyewear. Over at the bar is the goateed Joe LeDoux, known for his groundbreaking research on fear, as well as for his rock ’n’ roll band of scientists. The celebrity chef who owns the restaurant is personally greeting guests.

The Second Coming of Sigmund Freud

Kat McGowan –

The Recurring American Nightmare — A Freudian Perspective

After the deadly shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, earlier this month late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert momentarily struck a somber rather than comic note. Like many, Colbert admitted his uncertainty about what to do in the face of the unremitting gun violence plaguing the U.S.: “Some say the answer is stricter gun laws; others say the answer is mental health care, that we need better treatment or just to keep the guns out of the hands of the insane. Maybe it’s both, I honestly don’t know.” He concluded, “But I do know that one of the definitions of insanity is changing nothing and then pretending that something will change.” For those of us who join Colbert in wishing for positive change in such matters, perhaps we might turn to a few late ruminations from psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud for guidance and inspiration…

The Recurring American Nightmare — A Freudian Perspective

Christopher Miller, Ph.D. – Mythology & Depth Psychology in the 21st Century

Psychoanalysis and Non-Western Art

Yoshitoshi’s Banchō Sarayashiki

At last night’s December meeting of the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought, I had the pleasure of speaking as part of a round-table discussion titled, “Psychoanalysis and Culture: Psychoanalytic Concepts in the College Classroom.” The other two presenters were Norman Finkelstein, Professor of English at Xavier University, and Rachel Zlatkin, Honors Professor at Northern Kentucky University. Dr. Zlatkin began the discussion with readings of quite different versions of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale as cautionary tales about young women’s sexuality. I then spoke about the “return of the repressed” in horror films and sublimation in film noir. Dr. Finkelstein ended the discussion with readings of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.

As Norman Hirsch, president of the APT noted, while the influence of psychoanalysis has waned in departments of psychology and psychiatry in American universities, it has seen a resurgence in the humanities. The three of us provided examples of how we use psychoanalytic theory in our research and in our college-level pedagogy. A psychoanalytic approach is but one hermeneutic we use in the classroom to help students make meaning of texts, but a still-important one, nonetheless. An interimplication of psychoanalytic theory and the products of popular culture is fruitful to the understanding of both, and I hope that the examples we three shared gave evidence to that effect.

Discussion afterwards was heated, as usual. An audience member noted that each of us only referred to Western texts, implying that psychoanalysis may not be a universal lens through which to examine texts from other cultures. A critical cultural theorist in the audience responded that the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss shows the presence of universal structural elements in the mythologies of various cultures that can be accessible to psychoanalytic theory, regardless of cultural context. The speakers were in agreement with her.

I must admit, however, that I have been reticent to apply psychoanalysis to the texts of non-Western cultures in my own work.  Just how much of the Oedipus, for example, can be attributed to the universal nature of the human unconscious, and how much to family structures and child-rearing practices particular to the West? I believe that a work of art cues us as to how we might read it, which hermeneutics might be appropriate in its interpretation, and I have sought to look for theories originating in the cultures in which the art was produced. My interests in Japanese art and film and in psychoanalytic theory have led me to the wish to find some psychoanalytic entrée into the interpretation of Japanese art. And yet, in the back of my mind echoes Lacan’s infamous statement that the Japanese are unanalyzable. But what of their art?

In seeking some means of applying psychoanalytic theory to Japanese art, I’ve researched broadly the place of psychoanalysis and Japan; read of the concept of amae, the asaje complex, and the “don’t look” prohibition; and tried my best to find ways of utilizing distinctly Japanese psychoanalytic theory. Still, this is beyond my comfort level and I’ve not been successful in these endeavors. The Japanese psyche seems to me to be guided as much by Shinto, Buddhism, and distinct social practices as by Freudian, Kleinian, or Lacanian theories of the unconscious, desire, and subjectivity. Does this mean that employing psychoanalytic theory to analyze Japanese art would be misguided, a misapplication of that theory?

I’ve not settled on an answer, but I certainly think it’s worth investigating further.