Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology


In this series on applying for analytic training I will highlight qualities of self on which I relied and which I believe are essential for doing analytic work. These are self-reflectiveness, non-defensive curiosity, transparency and the capacity to face pain and difficult truths. Here, I will focus on my process in writing a personal statement.

The process of applying was, for me, very profound, as it forced me to look at myself and my life very carefully. Beginning with the personal statement, the instructions were utterly vague and unstructured: to provide an autobiography, no longer than. . . Well, what did this mean? Who was I, actually? How would writing about my life be relevant to being an analyst? What are the aspects of my life that are relevant?

After some soul-searching, I started from the beginning: my birth and my parents' lives before me. I had never before told the story of my whole life, from the beginning to the present. I found myself telling a particular story, a story about my own pain, sadness and loss, and my attempts to transform these in various ways throughout my life. I also talked about my passion for relating to and becoming deeply involved with people. I think these are two core aspects of my self, consistent threads running through everything I have done and been. I think these qualities formed the basis for my interest in thinking and working psychoanalytically.

Another aspect of writing the statement (I will expand on this next month when I describe the personal interviews) is the need to feel some confidence about oneself while at the same time bear the insecurity of exposing deeply personal material. This involved, it seemed, the ability to tolerate what is unknown and uncertain about oneself. I believe that I felt I could bear this tension because I believed so strongly in those core aspects of my self. It seemed to me that I could rely and fall back on them, and that doing so helped me tolerate the more difficult, and inevitable, anxieties and insecurities.

Beth Steinberg, Ph.D.
President, NCSPP