Attending a family Passover seder, a few weeks ago, I was intrigued by the following passage from the Haggadah in use. "If our freedom had been given us by Pharaoh, we would have been indebted to him, still subservient, within ourselves dependent, slavish still at heart. We had to free ourselves!" (Bronstein, 1975). A non-religious Jew by upbringing, I have made brief forays into the deeper meaning and history of the Passover meal and ritual. Each year, I find one unleavened crumb of new learning. This year, I am engaging with the above passage.

While followers of psychoanalytic theory need to avoid treating their theory as religion, all religions worth following have psychology at their core. This Passover nugget, if seen as symbolic of the intrapsychic landscape, is a beautiful illustration, filled with an age-old struggle between a kind of regressive and, ultimately, oppressive dependency and the development of internal authority and conscious intention. 

In his book, The Jewish Holidays, Michael Strassfeld (1985) writes that, without strenuous self-reflection about our values and the ways we enslave ourselves, Passover becomes just "another pleasant but meaningless ritual." The critical importance of self-reflection, as a path to greater essential awareness and to meaningful living, dates back to our earliest philosophers and is found in most world religions -- Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, to name a few. 

From this perspective the notion that psychoanalytic treatments would ever fall out of favor or be deemed "ineffective" is patently absurd. The core of psychoanalysis -- intimate observation of the nature and vagaries of the heart and mind -- is an essential human quest. In Socrates' famous words of wisdom, "The unexamined life is not worth living" (Plato, 469-399 B.C.E.). Perhaps Socrates discussed this idea as a guest at a Passover seder 2,400 years ago. Good food for thought lives on and is certainly never ineffective.

Warm regards, 
Melissa Holub, Ph.D.
NCSPP President


Bronstein, H. (Ed.). 1975. A Passover Haggadah: The New Union Haggadah. New York: Central Committee of American Rabbis. 
Plato. (469-399 B.C.E.). Apology of Socrates. Retrieved April 20, 2009 from 
Strassfeld, M. 1985. The Jewish Holidays. New York: Harper Collins.