From the Editor
by Danni Biondini, LMFT
“This is basic in a time when people are hungry and desperate for straightforward communication about the life we are all leading in common; inflated or overwrought theory becomes an almost self-indulgent luxury—perhaps even a crime—under the hammer of the world we live in.” - Seymour Krim
Many of the folks in our psychoanalytic community believe that psychoanalysis has subversive power to understand — and transform — the lives we are living, lives shaped by power and contextualized within the sociopolitical realm. I know you’re out there doing cool, good, liberatory, critical psychoanalytic work.
But you wouldn’t know it from the presentations we give!
Who the heck decided the best way to share ideas is to have someone dry-read a theory paper at a politely nodding, but secretly dozing, audience for over an hour, then host a perfunctory discussion which feels like nothing more than select audience members seeking air time to eek out their own personal point?
I’m sorry, but I have a whole oceans-depth of excitement inside of me and I’m straight-up BORED.
As someone who teaches, I think constantly about how to engage people in theoretical discussions. As educator Zaretta Hammond explains in her work on Culturally-Responsive Teaching, good teaching happens by connecting ideas to back to real life-as-it’s-lived stuff. We could be showing people that psychoanalytic theory is relevant not just as an abstraction, but as a real honest-to-goodness way of dealing with power and oppression, of getting through the composite horrors of this life.
And I don’t know, maybe some peoples’ everyday lives are structured by layers of theoretical abstraction — anything to get out of the Real amiright — but after twenty minutes of theory read aloud I find myself wondering: for a theory that’s entirely rooted in sex, how have you managed to drain all the libido out of the room?
I mean, maybe this is exactly why psychoanalysis had to become overly theoretical: the material it’s distancing itself from is otherwise way too exciting.
But whatever reason we’ve done things this way, all I’m saying is that maybe it's not the best way to do it. This monological form of thinking is not really a form of thinking. I want a dialogue, an engagement, a space where ideas can be played with more reciprocally. I want to interrupt the next guy solipsistically reading his paper with no awareness of his impact on me: damn, dude, this isn't a Tinder date.
It’s a pedagogical problem that illuminates a deeper truth about what is so off-putting about psychoanalysis: at the core, we still haven’t given up our belief in masters. We structure paper presentations by the logic of what Paulo Friere calls “the banking model of education”: some wise guy wrote a paper and will now deposit its wisdom into us.
This functions to keep psychoanalytic ideas circulating between the same small group of theory-minded clinicians who think, and speak, in relatively the same way. It keeps out people with different life experiences, ideas, and critiques. In short, it keeps psychoanalysis from changing and moving forward.
This very basic form is how power replicates itself. We can claim that psychoanalysis has a radical adherence to subversion, yet unless we subvert the form, we’re stuck in a repetition, doing the same thing over and over again.