Two of our members, Nancy Chodorow and Jane Kite, have recently given interviews to Robert Winer and Kerry L. Malawista for a publication in Who’s Behind the Couch? The Heart and Mind of the Psychoanalyst (Karnac, 2017). The book explores the analyst’s mind at work, not so much from a theoretical perspective, but rather from the complexities and richness inherent in every moment-to-moment clinical encounter. Other notable interviewees featured in the book are Stefano Bolognini, Richard Waugaman, Ilany Kogan, Rosemary Balsam, Joseph Lichtenberg, Werner Bohleber, Salman Akhtar, Cláudio Eizirik, Nancy McWilliams, Abel Fainstein, Gerhard Schneider, Jay Greenberg, Raquel Berman, David Tuckett, and Donald Moss.
The book is available in the BPSI library and can be also ordered from Routledge or Amazon. Below are small excerpts from Nancy Chodorow’s and Jane Kite’s interviews, quoted with publisher’s permission:
Nancy Chodorow is a training analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute; a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; and professor emerita of sociology at University of California, Berkeley. She has written on gender and sexuality, Loewald, the American independent tradition, comparative theory, and psychoanalysis and social science. Her most recent books include The Power of Feelings and Individualizing Gender and Sexuality. She is in private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Another interview with Nancy Chodorow, conducted by Mengchum Chiang and titled You Just Know It’s the Only Thing You Can Think, was recently published in the Women & Therapy journal issue on Radical Visionaries: Feminist Therapy Pioneers, 1970-1975 (fulltext can be requested from the library).
HOW I WORK
Bob Winer: Tell us about how you think people should work.
Nancy Chodorow: I’m interested in the complexity of the patient’s mind, whether it be self-understanding or the freedom to feel, the freedom to initiate relationships, the freedom to create. I’m very resistant to spending a lot of time in the mind of the analyst rather than the mind of the patient. So, even though several of my closest friends are relational, I’m kind of an old-fashioned Loewaldian, an old-fashioned one-person ego psychologist. “Intersubjective ego psychologist” is the term I made up to describe myself.
I think that what you want to do is really focus on the psyche of the patient, you want to follow the patient wherever they go. I am very much wanting to sit back and let the patient’s mind unfold; I want individuality to unfold. I’m more interested in, say, dreams than transference, if a focus on the transference leads to too much focus on the analyst or the relationship. I feel that there’s much more focus these days on what the analyst is feeling than on what the patient is feeling or thinking. I think the analyst has become too much the centrer of the work in contemporary practice. But I became an analyst because I wanted to help other people to feel and think, so I’m kind of quiet.
NC: You know, one of my real strengths is as a friend. I’ve always been a really good friend, it’s something I was born with, and it’s my maternal heritage….
Being a friend might be one model of how I see treatment. I never thought about this before, but it’s a very great intimacy without taking over, seeing the other as an other.
BW: And that could help you even in the analytic part of your work, as opposed to the therapy part. The analytic part, though, may be foundational in some ways.
NC: Yeah. Well, it’s foundational in how I see analysis, the individuality in each of my analytic patients. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about in this context. But, trying to think about it, I would say that friendship is different than the unique primary primaries—parents, children, a partner. You can have a wide friendship network, each friend is different, and they all provide something and you provide something different for each, that that individual needs. It does seem to me that it is a model of how I think of the analytic space. With friends and with patients, you can be very, very intimate and you’re hearing, listening very closely. It’s different than being with an intimate partner, or a parent, or a child. It’s connected to a kind of being with and being separate and seeing the other. <…>
Jane Kite is currently a training and supervising analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and a member of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Center, where she completed her psychoanalytic training in 1993. Her main interests within psychoanalysis lie in the areas of character in analyst and patient, and the active relationships and influence among character, theory, and clinical practice.
Bob Winer: What organises your experience of working with someone in analysis? To put it another way, what is your approach to the sessions in the broadest sense? What are the important characteristics of the way you work? Probably to some extent, we all have some thought about what we’re doing and why we think that’s the good way to go about doing it, and so I thought I’d put that question in here.
Jane Kite: Well, I think I would have to digress a little bit into the effect of my own analytic work in two analyses and how that shaped my approach. For me, it was kind of a two-stage process. I entered the first analysis having had this terrible experience with my mother, who then died. This first analyst was a woman. She was fairly conservative, but what I got out of it was that she was actually interested in what I had to say, and ultimately that she liked me, which was the kind of therapeutic action that I needed.
The second one was quite different, probably freer. And in that one, I had the experience of being even more acutely listened to, and he made very tentative interpretations from time to time, of the transference sort, but not as an article of faith. And I ended up with the experience of being much more deeply understood and kind of belonging to myself. So it ended up not being a transference thing, which to a degree it was the first time, but more like being restored to myself in a way that felt sturdy. And that has inevitably become more of my approach to therapeutic action. I mean there are stages in therapeutic action. It’s action, it’s ongoing, and I think the relationship with the analyst has to feel reliable and sturdy–you can’t start off by interpreting aggression, for example, although it might be really important later on. But ultimately, I think the patient feels more reliably him- or herself. That’s the action. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and the other side of it is that my experience has been that for people with very bad early trauma, who are so attached to their bad internal objects, the prospect of actually changing or feeling differently about themselves is overwhelmingly difficult. So, this fancier notion of therapeutic action and belonging to yourself may be most of the work, but it’s not for everyone.<…>