DISTURBING THE SLEEP OF THE WORLD: PSYCHOANALYSIS, SOCIAL AWAKENING & RADICAL POLITICS, the 2023-2024 Colloquium series
The Colloquium Series 2023-2024, presented by the Psychoanalytic Society of the William Alanson White Institute
Utopian Dreams, the Promise & the Peril: From the Sullivanians to Chestnut Lodge and Sheppard Pratt
ALEXANDER STILLE, MS
RICHARD WAUGAMAN, MD
DISCUSSANT: ROGER FRIE, PhD, PsyD
ABOUT ALEXANDER STILLE’S TALK
The Sullivan Institute was something of a scandal in New York’s psychoanalytic circles: a polygamous community in which therapists and patients lived together in large group apartments on the Upper West Side. It all came apart in the late 1980’s amid lawsuits and salacious revelations of widespread therapeutic abuse which resulted in several of its leading therapists losing their professional licenses.
However, it is worth considering this black sheep’s place in the family album of New York’s psychoanalytic institutes. Its founders were, in fact, a breakaway faction from the William Alanson White Institute even if Sullivan had been dead for several years when they started an institute in his name in 1957. They were political radicals who believed that psychoanalysis had great revolutionary potential but that mainstream psychiatry had chosen to be a pillar of the established order. In their view, Sullivan’s ideas – the notion that people grew from contact with other people; that they continued growing in adulthood – offered, in their view, an alternative. Sullivan had achieved notable results treating patients with schizophrenia with group community living. Why not give this opportunity to all patients who might grow by living with each other? Sullivan had identified the “self-system” as the psyche’s way of internalizing and maintaining an unhappy status quo but Pearce and Newton felt that Sullivan had not followed through on what they saw as the logical implications of Sullivan’s ideas: that the family, as the keeper of the self-system, needed to be abandoned; that monogamous marriage, another pillar of the established order, needed to be knocked down. In the broader political and social context in the mid-1950’s, they saw personal liberation as a fundamental aspect of wider social revolution. They believed that psychoanalysis involved putting people in touch with the “underground” of their instinctual life, which had been buried by the condition of family and society and that the therapist was essentially the ally of “guerilla fighter” that lived inside of each of us and yearned for real growth and experience. Clearly, these metaphors draw on the political context of the times — the Communist revolutions in China, Algeria and Cuba. As they wrote in “Conditions of Human Growth,” “Successful analysis involves becoming accustomed to revolution.” As one former therapist in the group said: “We asked all the right questions and got all the wrong answers.”
ABOUT ALEXANDER STILLE, MS
Alexander Stille is the author of six books of nonfiction including Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian-Jewish Families Under Fascism; Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic; The Future of the Past; The Sack of Rome, about Silvio Berlusconi; a family memoir, The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace. HIs latest is The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy and the Wild Life of an American Commune. He has written for a wide range of publications including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine. He has also been since 2004 a professor of international journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.
ABOUT RICHARD WAUGAMAN, MD
Richard M. Waugaman, M.D. is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, and Training and Supervising Analyst, Emeritus at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute. Half of his 200-plus publications are on Shake-speare. His two ebooks are Newly Discovered works by “William Shake-Speare,” a.k.a. Edward de Vere and It’s Time to Re-Vere the Works of “William Shake-Speare”: A Psychoanalyst Reads the Works of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. He has two websites: http://www.oxfreudian.com; and http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/waugamar/. The full texts of his non-clinical publications are accessible on the latter website.
ABOUT ROGER FRIE, PhD, PsyD
Roger Frie is 2023-2024 Visiting Scholar in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. He is a graduate and faculty member of the William Alanson White Institute, Professor of Education at Simon Fraser University, and Affiliate Professor of Psychiatry at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He was Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis at Kyoto University in 2022 and DAAD Visiting Professor in Berlin in 2021. He writes and lectures widely on the themes of historical trauma, memory and social responsibility. His newest book, to be published this year with Oxford University Press, is called Edge of Catastrophe: Erich Fromm and the Holocaust and his most recent edited book, with Pascal Sauvayre, is Culture, Politics and Race in the Making of Interpersonal Psychoanalysis: Breaking Boundaries. He is author of, among other books, Not in My Family: German Memory and Responsibility after the Holocaust (OUP, 2017).