For the Spotlight of Volume 28, Issue Number 3 of Psychoanalytic Psychology, I have chosen to comment on Mark Gerald’s paper and appendix of photographs.
The paper is entitled, “The psychoanalytic office: Past, present, and future.” I recommend looking at the pictures first, then reading the paper, and finally, looking at the pictures again.
Gerald writes that professional offices are more than simply a workspace as we bring to the spaces memories of all the homes we have inhabited. To this end, the photographs are stimulating in a manner admittedly somewhat voyeuristic but importantly, quite different from a centerfold. Certainly, we are treated to a subject matter that is not what we typically see in photographs – other practitioners in their offices to be specific. This is the land of intimate encounters. But these photographs do not trivialize the intimacy. Simply, the photographs are inviting and loving. For me, they resonate with Searles’ (1960) critique of a cultural hegemony in which over-consumed possessions are simply to be understood as symbols of prestige, and with his meditation on the way that the nonhuman environment provides an indirect link to interpersonal emotions.
As Gerald writes, the office is the chosen container for our work. He extends the non-human environment to body art, jewelry, and hair color. Botox? Certainly the manner in which we respond to a particular presentation is personal, and for some it may be a challenge to find a sense of continuous containment in particular environments. Gerald wonders in regard to the need of a practitioner to protect his or her space in a manner that supports an understanding of inner life as sacred and worthy of containment. These themes may be traced to Arendt’s (1958) concern that technocratic idealization may alter the human condition to an extent in which the sacred is lost, and Levinas’ (1968/1990) ethic that any host has an obligation to create a sacred space. For his part, Gerald wonders how in an era of Skype we might be aware of, maintain responsibility for and protect our professional spaces as physical not virtual spaces. I hope you will sit with these photographs and his text, and see how these images and thoughts impact you. They have me, and I hope that these and his other fifty photographs taken to date might one day be on display at a Spring Meeting of the Division.
Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Levinas, E. (1968/1990). Nine Talmudic Readings. A. Aronowicz (trans.). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Searles, H.F. (1960). The Nonhuman environment in normal development and schizophrenia. New York, NY: International Universities Press.