My Third Act

Serving as APsaA president has given me a tremendous third act in life.

My first act was during the national and personal crisis of Vietnam when I began to think for myself and became a conscientious objector and anti-war activist. I settled in Berkeley, where my second act was dedicated to family and career. I was a good liberal, but my political activity gravitated to psychoanalytic organizations. Those activities culminated in me becoming APsaA president in 2020. And what a third act it's been! Surviving the pandemic, reckoning with racism, climate change, and political upheaval. Moving treatment, education, and meetings online, overhauling our educational standards, and the list goes on.

I'm proud of how we've responded to all these challenges and opportunities. It takes a team to run APsaA, and I've been blessed with exceptional teammates. My good friend and predecessor, the late Lee Jaffe, left office early in February 2020 due to illness. Lee and I spoke frequently up until his death last June, and his courage and dedication were an inspiration to me. I've been very fortunate to have a new friend and advisor in President-Elect Kerry Sulkowicz. Kerry and I have a shared vision for APsaA, and working closely together on a weekly if not daily basis has made the job more doable, not to mention more enjoyable. Our past-president and the current IPA president, Harriet Wolfe, also from the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, has been a good colleague and adviser. Bonnie Buchele, Secretary, and Julio Calderon, Treasurer, have been great to work with. Our executive director, Tom Newman, and the entire APsaA staff are invaluable. I thank the Executive Committee, the Board, and all the chairs and committee members who've given so much of their time and expertise.

The vision Kerry and I share, called Reimagining APsaA, builds on and consolidates initiatives whose origins precede us: revising educational standards, pursuing racial equity, expanding membership, focusing our advocacy efforts, and supporting organizational democracy.

We've spoken of APsaA as turning to the social, but it is more accurate to say returning to the social. Social theory and engagement run through the history of psychoanalysis. In his 1918 address at the Budapest Congress, “Lines of Advance in Psychoanalytic Therapy/’ Freud spoke of psychotherapy for the people; others have repeated that call through the years.

Psychoanalysis flourished in Europe between the world wars with its centers in Red Vienna and Weimar Berlin. Freud and many analysts were social democrats; others were communists. They were politically active and donated funds and/or clinical hours to the Ambulatorium in Vienna or the Poliklinik in Berlin, clinics that served the public and were training sites for candidates. The triadic Eitingon training model developed alongside the Poliklinik.

As we know, analysts fleeing Europe from Nazi oppression often dropped or hid their leftist politics to gain professional acceptance in post-war America. But not all—Fenichel, Bernfeld, Jacobson, Fromm, White, and others kept the flame burning. The ambulatorium spirit continued in low-fee training clinics. As contemporary analysts work in the community, they invigorate our tradition of social engagement. The pandemic has accelerated changes within APsaA, and we are actively engaging issues of systemic racism, gender and sexual discrimination, climate change, and the political situation in our programs, as well as theoretical developments and clinical work in the consulting room and in the community.

This return to the social has brought me full circle in my third act and influenced my leadership goals. A major initiative of Reimagining APsaA is expanding our membership. The Task Force on Expanded Membership, led by Ralph Beaumont and Ann Dart, recommends that APsaA become a home for psychoanalysis, not just for psychoanalysts, welcoming psychoanalytic psychotherapists, researchers, and scholars to join as full members. Some fear that psychoanalysis will be diluted. Freud's remarks at the Budapest congress are often cited as a warning against blurring the boundary between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. There he warned

… that the large-scale application of our therapy will compel us to alloy the pure gold of analysis with the copper of direct suggestion, … But whatever form this psychotherapy for the people may take, … its most effective and most important ingredients will assuredly remain those borrowed from strict and untendentious psychoanalysis.

The historian Eli Zaretsky, in Political Freud (2015), notes that, in his final years, Freud was primarily concerned with the survival of psychoanalysis as a science of the mind based in the discovery of the unconscious. In this light, Freud's metallurgical metaphor can be understood as more about preserving the study of the unconscious than branding formal psychoanalysis as the gold standard of treatment. We know today that all applications of psychoanalysis are alloys of therapeutic action. Reimagining APsaA envisions psychoanalysis as a multidisciplinary endeavor and holds that high-frequency psychoanalysis, as a specific application, is better supported in a broader coalition than as a standalone, increasingly marginalized profession.

A high point of my third act has been participating in the Holmes Commission on Racial Equality in APsaA. The murder of George Floyd in the first months of my presidency inspired a long-overdue reckoning with racism in our profession. Like many of us, I began a period of self- and organizational exploration, educating myself and examining my involvement in the racism of our culture. I was anxious joining the commission, assuming I was the only one descended from enslavers. At one meeting, I spoke about my feeling of differentness in the group and a Black colleague responded that the evidence pointed to his also being a descendent of enslavers. How could I have been so oblivious? After a year of intense study and self-reflection I was still so self-absorbed that I thought of myself as different than he when in fact we could be related, cousins even, not different “races.” The legacy of slavery in America is genetic, figuratively if not literally, with white people often disavowing their involvement—something I, despite being well-intentioned and long analyzed, was chagrined to find myself doing. What I had felt but couldn't locate became knowable. My anxiety has lessened, and I feel more available for the hard work to be done.

You've heard a lot about the forward focus of Reimagining APsaA, but many of you, like me, are in or approaching our third acts. What will our legacies be? Erickson identifies the conflicts of middle and late adulthood as generativity and ego integrity vs. stagnation and despair. It's hard to let go and entrust our profession, our calling, to the next generation, but letting go is an essential expression of generativity—accepting loss makes way for the renewal of mourning and succession. We speak often of the intergenerational transmission of trauma, yet too much of that occurs within psychoanalysis. Nevertheless, we can also transmit knowledge, inspiration, and a healthy institution to hold and lead the psychoanalytic community.

As I pass the baton to Kerry Sulkowicz, I ask all of us to consider our legacies. What do we want to leave psychoanalysis and the association that has been our professional home? APSAA

Bill Glover, Ph.D., is president of APsaA.