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Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran
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Archive: Other Books > Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran, by Gohar Hammapoyour

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy | 8300 comments Ready Regina and Marina? Here we go.. Although I think you might actually have to click on the book to read my entire review. I think the last paragraph or two got cut off, due to character limit. But I will tease you or others with the start of the review.

We psychoanalysts are a funny kind of folk. And by we, I both include myself in that group, and separate myself out, as an eager observer on the fringe. Truly, my position in this world is that of “fascinated rejection,” the very term that the author uses to describe how others perceive her experience of doing psychoanalysis in Tehran. This book again as opportunities do, causes me to become intimately involved in psychoanalytic thinking, get involved and entranced in it, but also tugs at my resistance, ambivalence, and totally pulls me from that world into one of observer, critic, engager, and rapt learner. I imagine this is a similar feel to how outsiders or new immigrants view another culture that they are standing on the edge of. It is how I described my recent forays into the fitness world – as first an imposter, an infiltrator, in disguise, impersonating the worker outer people, until I realized I was one of them. That there was a place for me. This has been similar to my position in the analytic world. I have always said that I have gone from being a big duck in an extremely little pond (in my previous life of existential psychoanalytic training) to being barely a duck fetus in a pond of super greats, where I have been honored to keep my toe in the water. I have longed to be a medium sized duck in a medium sized pond, and professionally, I am somewhat achieving that. This author, whose name I couldn’t remember how to spell, and can barely pronounce – she has trained here in Boston, with some of the greats. Folks I know and have heard lecture or trained with. The world she describes or lives from on this side of the ocean is my world – and yet not quite.

This makes sense – the book was sent to me by a new mentor, an analyst who I really enjoy, who was the recent instructor for the course I just took on Tennessee Williams plays. I happened to mention to him that I was working with a Muslim couple, and was preparing to write a talk on how culture affects the already inherent dynamics of couplehood, sex, family, and life. I had planned, still plan, to write it from the perspective of three couples, one religiously Jewish, one devotedly Christian, and this Muslim couple, for whom the work has been fascinating – with the intertwining of religion, practice, and belief, with the dynamics of the relationship. He mentioned this book to me, but honestly, I thought he was going to send me a different book. One that his wife wrote, which if I am not incorrect, maybe had something to do with either Eleanor Roosevelt, or Eva Braun, and now its wisping away. But at the time, I was quite interested, still am. But receiving this little gem was a nice surprise. It was great to read, and has provoked lots of thoughts and reactions, most prominently about my own relationship to analysis, analytic training, and the intents and curve of my career. That’s why I say we analysts are a funny folk – we are often to always to never endingly relating everything we do to our own dynamics and journeys. This author is no exception. She weaves in her own experience of coming home, doing treatment in Farsi, presenting her work to her colleagues in New York and Boston. Also interwoven, with her own experience and journey of the work, is her relationship to a set of books, all the works in fact, or Milan Kundera, particularly the Incredible Lightness of Being, which has been a huge inspiration and influence in her life. Her father was the Farsi translator, and that relationship too has a place in her psychic life. So what makes it virtually impossible to rate the book on a point system, is that its not clear to me who the targeted audience is of this book. Mostly in the analytic world, we write to each other, and reading this is like falling into home with a certain kind of language, theoretical worlds, way of practice and thinking. Its its own home and language way of culture and style. And even I stand and swim on the fringe. I wonder what someone outside this world would make of it? How they would perceive it? That’s why I say we are a funny folk, a culture unto our own. Novels and books are completely a different read. They are made to touch wide audiences, to bring you into the experience, to move and transform. A book like this, simply tells the truth of experience.

Now, onto the book. The author describes that her presentation of her work in Tehran was met with a “fascinated rejection.” What does she mean by that, she means that folks clearly stated that it was impossible. One can’t do analysis in Tehran. It’s a Western idea that would be impossible. I was shocked at the idea that someone would think this, and then actually state this to her verbally, and more than one, and more than once. Then I returned to the parallel idea of my fascinated rejection of the analytic world, and it made sense. Because in my experience of the local analytic institutes (how lucky are we to have more than one. Recently, we had up to three or four. Now less, but analytic trainings and teachings are still abundant and growing.) In any case, even in the more liberal comparative institutes, people disagree, even amongst their narrow orientations that divide within psychoanalysis. They argue all day long about defining points that are barely separated by a hair. It is truly like the Tower of Babel, where we are all saying similar things but in quite different languages, and swearing our Gods and practices are different. Its fascinating, and to be honest, a little intimidating and slightly off-putting. None of the supervisors and colleagues I trust and learn with, would dare assert that what she is doing isn’t and couldn’t be psychoanalysis. We would all be more like tell me, show me, train, me – let me share in your discovery. Most of the Boston world I know would receive her this way. I began to think about how often one (or two) voices can make us overlook the message we should have been paying attention to. That people are listening. This woman is clearly doing psychoanalysis in Tehran, and that was fascinating. To hear a bit about the cases, and the kinds of binds I recognize in my own culture and my own practice. How narrow would we be to assume, that that there aren’t incredible themes and deep work and especially in a country, where many folks’s thoughts need to be an internal process, given what is and isn’t accepted on the outside. Loved hearing about the cases. A book written differently would have told us directly what kinds of themes folks in this culture present with. Instead, this author showed us with a few stories, and invited us into the process. One thing I found fascinating, is that they have a different oedipal story they work off of, one where the son kills the father. I found this a brilliant eye opening thought, that different cultures have different themes they work on, depending on what they culture is shaped around. That was fascinating indeed.

Then there is the part that has nothing to do with the difference in culture, but that has to do with my own ambivalence around around the analytic world, one where I threaten and promise to become a psychoanalyst one day, but hover around the edges, watching, but making no moves to ever quite take the plunge. I become one of a number of people I know who question whether one has to do an analysis to have an incredibly deep and intimate therapy experience. I have often and always a number of patients that come twice a week. There is no couch, but make no mistake, this is deep psychoanalytic work with the same principles. I bristle, when people tell me this isn’t deep enough, or the same. Even thought that may indeed be true. But, and possibly defensively so, I begin to wonder about the tradeoffs. An example would be the gift of a flower that the therapist receives from a patient, her favorite, a lily. I think about the gifts I’ve received in my over 20 years of practice, and even one or two I have given. I think about some of the non-material gifts that have occurred, when I’ve allowed a joke, a twinkle, a piece of dialogue go unanalyzed, but shared between us in a moment of intimacy. I think about what gets deepened when the many meanings are either shared in supervision, in writing a paper, or deeply thinking about the patient, and certainly when shared with the patient. But also what is lost, when something is over-thought, over analyzed. Some things are just meant to be felt. Now I am not saying that this doesn’t happen in every analytic relationship, where some things are just felt and experienced, without the constant overlay of meaning – its just real and human connection and witnessing. But having had seven years of post graduate psychoanalytic training, and another number of years since, there’s a lot of time sitting around in rooms pondering theory, cases, practice models, etc, and its beautiful, and its all great. But dare I say, in my private thoughts made public, I have wondered if something gets lost. It’s the private moments that stay in my mind around this, that are almost inexplicable. I understand it from both sides. How I delight to share cases in my writing, with my supervisor, or with my supervisees, and play and delight in the moments. I am just saying I see the other side. Eros and Thanatos, Lightness and Darkness, the Unbearable Light of Being. For example, do I do analytic training? Or spend another few years performing in musicals, throwing bar mitzvahs, and engaging in the general life of children and singing and writing and vibrancy outside the mind. Do I go next Saturday to hear my supervisor speak on a fascinating topic that thrills and engages me? Or do I go to three basketball games, and make lunch for my kids? The lived question is deeper than that, about heaviness and lightness. About doing the beauty of what I’m already doing or deepening it, at potential both loss and gain. I have two more examples of how this conflict plays out.


Regina Lindsey | 1005 comments Thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading about your background as well. I'm adding to my TBR


message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy | 8300 comments I so look forward to hearing more about you as well!


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