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Hinshelwood, B. (2020). Bob Young 1935-2019. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(1):147-149.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(1):147-149


Bob Young 1935-2019

Bob Hinshelwood

I first met Bob Young in 1984 at a time when he was first setting up the Journal, Free Associations. At the time I was part of a reading group that tried to discuss the significance of psychoanalysis in relation to other disciplines such as philosophy, politics and the social sciences. We were very bad at it and spent evenings waffling ignorantly. But we did have the intelligence to know we were hopeless, and we sought a tutor or mentor for the group. Someone mentioned Bob, who had left his job at the University of Cambridge, and was in London working on television programmes on science and society, and he agreed. I have to say he did a good job as far as I was concerned. And I learned a great deal about other disciplines and how to place psychoanalysis in its intellectual context. It has stood me in good stead, I believe, and I still recall bits of the discussions with him.

He told me he had gone to medical school in order to become a psychoanalyst, but got distracted by getting a scholarship to Cambridge, and somehow staying there. And so he did not get into the psychoanalytic training at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, because to his regret he was told he was too old. I'm not sure he was actually too old, but that was the story.

At the end of the first of the reading groups which he joined as a mentor, he asked me afterwards if I could give him some psychotherapy work under supervision, as he wanted to become a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. At that time, I ran a Psychotherapy Department at St Bernard's Hospital in Ealing, and I invited him to join a group of volunteer psychotherapists and trainees who did work in the Department to help the NHS manage its load. So, it may be I became a sort of alter ego for him, and not just a bumbling fledgling academic whom he was teaching.

I think he had difficulty accepting his rejection by the Institute, and always held it in contempt for its elitism. It is a rather elitist institution, but the complaint I think was that the Institute's elitism could not include him. Those who were members of the Institute tended then to get some of his complaints and resentment. At times I have wondered if I was the only psychoanalyst not to fall out with him - and I used to think what was wrong with me that I never quarrelled with him?

But quite soon, I became part of the set-up of the Journal Free Associations. I agreed to be on the editorial board.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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