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Fundamentalism Reconsidered: Reflections on Psychoanalytic Technique
Jay S. Kwawer, Ph.D.
When I was about eight years old, increasingly immersed in the “mean-streets” peer culture of New York City, I came home excitedly from school one afternoon and while gulping down my milk, breathlessly informed my mother that I had learned a new word for “handkerchief.” From her perch leaning over the sink, she turned her head halfway in my direction; without missing a beat, she replied coolly and nonchalantly, “you mean ‘snotrag’?” At that moment, my estimation of my mother and her sophistication took a quantum leap upward as it suddenly dawned on me that there must be even deeper knowledge lurking there, and from that moment on, my mother never seemed to occupy the same position of the well-meaning but hopelessly ignorant woman my childhood ideals had contemptuously consigned her to; clearly, this was one smart lady.
Almost twenty years later, sitting in the office of one of my most senior supervisors, a truly wise man of the first generation of American analysts, I described the sexual awakening of a bright, creative, and flamboyantly borderline sixteen-year old as he and his private-school girlfriend groped and panted their way through adolescence. My young patient had been supercilliously but somewhat indulgently explaining to me how it is possible to derive sexual pleasure from oral-genital contact, with the clear implication that someone of my generation could not possibly have tasted such delights or explored such forbidden realms in our own antediluvian version of the sexual revolution. My supervisor chuckled aloud and muttered something about how interesting it is that each generation seems to believe that it is the first to discover fellatio.
I cite these personal recollections because, to me, they are akin to some current trends in psychoanalysis, excited forays into areas regarded as fresh and new which, upon closer scrutiny, turn out to have been with us for a long time, even if inattended or seemingly disregarded.
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