Madness and Evil: An Insider's View of the Sullivanian Institute
Daniel Shaw, L.C.S.W
A Review Essay of The Sullivanian Institute/Fourth Wall Community: The Relationship of Radical Individualism and Authoritarianism, by Amy B. Siskind. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. 170 pp.
I recently played, for a psychoanalytic study group of which I am a member, a comedy sketch recorded ages ago, in which Elaine May and Mike Nichols portray a psychoanalyst and her patient. Having had a good laugh each of the numerous times I have listened to this sketch over the years, I gleefully, and as I now know naively, imagined my typically serious and scholarly group uncharacteristically doubled over, wiping tears of laughter from their eyes, enjoying a good joke on us all. In the sketch, the patient (Nichols) informs May, his analyst, that in the following week he will have to miss the last of his five sessions per week, since it is Christmas Eve and he plans to be with his family that day. Instantly shattered by the news of her patient's plan to desert her, May attempts to maintain her analytic stance and mask her spiralling self- fragmentation by demanding that her patient explore, be curious about, reflect on, and associate to his need to miss his session. In the face of his insistence that he just wants to be with his family on Christmas Eve, the analyst begins to weep quietly, then to sob in despair, then to scream with rage. Unable to help her recompensate, the patient quietly retreats, wishing her a Merry Christmas, as the analyst continues to unravel. When I turned off the recording, I faced a silent group, with some members finally confessing to a sense of excruciating anxiety while listening. There was little further discussion. We moved on quickly to the material we had planned to discuss. In showbiz parlance, I had bombed.
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