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Northrup, G.H. (2019). DISCUSSION OF DAVID SHADDOCK’S “A UNIVERSE BETWEEN MY HAT AND BOOTS: WHITMAN’S SELF AS A MODEL FOR EMPATHIC CONNECTION”. Psychoanal. Self. Cxt., 14(3):334-342.

(2019). Psychoanalysis, Self, and Context, 14(3):334-342

DISCUSSION OF DAVID SHADDOCK’S “A UNIVERSE BETWEEN MY HAT AND BOOTS: WHITMAN’S SELF AS A MODEL FOR EMPATHIC CONNECTION”

George H. Northrup, Ph.D.

INTRODUCTION

David Shaddock’s insights about Walt Whitman remind us of the dynamically and historically close kinship between psychoanalysis and the arts in general, as well as poetry in particular. This relationship has sometimes been ambivalent, as when Freud was urgently seeking scientific status for psychoanalysis even as he was irresistibly drawn to include literary references in his writings. A caption on the wall of the Freud Museum notes, “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.”

Contemporary pressure for psychoanalytic work to pledge allegiance to double-blind, randomized experimental design has made it awkward to champion poets as unofficial training analysts. The ascendance of empirical methods of investigation and the privileging of “evidence-based” therapies have subjected psychoanalysis to skepticism and even ridicule, making especially welcome, therefore, Shaddock’s linkage of the poetic sensibility and the roles of empathy, subjectivity, and relationality in the consulting room (Shaddock, 2019).

In another setting, I am engaged in scientific research that includes all the usual experimental and statistical finery, but my comments here instead hum a few bars from the song of subjectivity. Poets have never apologized for that, although the best poets find their way to resonating truths as vital to human life as the facts and theories of science. Recall the following excerpt from a poem (“Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”) by William Carlos Williams (1994, p.

[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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