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Arieti, J.A. (1999). Memories of the Son of a Psychiatrist. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 27(4):541-550.

(1999). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 27(4):541-550

Memories of the Son of a Psychiatrist

James A. Arieti, Ph.D.

When I return to Pisa, I carry with me a suitcase full of memories. I remember when I used to come here as a child to visit my grandparents. I remember seeing the damage done to the buildings during the Second World War. I remember touring the apartment where my father was born. I remember visiting my grandfather in the hospital near the Leaning Tower a week before he died. I remember putting stones on the graves of my grandparents in the Jewish Cemetery just outside the wall of the city. But most of all I remember the Pisa my father spoke about, and how he breathed its music and sighed its history. Thus it is for me a tender joy to be here to speak with you, not as a professor of philosophy or of classical philology, but as the son of the man we are here to remember.

I think my father's contribution to the world lay in exploring the spiritual dimension to human suffering. Some, like the ancient poet Aeschylus, realized that in suffering there might come wisdom; some, like the Epicureans and also the Stoics, saw that an experience of physical pain might lead to a dissociation from that pain, a dissociation that enabled philosophical and intellectual growth. My father's contribution was the insight that mental illness might itself be an attempt to preserve one's humanity in a savage world and that mental illness itself might be ennobling and spiritually uplifting.

My father was a unity of his qualities: His strengths were inseparable from his weaknesses, his genius inseparable from his eccentricities.

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