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Stern, W.L. (2009). Adaptations: Disquisitions on Psychoanalysis 1997-2006. By Phillip Freeman. Boston: Word Association Publishers, 2007, 89 pp., $15.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(6):1521-1523.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(6):1521-1523

Adaptations: Disquisitions on Psychoanalysis 1997-2006. By Phillip Freeman. Boston: Word Association Publishers, 2007, 89 pp., $15.00.

Review by:
Wendy L. Stern

If Jonathan Swift and Woody Allen were to team up to address the state of psychoanalysis today, the result might be something akin to Phillip Freeman's Adaptations. This is the published collection (complete with accompanying CD) of Freeman's monologues to the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute (BPSI) on the occasions of their graduation ceremonies from 1997 to 2006. To be fair, the list that comes to mind in this “genre” is much longer and includes the likes of Spaulding Gray (the quintessential free-associative storyteller), Marx (as in Groucho), and anyone's favorite university professor (biology, anthropology, or religious studies—all equally plausible). In other words, Freeman is utterly entertaining, and by the end of his complex meanderings, full of fact and fancy, one not only has a belly sore from laughing, but a mind full of new information and ideas: in particular, ideas about psychoanalytic training and the politics of psychoanalytic institutions.

At his best, Freeman creates a space to think afresh about the well-worn but unresolved issues of survival in our field-hence (I assume) the Darwinian title, Adaptations. He asks, “How much change is necessary in order to survive, and at what point does survival come at the cost of your identity?” (p. 26). Anyone who has served on a psychoanalytic training committee in the last two decades knows of the “tension between ‘outreach’ on the one hand, and ‘standards and identity’ on the other” and the concomitant struggles of inclusion and exclusion (p. 27). Or take the provocative comment from his 2004 address, “Resiliency: Jellyfish”: “The site visitors said that one day the father had all the girls and all the power and so we killed him and ate him and now we prevent anyone from assuming any authority or making any judgments out of deferred obedience based in guilt. They said we are like babies with notochords” (p. 73). Perhaps the more imaginative will readily grasp the intuitive connection between resiliency and jellyfish. The rest of us will enjoy Freeman's version.

This line of evolutionary thought is continued in the 2006 graduation delivery, “Optimism: Miracle Mike”: “It is time for resilience.

[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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