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Gourguechon, P.L. (2011). The Citizen Psychoanalyst: Psychoanalysis, Social Commentary, and Social Advocacy. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 59(3):445-470.

(2011). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 59(3):445-470

Plenary Address

The Citizen Psychoanalyst: Psychoanalysis, Social Commentary, and Social Advocacy

Prudence L. Gourguechon

My address today is titled “The Citizen Psychoanalyst.” I want to talk to you about psychoanalytic advocacy and psychoanalytic social commentary, aspects of what is known as applied analysis.

I hope to make a convincing argument that engaging in these two activities is an important adventure for psychoanalysts. I offer two arguments. First, that psychoanalytic commentary and advocacy inculcate in the public mind the idea that there is a story beneath the surface of all human phenomena. That there is an inferiority to human activities. These, as you all know, are endangered concepts in our culture today. And second, it is only by showing our face in the public sphere, in the “commons,” that we can be known, and therefore survive as a profession with the necessary flow of new ideas, new patients, and new trainees into our field.

I am using the term psychoanalytic advocacy to refer to a psychoanalyst's or psychoanalytic organization's taking a principled stand on a public issue and attempting to push the resolution of that issue in a particular direction. With the phrase psychoanalytic social commentary I am referring to the psychoanalyst's offering public comment on a matter already before the public eye. Here the analyst does not hold a particular agenda, other than advancing psychoanalysis and our way of thinking.

I am convinced that many human beings, not just psychoanalysts, are bound and determined to explain the phenomena around them, especially those that confound them.

I have also noticed that attempts to find explanations for what underlies disturbing events come into the public mind very quickly following an event.

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