Latest X-Men Film as Psychoanalytic Allegory

Superhero movies are no strangers to the human psyche. Dark Phoenix, the final film in Fox’s X-Men franchise, deals with Jean Grey, a mutant with telekinetic and telepathic powers, and her yet unrealized ability to be the most powerful and potentially devastating mutant in the world. But rather than being embraced and harnessed, Jean’s mysterious power manifests in an uncontrollable inner entity, named “the Phoenix” in the comic books, presenting as a dissociated split identity.

You don’t need to be a psychoanalyst to get the heavy-handed message in Jean Grey’s conflict with her inner destructive power. The film serves as a cautionary tale about what happens when you suppress your rage, something we’re constantly trying to help patients and trauma survivors to understand. But unlike most superheroes of comic and filmic fame, Jean Grey is a woman, which allows the filmmakers of Dark Phoenix to underscore, even inadvertently, the archaic beliefs around female “hysteria”—that a misbehaving woman is dangerous, unruly, and must be corralled. It would be difficult to fathom the Avengers telling The Hulk that he should maybe get a handle on that anger issue.

A chief grievance with Dark Phoenix is the film’s need to explain away Jean’s conflict and power by (*spoiler alert*) infecting Jean with an alien life form. What this unnecessary choice emphasizes is the damaging idea that anger is not a part of us. It perpetuates the belief that anger is something outside of us to be feared – it can never be our own.


Pallavi Yetur, MA LMHC completed the KHC-AIP post-graduate psychodynamic psychotherapy program. She practices in New York City and provides supervision in the psychodynamic program of the AIP’s Karen Horney Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Institute in China.

The politics of marriage and other meaningful relationships

Is the problematic way husbands and wives argue about marital problems any different from the way Republicans and Democrats argue?  Whether we’re talking about professional politicians, husbands and wives, or friends and relatives discussing today’s headine-making political problems, every discussant seems to need to be right, thereby making the opposing point of view wrong.

When a person is accused of being wrong he feels attacked and so will attack back — creating a tit for tat argument that will continue endlessly, perhaps leading to more hurtful attacks and counter-attacks.  Problems, whether in marriages, friendships or government, are never resolved this way. Intimate relationships can suffer permanent emotional scarring whether you win or lose the debate.

When we approach debates or arguments with the desire to understand, and perhaps even to learn and appreciate the other person’s point of view, but not to get an agreement, we shift the interaction away from who is right, or more powerful, or more convincing. 

In couples counseling, as well as in individual therapy, I have found that understanding both ourselves and others leads to respect, compassion, and acceptance of the justification for various points of view, including our own, requiring no defensive arguments.  It also leads to a happier life.


Robert N. Shorin, ACSW, BCD

Robert N. Shorin, ACSW, BCD received his certificate in psychoanalysis from the American Institute in Psychoanalysis.  He maintains a private practice in couples and individual therapy in Syosset, Long Island and may be reached at 516-314-1766.

What are the chances of a chance meeting?

I recently informed one of my patients that I would be cancelling our session in three weeks’ time. He checked his calendar and smiled as he too would be cancelling on that same date. He then proceeded to tell me that he would be traveling with his family and how much he was looking forward to it. A red flag was set off in my mind and after I asked him where he’d be traveling to he replied, “Oh we’re taking the night flight to London.” What he didn’t know was that I too was taking a flight to London that evening. Yet, I thought any number of carriers fly out of JFK to London. So I didn’t think too much about that. Came the night of the flight and my wife and I boarded the plane early, as is my wont, and as I settled down I heard someone say “oh look, it’s Dr. Schwalbe!” And lo and behold my patient sat directly across the aisle from me, not three feet away, for the next seven hours. Awkward yes, yet I think it may well have been more so for him. Clearly something to explore when next we meet in my office after he returns from his trip. Seeing me, his analyst outside of the consulting room may well trigger any number of feelings and transference dynamics….feelings and dynamics we will explore.


Robert Schwalbe, PhD

Robert Schwalbe, PhD maintains an analytically informed therapy practice uniquely devoted to working with men from the ages of 18 to 84, in Manhattan’s Upper Eastside – 19 East 80th Street, Suite 1D. He may be reached at: RobertVSchwalbe@gmail.com or 212-737-1467.

The Dreaded (?) Time-Check

I have a love/hate relationship with the so-called “time-keeping function of the analyst.” Years ago, I surveyed colleagues about how they keep time in sessions.  Like me, some of them felt at least mild unease with the end-of-the-hour time check.  They’d wait for the patient’s eyes to be averted before checking the time. They setup clocks on the floor, on a book shelf over patients’ shoulders, read the time off their patients’ wrist watches–or, like my analyst, look at their own wristwatches with extravagant boldness. Maybe because of my own fears of abandonment, I was keenly aware in myself of guiltily abandoning my patient, as if it were a crime, a little homicide. Even with patients on the couch looking at the ceiling, the impulse to check the clock was accompanied by this squirmy guiltiness. 

So, in those early days of my practice, to ease my discomfort I arranged a timer that would set off a light when the time was about up. As the years passed, and then the decades, I changed technologies.  Now, I use an iPhone that buzzes silently in my pocket and that synchronizes with my Apple Watch that buzzes silently on my wrist.  But, also true, I no longer feel that barrage of guilty abandonment when I do check the time.  I write process notes on an iPad. The time is always right there – if I dare look.


Douglas H. Ingram, MD

Douglas H. Ingram, MD maintains an analytically informed practice on the upper east side of Manhattan.  You can visit his web page, www.dhingrammd.com or contact him at (212) 289-4022.

The Contributions of Empirical Infant Research to Psychoanalytic Treatment


Presenter: Dr. Frank Lachmann 

Date & Time: Thursday, April 18, 2019 [8:00 PM – 10:00 PM] 

Contact Hours: 2 

Location: 329 East 62nd St (Bet. 1st & 2nd Avenues), NYC 10065

Overview: About 15 years ago I wrote a paper “Infant Research and Adult Treatment: What have we learned? How can we apply it?” In my presentation I summarize what I learned in the past and then turn to what Beatrice Beebe and I have learned in the last 15 years, specifically, how the continuing empirical research on infants and mothers furthers our ability to treat adult patients. These studies have documented the bidirectionality and co-creation of experience in infancy and can be extended into adulthood to include the therapeutic relationship. Organizing principles of self and interactive regulation their disruption and repair, and heightened affective moments can be translated into leading and tailing edge interpretations in the treatment of adults that provide therapist with an empirically derived perspective for understanding and interpreting development, psychopathology and transference. Clinical illustrations connect and clarify the empirical research with a self-psychology-based perspective that provides a framework for contributions of infant research to adult treatment.

Learning Objectives: Participants will 

1. learn that interventions based on empirical studies of early development can provide a wider array of clarifying therapeutic interventions.  

2. be able to make leading edge interventions that further the treatment process and growth of the patient. 

3. be able to avoid some of the pitfalls that trap and lock patient and therapist in defensive interactions. 

4. be able to recognize and use the power of nonverbal communications as a therapeutic tool.

Presenter: Frank M. Lachmann, Ph.D. is a teacher and supervisor and a member of the Founding Faculty of the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, New York; and a Clinical Assistant Professor, in the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. He is author or co-author of more than 150 journal publications. He has been a co-author with Joe Lichtenberg and Jim Fosshage on six books, most recently Enlivening the Self (Routledge, 2015) and Narrative and Meaning, (Routledge, 2017). With Beatrice Beebe he wrote Infant Research and Adult Treatment: Co-Constructing Interactions (Analytic Press, 2002) The Origins of Attachment (Routledge, 2014) and The Mother-Infant Interaction Picture Book (with Beebe and Cohn, Norton, 2016). He is sole author of Transforming Aggression: Psychotherapy with the difficult-to-treat patient (Aronson, 2000) and Transforming Narcissism: Reflections on Empathy, Humor, and Expectations (Analytic Press, 2008). He is a member of the Council of the International Association of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, and an honorary member of the Vienna Circle for Self-Psychology, the William Alanson White Society, and the American Psychoanalytic Association.

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The American Institute for Psychoanalysis is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0338.

If you would like to register by phone or inquire about a course, presentation or CE credits, please call the American Institute for Psychoanalysis (AIP) at 212-838-8044 or email info@aipnyc.org.

This meeting has been approved for 2 contact hours for licensed social workers. A certificate will be mailed to those who sign the attendance sheet, complete an evaluation and pay an administrative fee of $10.  

Unrequited Love and Revenge in Erotomanic Stalking

Presenter: Helen Gediman, PhD
Date:  Thursday, January 25, 2018
Time: 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm (40 minute lunch break at noon, and two 10-minute coffee breaks)
Location: American Institute for Psychoanalysis, 329 E 62nd St (Auditorium, Ground Floor)
General Admission is FREE!
Cost: $20.00 (applies only to licensed social workers wanting to receive their CE certificates)
Learning Objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn of the broad spectrum of motivation among erotomanic stalkers.
  2. Attendees will learn of the prevalence of narcissistically based shame when idealized love is unrequited.
  3. Attendees will learn how stalking can terrorize an idealized love object.

Overview:
The presentation will review portrayals of erotomania in the films, Play Misty for Me and Fatal Attraction as well as in celebrity stalking of operatic and other divas. Clinical vignettes will round out the discussion of shame, fear, and terror in the stalker-stalkee couple.

Presenter: Helen Gediman, PhD, is Clinical Professor of Psychology at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and on the faculty of the Contemporary Freudian Society where she is a Training and Supervising Analyst. She is the author or coauthor of over 65 papers on a wide variety of topics, and 5 books. Her latest are Stalker, Hacker, Voyeur, Spy, the most recent in the CIPS/Karnac series on The Boundaries of Psychoanalysis, and Building Bridges, her selected papers published by International Psychoanalysis.