A Brief Review of the 2014 American Psychoanalytic Association Conference

By Shady Shebak, MD

I recently had the pleasure to attend the American Psychoanalytic Conference. It was a great opportunity to witness creativity and a rare perspective on mental illness and mental life in general. One thing that struck me was the lack of “labelling” patients. In psychiatry, especially in community psychiatry where we have to worry about insurance companies and billing, we have to make rigid diagnoses.

Within the world of psychoanalysis, no such rigidity exists. The focus is almost exclusively on the inner-psychic life of the patient. Even then, the patient is not really a patient, rather a person giving insight to their inner most thoughts in order to understand themselves and get over certain complexes. A perfectly “normal” person may want to be analyzed to understand their fears, dreams, desires, and their unconscious life. Similarly, an ill person may want to resolve strong and crippling conflicts that he/she is or is not aware of.

At the conference, the ages of the attendees were varied, with young and old alike. There seemed to be a genuine resurgence of interest in psychoanalysis, and this interest ranged from the neuroscience aspect of psychoanalysis to the literary and historical aspects of psychoanalysis. I had the pleasure of attending several discussion groups ranging from discussions on the origins of the unconscious, to infant mental life, to dreams, to neuro-scientific discoveries in relation to the unconscious, as well as a beautifully put together discussion with leaders in the fields of history and the humanities, and their analysis of psychoanalysis.

One of the highlights of the conference was the discussion with Dr. Bernard Bail, a WWII veteran and a renowned analyst. He was physically aged, but mentally sharp, with a deep understanding of his patients. He has several books that delve deep into the meaning of the unconscious, stressing that the unconscious begins before the human being develops into a “human”. Dr. Bail’s works are not for the easily offended or the rigid minded folk, but if you are looking to open new possibilities into mental life, then he is an author that you should learn more about.

Author and psychoanalytic theorist

Dr. Bernard Bail

For more information on Dr. Bail’s works, visit: http://www.holisticpsychoanalysis.com/

This was the first time I’ve attended the APsaA conference, and I found myself pleasantly surprised and encouraged to pursue my interest in this field. I hope this review of the conference encourages you all to look more into psychoanalysis, as well as into fields dealing with mental life. Psychoanalysis is a field for the poets, scientists, and the curious alike!

For more information on the American Psychoanalytic Association, visit the APsaA website: http://www.apsa.org/

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