Jonathan Shedler, PhD

why psychoanalysis

This is what we make conscious—

the patterns that disable and limit

people—the ones that give ulcers either to

the individuals themselves or to recipients in

their orbit.

We understand these patterns and with

painstaking effort help the afflicted come to

understand them in themselves and others.

We help them respond strategically instead of

reacting impulsively or holding back endlessly.

We help people separate the wheat from the

chaff, see the forest through the trees, find

the leading edge, sort through competing

priorities, and make rightful claims and necessary

renunciations. We help them develop an

ethical flexibility of mind and attitude, knowing

when to be a stickler and when to give a wink

and a nod, when to finesse a situation and

when to play strictly by the rules, when to

speak up and when to suck it up.

We help people navigate power dynamics, make adaptive

distinctions and discriminations, and pick

their battles. A psychoanalytic “read” can “pull”

for good outcomes and help avoid blunders or

traps. We help tame our baser instincts and

harness optimal aggression, assertion, competition,

intimacy, and sexuality instead of ending up

mired in destructive, cut-throat aggression,

impotent rage, or dehumanizing sexuality.

We help people be patient or impatient as

circumstances dictate, suffer appropriately but

not excessively, and rejoice to the utmost

when warranted. We help people grow,

change, integrate, modulate, decrease self-absorption,

regard themselves accurately, take

themselves seriously but not too seriously,

free up emotional energy in the service of

creativity and mastery—in short, become their

best selves.

The reverberations go well beyond the individual,

fostering richer and fuller family life, as

well as functional and productive organizations,

all with enormous ripple effect. Our

work can help break the kinds of destructive

cycles which, if left untreated, keep echoing

through the generations.

—Wendy Jacobson, Why Bother? A Psychoanalytic Graduation Speech