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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Feb 2, 2020

“I have inner permission to write the memoir and to work through the contradictions and the difficulties that I might have, and not have a Greek chorus in my head telling me: You can't do this.”


Description: Harvey Schwartz welcomes Susan Mailer to today’s episode. Susan is an American born psychoanalyst who grew up in Mexico and has lived in Chile for more than 30 years. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, she trained in Chile at the Psychoanalytic Institute, where she became a full member a few years later as well as an active faculty member there. She has published in Latin American psychoanalytic journals and in Psychoanalytic Dialogues and she has participated in many Psychoanalytic panels worldwide, including the Winnicott Congress, IPA Congress and congress associated with FEPAL (Psychoanalytic Federation of Latin America). Susan teaches, supervises and has a private practice in Santiago and recently co-founded the new IPA affiliated to Psychoanalytic Institute of Santiago de Chile, and its working on the development of its Institute.

The focus of this episode is Susan’s memoir, titled In Another Place: With or Without My Father Norman Mailer which was recently published in 2019. This conversation is wide ranging and you will hear about the meaning of ‘celebrity’, as well as the impact it had on herself and on others. Harvey and Susan talk about how being famous and writing a memoir impacts the clinical setting, what psychoanalysis has been like under dictatorship, and her own personal journey to becoming a psychoanalyst.


Key takeaways:

[5:02] The contradiction evident in a psychoanalyst writing a memoir.

[6:46] Susan Mailer shares her personal journey writing her memoir.

[11:08] Susan contemplates how writing her memoir can affect her patients.

[14:20] Susan presents the case of a patient who read her memoir.

[15:30] Susan shares how it was to grow up with a father who cherished his fame.

[16:40] Harvey explores the meanings of abstinence and neutrality.

[19:42] Susan talks about being inspired by one of Winnicott’s phrases: “Therapy is a sophisticated game of hide and seek, in which it is a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found”.

[21:48] Susan shares her experience with people who did not know who her father was.

[24:17] Susan’s developments as an analyst and later on as a writer.

[27:32] Susan talks about how both of her parents were a great influence in her life and profession.

[28:58] Susan talks about the experience of living during a dictatorship in Chile and becoming a psychoanalyst during those times.

[34:58] Susan shares how in 1990 a democratic government changed the atmosphere in Chile.

[36:10] People were afraid of challenging beliefs as a result of the years of dictatorship.

[37:58] Chile’s current situation with the ‘social explosion’.

Mentioned in this episode:

IPA Off the Couch


Recommended Readings:

Memoirs written by Psychoanalysts.

Sophia Richman PhD. A Wolf in the Closet.The Legacy of a Hidden Child of the Holocaust.

Margaret Little, Psychotic Anxieties and Containment. A history of my Analysis with Winnicott

Susan Mailer: In Another Place, With and Without my Father Norman Mailer.


Memoirs written by children of famous authors:

Kaylie Jones: Lies my Mother Never Told me.

Gregory Bellow: Saul Bellow's Heart

Janna Malamud Smith: My Father is a Book