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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Aug 16, 2020

"Historians have had to learn to explore their own subjectivity in dealing with the past. They can only see what they are prepared to see and they have frequently blocked out, scotomized, what they really don’t want to see. This is part of the current struggle in the history profession"


Description: Dr. Harvey Schwartz welcomes Dr. Peter Loewenberg, who is a retired professor of History and Political Psychology at UCLA where he received numerous awards including from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Fulbright Foundations. He is a training and supervising analyst and former Dean of the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. He chaired the committee that passed the California Research Psychoanalysis Law in 1977, enabling academics to be trained in and practice psychoanalysis. He Chaired the IPA China Committee, and he served on the IPA Board representing North America. He is the author of many publications, including Decoding the Past: The Psychohistorical Approach and Fantasy and Reality in History. He is Editor of 100 Years of the IPA.


In today’s episode, Dr. Loewenberg shares his passion for the academic and psychoanalytic worlds and his ability to relate these two fields to each other. As a historian, Dr. Loewenberg informs psychoanalysis and underlines how vital it is to appreciate and listen for the past, and he brings from psychoanalysis to history the importance of listening to oneself in observing the present and the past.


Key takeaways:

[5:44] Dr. Loewenberg shares how psychoanalysis and history can understand the methods of each other to the advantage of both, and how this informed his discovery and immersion in Psychohistory.

[7:03] Dr. Loewenberg talks about how historians took the contributions of psychoanalysis to history.

[9:45] Trauma experienced by a psychoanalyst influences his practice, giving a three dimensional perspective to his understanding of his patient’s trauma.

[11:12] Dr. Loewenberg talks about psychohistory and how the past impacts the present in meaningful ways.

[13:06] How the Deutsche Mark became one of the strongest currencies in Europe.

[16:24] Dr. Loewenberg shares his beginnings as a psychoanalyst.

[21:59] Dr. Loewenberg talks about how the first cases were like for him.

[27:38] The appreciation of the exchanges between analyst and analysand.

[29:10] Historians’ appreciation for the past is often very subjective.

[31:10] Dr. Loewenberg shares how life is now for him and his family during the pandemic.


Mentioned in this episode:

IPA Off the Couch


Recommended Readings:

100 Years of the IPA: The Centenary History of the International Psychoanalytical Association 1910 - 2010: Evolution and Change Ed. and introduced (with Nellie L. Thompson); (London: International Psychoanalytical Association, 2011).


Decoding the Past: The Psychohistorical Approach (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983); (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985); (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1996, paperback edition with a new introduction,).


Fantasy and Reality in History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).


Walther Rathenau and Henry Kissinger: The Jew as Modern Statesman in Two Political Cultures (New York: Leo Baeck Institute, 1980).


"The Psychohistorical Origins of the Nazi Youth Cohort," American Historical Review 76: 5 (December 1971), 1457-1502.


"The Unsuccessful Adolescence of Heinrich Himmler," American Historical Review 76- 3 (June 1971), pp. 612-641.