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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Sep 20, 2020

It’s a big job to accept the otherness of the other. This places demands on the psychological processing of each individual to tolerate the otherness of the other. Therefore we often see regressive solutions when the other person’s otherness cannot be endured. Then ideal narcissistic states of purity and homogeneity are longed for.”


Description: Dr. Harvey Schwartz welcomes Dr. Werner Bohleber who is a Training and Supervising Analyst in Frankfurt, Germany, where he lives and practices. He is a former President of the German Psychoanalytic Association (DPV) and has served as a member of the Board of the IPA, and the chair of several IPA committees. For twenty years, Dr. Bohleber was the editor in chief of the German psychoanalytic Journal, Psyche. In 2007 he received the Sigourney Award for distinguished contributions to the field of psychoanalysis.


In today’s episode, you will hear Dr. Bohleber’s devotion to his clinical, social, and academic work which has been focused in the area of otherness, as it is expressed in hyper nationalism and antisemitism. He has devoted special attention to the Nazi period, the Holocaust, and the impact of the Second World War on the survivors and the generations that followed. Most recently he devoted himself to the study of trauma in. Dr. Bohleber shares the reasons that brought him to this work. He recounts how when he was an adolescent he saw the movie Night and Fog which visually documents the atrocities that took place in Auschwitz. He dedicated his career to studying what happened inside the minds of the individuals involved in this tragic time in history and also what happened inside the culture that led to these kinds of atrocities.


Key takeaways:

[7:51] Dr. Bohleber discusses the otherness the he studies in his work.

[11:55] One of the aims of the psychoanalytic treatment is to help the patient to accept the ambivalence of life.

[13:45] Libidinization is not in contrast with separateness.

[14:30] Dr. Bohleber talks about the interplay between unconscious fantasies and political tensions.

[17:10] Dr. Bohleber talks about what it seems to be a helpless rebellion against the loss of a familiar world and against the changes that go along with it.

[19:10] The idea of an ethnic homogenous nation-state is celebrated not only in Germany but also in other states of Europe.

[21:15] Dr. Bohleber talks about the role of an analyst in a multicultural society that struggles to integrate.

[23:20] Psychoanalysts should not retreat into the comfort of their offices.

[24:46] How does Germany’s Nazi past influence the culture’s thinking when faced with the struggles over otherness?

[29:11] Dr. Bohleber talks about the psychoanalytic studies of antisemitism and how usually antisemitic people do not engage in psychoanalytic treatments.

[30:50] Dr. Bohleber shares what motivated his passion to study antisemitism and fundamentalisms of all sorts.


Mentioned in this episode:

IPA Off the Couch


Recommended Readings:

Bohleber, W.: Destructiveness, Intersubjectivity, and Trauma. The Identity Crisis of Modern Psychoanalysis. London (Karnac) 2010.


Bohleber, W.: Remembrance, Trauma, and Collective Memory. The Battle for Memory in Psychoanalysis. Int J Psychoanal 2007, 88, 329-352.


Bohleber, W.: Problems in German Remembrance. In: Brenner, I. (Ed.): The handbook of psychoanalytic Holocaust studies. International perspectives. London/New York: Routledge 2020, 129 – 142.