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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Oct 4, 2020

"The goal is to find magic which is not psychotic, to find a form of magic which isn’t simply the denial of reality. The nonpsychotic form of magic is play. The analyst and the patient have to learn to be able to play together in that transitional realm."


Description: Dr. Harvey Schwartz welcomes Dr. Joel Whitebook. Dr. Whitebook is a philosopher and a psychoanalyst and is on the faculty of the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research where he was the Director of the University’s Psychoanalytic Studies Program. Dr. Whitebook’s research centers on the attempt to integrate psychoanalysis and critical theory in the tradition of the Frankfurt School. Dr. Whitebook is  widely published but is mostly known for his masterwork, Freud: An Intellectual Biography. In this work he brings together his philosophical and psychoanalytic ear and insightfulness to provide an overview and a deep understanding of Freud’s development.


In today’s conversation, Drs. Whitebook and Schwartz speak about magic in the history of psychoanalysis, and as it relates to religion, transference, play, and the healing process in general. Enjoy this simply fascinating talk.


Key takeaways:

[9:44] Dr. Whitebook talks about what he learned about magic.

[10:28] Enlightenment, magic, and disenchantment.

[14:05] Dr. Whitebook talks about the often denied origins of psychoanalysis.

[15:48] Dr. Whitebook explains the way in which psychoanalysis emerged out of hypnosis.

[17:03] Hypnosis is an example of transference.

[18:15] Psychoanalysis was born because of the way it repudiated suggestion.

[19:55] Drs. Whitebook and Schwartz explore the concept of analytic magic/transference/love.

[21:50] Transference and countertransference as vehicles for insight.

[23:05] Enactment as a way of producing the material that then can be analyzed to achieve  insight.

[25:01] Dr. Winnicott’s criticism of Freud’s notion of illusion.

[28:09] The two principles of mental functioning.

[29:48] Embracing external reality while respecting the forces of enchantment.

[33:16] The desecularization of the world.

[34:10] Dr. Whitebook talks about how magic is and has been immersed in his work.

[36:20] Dr. Whitebook shares how he tried to untangle Freud’s objections to religions.

[38:25] Freedom of speech occupies a central role in psychoanalysis.

[39:43] Freud, Judaism, and psychoanalysis.


Mentioned in this episode:

IPA Off the Couch 

Learn more about Dr. Joel Whitebook


Recommended Readings:

Perversion and Utopia: Studies in Psychoanalysis and Critical Thinking, (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought), Joel Whitebook


Freud: An Intellectual Biography, , Chapters, 8, 9, 11 & 13. Joel Whitebook


Slow Magic: Psychoanalysis and the Disenchantment of the World.  Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 50, no. 4 (2002): 1197-1217. Joel Whitebook


Jacob's Ambivalent Legacy. .American Imago (2010): 139-155. Joel Whitebook


Freud on Religion, (Acumen, 2104), Chapt, 4. Marsha Alleen Hewitt


Psychoanalysis and Magic: Then and now. American Imago (2009): 471-489. Mikita Brottman


Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Federick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, (Harper: 2016). James Gaines (This is a marvelous book that explores the fate of Bach's enchanted world of music when it encountered the Enlightenment.)