gary shteyngart

A Brilliant Author’s Defense of Psychoanalysis

If you don’t recognize the name Gary Shteyngart, you may have seen his endlessly witty verbal pyrotechnics in places like the New Yorker. Shteyngart is that rare writer who can capture the endless regression of our interiority without getting bogged down in all the sad parts. To what does he credit his prolific effectiveness, after a lifetime of false starts and cowering anxiety? A lengthy psychoanalysis that helped him surface all the issues that held him back. As one thoughtful piece in UTNE noted:

But psychoanalysis is a profound exploration of human subjectivity—our inner world with all its memories, desires, and impulses—and its relation to the external, objective world. And it is much more than a treatment. It’s also a set of theories about the complex nature of human experience. “Analysis is the most elaborate and nuanced view of the mind that we have,” Nobel-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel recently told a meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

The piece is part of a broader trend toward celebrating the rebirth of psychoanalytic therapy—or at the very least, disproving its premature death. After all, analytic therapy remains the most in-depth tool we have for enacting lasting change, and the studies bear this out:

Jonathan Shedler, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Science, has examined the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy—a term describing treatment based on psychoanalytic theory and methods but briefer and less intensive—for everything from depression and anxiety to panic disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse. He has found that the benefits of psychodynamic therapy extend well beyond symptom relief.

“The benefits of newer therapies often start to decay after treatment ends,” Shedler contends. “Studies of psychodynamic therapies show that people not only look much better in terms of symptom relief, personality functioning, and social functioning after treatment, but also stay better. What’s more, they display continued improvement.”

The whole piece is worth a read, not least because it helps resolve some of the sticky debates between neuroscience and psychology, revealing both camps to be far less at odds than many have feared.

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