Over-Simulated

Staying human in a post-human world

Ask Your Magazine (or Your Doctor) About Psychoanalysis

Findings ways to cherish your inner life in the digital world

When we thrill to the latest gadget or practice (whether its cloud-based music coming soon to an iPad near you or dangerously oversold practices of distance therapy) we're not just passive consumers of emerging technology, we're helping co-create a new culture and new ways of being a person.

To illustrate consider a Spring, 2011 essay titled "The Shifting Experience of the Self" by the editors of The Hedgehog Review:

"Our sense of the past, our emotional lives, our bonds with others, our space for individual autonomy, our capacity for self-reflection and self-knowledge—all and more are impacted in potentially fundamental ways. As our culture is succeeded by the next, new types of persons are coming into being."

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The subsequent articles go on to describe multiple dimensions along which our emerging culture of technologically-mediated simulation and enhancement fundamentally changes what it feels like to be a person. Agree or not, as a practicing psychoanalyst, I daily encounter people struggling to engage the world while simultaneously cherishing and exploring private, inner experiences. What I'm learning is that the challenge of nurturing an inner life while emerging as an "inter-person" can sure take a toll on the human heart. 

And I'm also learning and relearning that psychoanalysis, however it's been (mis)portrayed in the media—and even in basic psychology textbooks that often describe how people thought and practiced 50 years ago—,is a practice that helps heal the rift between the old and the new. It helps with who one is and wants to become and who we are becoming.

I am increasingly hopeful when I see psychoanalysis accurately portrayed as a vital endeavor of deep value for people trying to build a good life in the hustle-bustle, always-connected, immediacy of the digital world. An especially clear presentation of psychoanalysis today that is very much worth a read is found in the current print issue (yes, the kind on paper with all kinds of features you can't find online) of Psychology Today in an article by Molly Knight Raskin. She does an excellent job describing some recent advances in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and I want to bring it to your attention (full disclosure: among the valuable additions only present in the print version—the kind you buy at a newsstand—are comments by yours truly about the special relevance psychoanalysis has for thoughtfully making one's way in our wired world). 

And while I was writing this piece a link to the following YouTube video came in on a professional listserv. It is a completely different, but no less accurate, approach to portraying psychoanalysis. Enjoy.






© 2011 Todd Essig, All Rights Reserved

Todd Essig, Ph.D., is a training and supervising psychoanalyst at the William Alanson White Institute with a clinical practice treating individuals and couples.

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