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Psychoanalysis Unplugged: Let the Music Begin!

A new blog from the American Psychoanalytic Association

CC0 Public Domain/Permission To Use

By Michael Donner, Ph.D.

MTV Unplugged, a program first aired in 1989, highlighted well-established rock musicians performing in non-traditional ways, typically playing their songs on acoustic guitar or piano. Inspired by informal jam sessions and concerts by notable performers like Elvis, The Beatles and Pete Townsend, Unplugged came to be embraced as a more casual and intimate way to listen music.

Psychoanalysis Unplugged hopes to do the same for psychoanalytic ideas, to bring them more to the public eye—to make them accessible, relevant and compelling. Historically, psychoanalysts wrote for its practitioners, not for the public. We hope that this blog will allow the everyday reader to listen to the music of psychoanalysis, not just the words. Psychoanalysis involves richly textured theoretical ideas that explore the human mind—it is a way to understand how people think and how they live in the world.

For many years, psychoanalysis was caricatured as rigid and dogmatic, based on ideas that some thought had been invalidated because it was unscientific, too expensive, and took too long. However, new psychotherapy outcome research which compares medications, cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) and psychoanalytic treatment have shown that the psychoanalytic treatments have much longer lasting effects than either CBT or medications. These results have revived an interest in psychoanalysis as a treatment.

But more importantly, psychoanalytic ideas are deeply entrenched in our ways of thinking. Whether discussing the narcissism of "millennials" or trying to understand political figures, ideas of what drives and motivates human beings are rooted in psychoanalytic theory.

Unencumbered by the complex language of journals and professional publications, we hope Psychoanalysis Unplugged will bring psychoanalytic ideas to a new audience. Like MTV Unplugged, the more casual and intimate setting of a blog provides access to the thinker, and an opportunity for the reader to comment. An acoustic version of a song can bring forth the meaning and the emotion that might otherwise be hidden behind a wall of sound. We hope that Psychoanalysis Unplugged will do the same for these richly textured ideas, highlighting the deeper layers of thought that lay behind everyday actions.

Everyday human behavior like bullying, fat-shaming and why people vote the way they do, can be lost behind the wall of sound that is our news media and professional writing. We look forward to bringing you another way to listen, another way to think, a different kind of sound, a different kind of psychoanalysis. We hope that Psychoanalysis Unplugged will give you an "access pass" to the music of the mind in this more casual setting.

Let the music begin!

About the Author: Michael B. Donner, PhD, is a psychoanalyst and clinical and forensic psychologist in Oakland, California. He sees adults and adolescents with a wide range of concerns, and provides child custody evaluations and other services to the Family Courts. He is President and member of the faculty at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis and also currently serves as the Chair of the Department of Communication for the American Psychoanalytic Association. Please visit his website at