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The New Yorker has run a fascinating article by Evan Osnos. Osnos covers China for the magazine, writing on other subjects like His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The article under review is about the Chinese meeting Sigmund Freud. As Dr. Stefan de Schill correctly predicted, there has been a resurrection of psychoanalysis. But it is not here in the West: it is in China.

Dr. Elise Snyder, presently 76 years old, entered a field that was both heavily populated by men and heavily influenced by traditional modalities of psychoanalysis. “Between 1940 and 1960, according to the historian Eli Zaretsky, the American Psychoanalytic Association expanded more than fivefold.” During this time, Snyder built her Manhattan practice that included two forms of treatment: psychoanalytic psychotherapy, in which patients came one-to-three days per week and sat upright; and full Freudian analysis, patients visiting four or five days a week on the couch.

Psychoanalysis, by the 1970s, was falling not so much into disrepute but out of step with the times. “Gloria Steinem wrote that Freud had inspired ‘modern psychiatry’s refreshing ability to ignore poverty, deprivation, power systems of sex, race, or class.'” (From the standpoint of feminist theory it was a case of “What every woman needs is a wife.”)

According to statistics, by 1997 fewer than one-million Americans were in long-term Freudian analysis. But Snyder never lost faith. Freud had been translated into Chinese as early as the 1920s, though Freudian discipleship in China was limited. When Snyder came to China in the early 2000s (though she had visited earlier), she discovered that students were so eager to be analyzed, and in such numbers, that only Skype could help them fill this need.

With the style and pace of life changing by the minute in China, and with suicide rates among the highest in the world (work being done by Suicide Prevention International, a unique New York-based not-for-profit upon which AMHF has kept a steady, admiring eye), it has been reported by The Lancet that nearly one in five adults in China has a mental disorder as defined by the DSM-IV. Not long ago, a Chinese TV show was launched, somewhat like Dr. Drew Pinsky or Dr. Phil here, called “Psychology Sessions.” Freud finally had arrived in the Far East.

Snyder has founded the China-American Psychoanalytic Alliance (CAPA). “The list of Chinese patients in Skype analysis had grown to forty-one; forty more were in a less intensive treatment: psychodynamic psychotherapy….Two years ago, Snyder started a Web-based training program in psychotherapy that has students in twelve Chinese cities. The first thirty graduated this fall.”

Many of the emotional problems in China are the result of the Cultural Revolution, which produced marital problems and others involving the family dynamic that tend to trickle down the generations.

Freud. Confucius. Communism. Free-market Capitalism. West. East. Skype. What lies in the future? Is it the resurrection Dr. de Schill predicted, and on a mass scale? Writer Evan Osnos remains skeptical. “China is more likely to absorb the most practical of Freud’s ideas and discard the rest, as it has Marxism, capitalism, and other imports.” From my end, the most important wave to fear is “psychoanalytic evangelism”: a tsunami of 21st c. missionary zeal.

The entire article from the January 10, 2011, New Yorker may be accessed here.

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