The Impossible Education

photo_1_4ab9ca642142fc724e93195dca9602b6.jpg I can’t wait for Google Books. I just reread all of Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession to find this passage:

Another story tells of an analyst who decided to do some follow-up work. He telephoned two women patients who had been in analysis with him five years previously. There were comparable cases: both had had stormy, tempestuous analyses, with all kinds of Sturm und Drang and very emotional, intense transferences. Now, five years later, one woman said, “Doctor, every night before I go to bed I thank my lucky stars that I had you as my analyst. The analysis with you has changed my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what I learned from you, and apply it. You are an ever-living presence in my daily life, and I think of you with something like reverence.” The other woman—who had had just as tempestuous and emotional and intense an analysis—said, “You know, every so often I think about you, and I think, Maybe my life wouldn’t be much different if I hadn’t been in analysis. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much of the analysis. You seem to be a nice man. I guess the experience was O.K. But I can’t say what helped me and what wouldn’t have happened anyway.” Right away, he knew who had had the better analysis. When you’re though with the operation, you sew up the patient, you hope that the scar isn’t too conspicuous, and if everything afterward goes as it should—fine, that’s enough.
Despite having read a book about psychoanalysis twice, I’ve never been in psychoanalysis. The reason I read it at all is because it’s by Janet Malcolm, who also wrote The Journalist and the Murderer. I reread it because I’ve been thinking about that anecdote a lot lately. Soon after I graduated college, I decided the whole thing was bunk. I was the kind of student who read all the assigned texts instead of just the parts that would be on the test. After four years, I got a degree that implied that I’m educated. But if I had failed Spanish IV, which I nearly did, I wouldn’t be a Bachelor of the Arts. But what does Spanish have to with the price of tea in China? In fact, what does the price of tea in China have to do with my life now? Plus, not to get all Good Will Hunting, but a lot of stuff I learned in college I could have just read on my own. But like the second women in that story, my college education has become such a part of me that I don’t really notice it anymore. There’s a production of Othello happening in London right now that I should have no interest in, but I’ve read all about it. And it’s no coincidence that Othello was my favorite play from the two Shakespeare classes I took in college. (Also no coincidence: I saw O before reading the play.) Incidentally, the other professions Freud described as impossible were education and government. I guess the operation was a success.