作者: Schwartz / 2835次阅读 时间: 2013年11月01日
标签: RoySchafer ROYSCHAFER

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2013 Volume LXXXII, Number 1


By Henry P. Schwartz

The author provides a biographical overview of Schafer’s life, culled from his published work and focused primarily on his professional development. This biography is used to demonstrate some of Schafer’s central theoretical insights on narrativity and language, and reveals the consistency of his thinking over his long career. A brief discussion of his writing on King Lear provides a bridge between theoretical and biographical material.

Keywords: Roy Schafer, history of analysis, philosophy, ego psychology,King Lear, creation of experience, creation of facts, language,narration, forgiveness, love.

There is no correct introduction I can give to Roy Schafer. What I can do is tell my version of that story, a story that implies an interpretation, and in doing that I will also tell something about the storyteller. That is the part for you the reader to figure out, and as you figure it out, you will become another storyteller and interpreter of this “beginning.”

We have all read his books and papers, and I will provide a very brief overview in a moment. Before getting to that, however, let me tell you some of his tellings of himself as a person.

“Where to begin?” he once asked, then continued as follows.

Perhaps with the history of the Jews in Eastern Europe and then my parents’ wretched childhoods and emigration to the United States, carrying with them poverty-tainted ideals of learning and little emotional preparation for gratifying family life; this leading to a childhood that featured more than enough bad times emotionally and an adolescence overshadowed by the sense of futility and pessimism engendered in the 1930s by the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, and the massive discrimination against and persecution of Jews—all of which together fostered the deep feelings, “What’s wrong with people?” and “What’s wrong with me?” Under the influence of these feelings I adopted the role of cautious observer, outsider, and interpreter of what people said and did as well as doubter of the meaning and validity of my own ideas and feelings. It was in this soil that there grew my lifelong interest in interpretation, and it is the intensity of this interest that I consider the red thread running through my personal life, my occupational skills, and the development of my ideas about psychoanalysis. [2000, p. 33]

In another paper, he goes on:

In 1943, fresh out of the City College of New York, I was recruited by David Rapaport, then Chief Psychologist at the Menninger Clinic, to be his intern-apprentice-research assistant. Our clinical work was in diagnostic psychological testing using a battery of tests, and our research (with Merton Gill as our psychiatric consultant on diagnosis) focused on test differences among different diagnostic groups of patients, and between them and “normals.” Gill and Margaret Brenman were then advanced candidates at, or recent graduates of, the Topeka Psychoanalytic Institute; they were doing research on hypnotherapy. By 1946, Rapaport was established as the head of a new Research Department, and I had been chosen to take his place as Chief of Adult Testing. [2006, p. 1]

But in no time Austen Riggs began recruiting staff from Menninger, and along with Robert Knight, Rapaport, Brenman, and Gill, Schafer moves to Riggs in ’47 and begins an analysis with Knight. Of this analysis, he says:

My analysis (1947–1949) had been short, inadequate, and, I now think, entirely inappropriate, in that my analyst had been Robert Knight, my boss at Riggs, and the analysis was conducted within the confined professional atmosphere at Riggs. Despite its disruptive factors and limitations, that two-year “analysis” was accepted as my training analysis. It barely met the minimum requirement of 300 hours in duration, and it had never before been considered a training analysis. [2006, p. 2]

Some time later, after a period of de-idealization of Knight, he has a second analysis with another Topeka émigré, which he describes as much further reaching and useful: “My second analysis during those years with William L. Pious, which, unlike my first analysis, was addressed effectively enough to my paranoid/schizoid and depressive tendencies to begin the liberation of significant aspects of my feelings and my creative work” (2000, p. 34). In 1953, Schafer moves from Riggs to Yale, as their chief psychologist, and soon after he is permitted to begin analytic training as a “research candidate,” the designation required for all psychologists. Two other important figures in Schafer’s professional development at this time, along with the illustrious staff already mentioned, were Erik Erikson (who joined Riggs in 1950), from whom he received supervision, and Hans Loewald, who came to New Haven in 1955. In spite of his close relationship to Rapaport, who served as a true mentor to him, a time arrived for Schafer to go his own way:

For some years I conscientiously followed Rapaport’s model as teacher and author. However, first in testing and then in psychoanalytic theory I began to recognize Rapaport’s limitations and their inhibiting effects on me . . . . In theory, too, I found it necessary to change, helped along partly by my exposure to Erikson and Loewald and partly by my own teaching of theory in the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis. Through that teaching I was constantly exposed to my students’ tough questions and also many of my own. Then there was the student protest period of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which fostered my own challenging spirit with respect to all aspects of received wisdom. And I can add to this sequence my increasing experience with hard-to-treat patients in analysis and psychotherapy. [2000, pp. 34-35]

A “preoccupation with interpretation” led him to take up “academic critical theory” (2000, p. 35) in relation to literature and philosophy. Through the study of existentialism, philosophy of language, and the philosophy of history, he arrived at a framework that has structured his thinking since that time, with its emphasis on action, narration, hermeneutics, and constructivism. He also credits feminism with shaping his theoretical approach. “These additional influences played into my rethinking the entire edifice of psychoanalytic conceptualization. My moving away from Rapaport’s model now included selective doubts about the increasingly dominant ego-psychoanalytic formulations of Hartmann, Kris, and Loewenstein” (2000, p. 35).

Schafer’s personal life inevitably merges into his professional life in those papers where we get to glimpse him, and I will now follow him there. In spite of his critique of ego psychology, we find him preserving much from Ernst Kris, who remained an important thinker for him. And along with Erikson and Loewald, Winnicott also had a significant influence early on. Schafer’s critique of ego psychology and metapsychology aimed to return psychoanalysis to the study of the human condition, and to bring theory back into a relationship with the immediate experience of the clinical encounter. His goal was to de-biologize and de-mechanize the ego so that it could be understood as part of a coherent, dynamic being, always existing in some tension with other psychic structures, rather than as an agency performing autonomous functions.

That centrality of the human condition is what gives Schafer’s work its soul—soul that, as Freud says, “can be seen . . . if one knows how to look” (Freud quoted by Schafer 2010, p. 1505). That soulfulness is easier to miss in Schafer’s written work than it is when he discusses clinical material, but we occasionally glimpse it in his prose. Because he is a writer of such precise, rigorous, and thorough reasoning, one can lose sight of that extra, unexpected element. Of course, soul is not a psychoanalytic term, but it seems apt in conveying a kind of understanding that comes from personal experience. We sense that Schafer speaks from experience. For me this quality comes to its greatest expression in his two recent papers on The Tragedy of King Lear (Schafer 2005, 2010), in which we come to recognize not only Schafer as Lear, but ourselves as well.  

Before getting to those papers, let me sketch out the trajectory of his work. It is a trajectory that takes us from the universals of psychoanalytic metapsychology to the particulars of an individual, tragic man. Between these poles is an uninterrupted arc of interests in agency, action, intelligibility, feminism, constructivism, narrativity, psychic reality, the philosophy of language, and contemporary object relations theory. In speaking we create experience. Agency is not an objective fact of history, but rather a manner of coming to understand one’s history. Intelligibility is the goal, not objective accuracy—since, as Schafer says, “‘facts’ have always been as much created as found” (1976, pp. 4-5).

Thus it is language that creates experience. Retelling a life means constructing that life in our own words, words that will count as actions, so that the retelling effectively becomes an interpretation, and that interpretation itself must then become open to interpretation. Roland Barthes described his passion as “the way men make their world intelligible to themselves” (1991, p. 8), and Schafer is a partner in that passion. For Barthes that intelligibility was always mediated by culture; for Schafer it is mediated by our language and theories.

Schafer’s interest in language and storytelling was actually there from the beginning, a part of his work on psychological testing. In a 1958 paper on testing, we find themes that continue to preoccupy Schafer today. Schafer introduces his paper “How Was This Story Told?” as follows:

In a superior poem, content and form interpenetrate; they mutually define each other. In analyzing such a poem, any attempt to consider its what separately from its how artificially fragments a unitary statement and can therefore only achieve limited success. A paraphrase of a poem’s ostensible content eliminates essential aspects of its sense, some of which lies in its musicality. A TAT story has this in common with poetry: we cannot grasp its full import if we consider only its content, its narrative detail. A story’s meaning is definable only after scrutinizing the particular manner in which it has been told. A crucial question then is, How was this story told? To answer, we undertake a kind of psychological literary criticism, seeking in the choice of language, imagery and sequence of development, as well as in the narrative detail, cues as to the story-teller’s inner experience of his creative effort and his creation. [1958, p. 181, italics in original]

Nor should we be surprised to learn that Schafer’s interest in object relations theory also goes back to this period. He was one of the early champions of Winnicott in this country, at a time when Winnicott was largely ignored, and he saw his own revisions to ego psychology as consistent with the traditions of object relations theory.

This brings us to King Lear. Why Lear? The first of Schafer’s two papers is focused on Cordelia. Through her Schafer wants to examine Shakespeare’s intentions toward the audience, i.e., what is he trying to elicit in viewers? In particular, in Cordelia’s laconic responses to her father of “Nothing” and later “No cause,” how does Shakespeare want her to affect the audience?

The latter of these two papers focuses on Lear, but now Schafer is more fully identified with the audience, removing Shakespeare from a mediating position. As we examine Lear’s destructive narcissism, we are less concerned with Shakespeare’s intentions and more concerned with the defensive maneuvers of an audience that is always deeply—but unconsciously—identified with this tragic character.

The glimpse Schafer gives of his upbringing leaves us with a sense of him as a tough fighter who knows how to survive in the face of external hardship and internal misery. We also know him throughout his writing as a thinker who is not distracted by pity. In fact, he often disturbs us as we begin to recognize ourselves in his work. He tells us the things we do not want to hear because of their truth: he is constantly reminding us of our complicity, of the ways we are implicated in the accusations we hurl elsewhere. And here with Cordelia and Lear he does the same. Cordelia is not the “good girl” whom we want to believe she is, because with her “Nothing,” she also aims to wound her father. Our pity for Lear is suspect as well, because in the sorrow we feel for him, we aim to protect ourselves from acknowledging our own destructive narcissism. Forgiveness and regret are always relative, forged in a context where unconscious resentment and cruelty persist. Yet Schafer’s tragic vision is tempered by what he calls the analytic attitude, an idea related to Loewald’s notion of analytic love and translated by Schafer into the word appreciation. Appreciation has little to do with sentiment or displays of emotion or affection. Appreciation is founded on a commitment to truth: one does not judge the object; one represents the object in all its complexity and self-contradiction, and the object to be represented is the analytic relationship itself with its many tellings and retellings. Love, according to Schafer, does not exclude our badness but must bring recognition of that badness with it. This is the gift Roy Schafer has offered us if we are tough enough to accept it: a clarity of description, an honesty of perception, a dependable rationality of thought, and an experience of the kind of love that carries analytic value.


Barthes, R. (1991). The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962–1980. Berkeley, CA: Univ. of Calif. Press. Schafer, R. (1958). How was this story told? J. Projective Techniques, 22:181-210.

———- (1976). A New Language for Psychoanalysis. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

———- (1983). The Analytic Attitude. New York: Basic Books.

———- (2000). The development of my ideas about psychoanalysis. In Changing Ideas in a Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, ed. J. Sandler, R. Michels & P. Fonagy. New York: Karnac, pp. 33-40.

———- (2005). Cordelia, Lear, and forgiveness. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 53:389- 409. ———- (2006). I was a psychoanalytic candidate: 1954–1959. The Candidate, 1(1):1-4.

———- (2010). Curse and consequence: King Lear’s destructive narcissism. Int. J.Psychoanal., 91:1503-1521.

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Henry P. Schwartz is on the faculty at the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, New York, and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University Langone Medical Center.

This paper and the seven that follow were presented at the Symposium “Retelling an Analytic Life: A Tribute to Roy Schafer,” sponsored by the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine, New York, in collaboration with Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, on October 20, 2012. The papers are printed in the order in which they were presented at the Symposium. An additional paper, by Jonathan Lear, was not available for publication.

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