Psychoanalytic Interpretation and Metaphor

The essence of psychoanalysis is that the present is understood in terms of the past. And the way the analyst interprets what is being repeated in the present, is by making reference to the past often using metaphors and similes as interpretive tools.

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Renovation anxiety

Many underlying problems in relationships come to the surface during an apartment or home renovation. They can be worked through more easily if they are understood in psychological terms rather than the concrete issues. 

Attachment styles

Attachment theory is a body of research that began in the early 1950’s with the work of John Bowlby. He asserted that children suffering maternal separation are at increased risk for physical and mental illness, even if they have been in a clean, well-run institution unless it provided a true maternal substitute.

Thoughts about sublimation

Sometimes I am less attuned to the purely aesthetic dimensions of a film or book than the psychological dimensions. How did the author's life affect her novel? Or what does the repetitive themes in this artist's paintings reflect about his inner life? If you want to read more CLICK HERE.


The schizoid-depressive dance

The dynamic in a schizoid/depressive couple is that one partner is desperate for connection and afraid of being abandoned. The other partner experiences demands for connection as intrusive and demanding. FOR MORE DISCUSSION CLICK HERE.

Migrants and Separation

President Trump instituted a policy of separating parents and children at the Mexican border without regard to the lasting effects it would have on the families—particularly the children. When the reunions finally happened, many mothers were met with rejection. As heartbreaking as this is, it is not surprising. The reality is that the child has been traumatized and his/her secure attachment to the parent has been undone. What was once a secure attachment has been transformed into an insecure one. The child who seems to be ignoring his mother has developed an avoidant mode of attachment as an adaptation to the stress of not being able to understand being abandoned by his mother. The child cannot distinguish the reasons why his mother left him; he only knows she deserted him. To read the complete article below, CLICK HERE.


Idealization is a defense mechanism which is usually discussed as part of "splitting." The world is split into good and bad with no place for reality in-between. Many patients split the world into good and bad and apply this to themselves as well. This makes it very difficult for them to tolerate their own problems and mistakes in judgment which increases their resistance to my interpretations and the likelihood of repeating the same dynamic that brought them into therapy. This is one of the reasons therapy takes time.


Acting Instead of Speaking

Slamming the door once might mean you were holding coffee and a briefcase and couldn’t grab the door handle. But letting the door slam regularly indicates that it has some psychological meaning. Understanding nonverbal behavior is a fruitful way of understanding the unconscious. 

To read the entire article CLICK HERE.

Am I the right therapist for you?

How do you know if someone is the right therapist? Some people choose therapists by cost, i.e. if the person is covered by insurance. I'm not on any insurance plans, but most of my patients get out-of-plan payments and I have a sliding scale to accommodate people without insurance. But therapists are not washing machines. If you choose a therapist because he or she is on sale, you may not be getting the most experienced person or a therapist who has the ability to help you with your unhappiness. 

When people say "trust your gut," that might be a problem if your "gut" is what's been getting you in trouble and/or making you unhappy. So you cannot always trust your gut. It takes a while before you can tell if I am a good fit for you. For example, a lot of my patients have difficulties with boundaries or anger (or both). It will take a while for those issues to emerge in the treatment. I believe that what happens between the therapist and patient in the office is the key to understanding many unconscious dynamics of the patient. I am going to talk about our relationship as well as your relationship with your spouse, friends and boss. Do you want a therapist who is going to tell you when you are breaking boundaries and is not afraid of your anger?

That takes time, so how do you know within a few sessions whether I am a good fit? First and foremost, is a therapist has to be a good listener. Feeling "heard" is one of the most important things in a therapy experience. When you tell me something about yourself, it will be clear from my response that I listened carefully to what you said and can frame it in a helpful way.  That may not be evident in the first or second session because I will be listening and trying to understand what you are saying and get some idea about what is bothering you. But in a few sessions time, I will have some things to say. And from that time on, I will always be responding to you.

Temper Tantrums

Many of my patients are not able to calm and console themselves when they are frustrated or disappointed. Instead, they have temper tantrums. Adult temper tantrums may not be physical, but sometimes they are--e.g. slamming the door or walking out of a session.  The first few times I tell patients they are having a temper tantrum, they generally get insulted and angry at me. But eventually, they are able to realize it themselves and have more control over it quickly.

To understand more about adult temper tantrums CLICK HERE.

What Are Defense Mechanisms?

People have different ways of handling their anxiety and pain.  Originally conceived by Sigmund Freud, much of the development of the concept of defense mechanisms was done by his daughter, Anna Freud. Defense mechanisms can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the circumstances and how much a person uses them. They can hide many different feelings from anger to lust to guilt. Here are a list of some common defense mechanisms from:


Burying a painful feeling or thought from your awareness though it may resurface in symbolic form. 

You can't remember your father's funeral.


Not accepting reality because it is too painful.

You are arrested for drunk driving several times but don't believe you have a problem with alcohol.


Reverting to an older, less mature way of handling stresses and feelings


Attributing your own unacceptable thoughts or feelings to someone or something else

You get really mad at your husband but scream that he's the one mad at you.


Everything in the world is seen as all good or all bad with nothing in between.

You think your best friend is absolutely worthless because he forgot a lunch date with you.

Isolation of affect

Attempting to avoid a painful thought or feeling by objectifying and emotionally detaching oneself from the feeling

Acting aloof and indifferent toward someone when you really dislike that person


Channeling a feeling or thought from its actual source to something or someone else.

When you get mad at your sister, you break your drinking glass by throwing it against the wall.

Reaction Formation

Adopting beliefs, attitudes, and feelings contrary to what you really believe

When you say you're not angry when you really are.


Justifying one's behaviors and motivations by substituting "good", acceptable reasons for these real motivations

I always study hard for tests and I know a lot of people who cheat so it's not a big deal I cheated this time.


Handling your own pain by helping others.

After your wife dies, you keep yourself busy by volunteering at your church.


Redirecting unacceptable, instinctual drives into personally and socially acceptable channels

Intense rage redirected in the form of participation in sports such as boxing or football


The effort to hide and control unacceptable thoughts or feelings

You are attracted to someone but say that you really don't like the person at all


Trying to reverse or "undo" a thought or feeling by performing an action that signifies an opposite feeling than your original thought or feeling

You have feelings of dislike for someone so you buy them a gift

Thoughts on the Oedipal Complex

Both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal said that before Donald Trump had sex with them, he said, "You remind me of my daughter." That made me think more about the Oedipal complex. It's one is one of Freud's most controversial concepts. While Oedipus was a male, the analogous stage for girls is known as the Electra Complex (a term coined by Carl Jung) in which girls feel desire for their fathers and jealousy of their mothers. CLICK HERE.

Am I a Freudian?

New patients often ask if I'm a Freudian. The answer is both yes and no.

For a more complete discussion of Freud and psychoanalysis CLICK HERE.

Does creativity decline with age?

In my experience, many people become more creative when they get older. One analyst friend has become a playwright; an English professor has become an artist; and I just wrote my first novel. 

For a more complete discussion of creativity and aging CLICK HERE.

 Creativity involves risk taking and there are some risks you are more willing to take as you get older--i.e. the judgement of others, perhaps?

Creativity involves risk taking and there are some risks you are more willing to take as you get older--i.e. the judgement of others, perhaps?


If your parents are religious and you have different views, psychological separation may be more complicated--fraught with guilt and accusations of betrayal. You may even be exiled or mourned for as if you were dead--not just by your family, but also your religious or ethnic community. Forced separation makes separation more difficult because anger and guilt can keep you entangled with the family and/or community for years--or even a lifetime. 

For a further discussion of separation CLICK HERE.

Pre-existing Conditions

Pre-existing conditions are particularly important for people in psychotherapy. Before Obamacare when a patient changed jobs, he or she was ineligible for coverage of psychotherapy for 6 months or a year. For patients who were self-employed, changing health plans was also prohibitively expensive because of being in psychotherapy. If pre-existing conditions are not covered in the health plan that replaces Obamacare, we will return to that situation. For further discussion of this topic, CLICK HERE.

Getting Old Can be Depressing

Aging involves losses—loss of friends; loss of spouse; loss of siblings; loss of status; loss of hair; loss of physical mobility; loss of hearing; loss of eyesight; and sometimes loss of financial stability. So it is not surprising that aging and depression often go together.

For further discussion of aging and depression CLICK HERE.

Sick or Not Sick?

Suzanne O'Sullivan, a neurologist specializing in epilepsy who practices in London, has recently written a book about conversion disorders--somatic symptoms caused by psychological distress--Is It All in Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness (Other Press, 2016). In his review of the book, Jerome Groopman (New York Review of Books, Feb. 9, 2017) points out that Freud believed that conversion disorders had an unconscious meaning that could only be understood through psychoanalysis.

For a more complete discussion of hypochondria, CLICK HERE.