04/19/2024, 13:33, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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Leading articles

THE VIENNA PSYCHOANALYST wants to give not only already internationally established psychoanalysts, but also still unknown psychoanalysts the opportunity to post a self-written and not yet published article on the FrontPage of our online magazine!

Our Users then can leave comments, ask questions or discuss the articles in our forum. Our aim is to provide an international platform where for the first time anyone interested in psychoanalysis can exchange ideas on certain topics.
Articles are welcome in German and/ or English.

If you are interested, please send your article to

(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)




In our interview series "in conversation with“, we will briefly present the authors of the leading articles. We want to give our users the opportunity to read the leading article from a different point of view.

This week we are very glad to welcome Pamela Cooper-White from New York, U.S.A.:

The Rev. Pamela Cooper-White, Ph.D., is the Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion at Union Theological Seminary, New York since 2015, after many years as professor at Columbia Theological Seminary and Co-Director of the Atlanta Theological Association’s Th.D. program in Pastoral Counseling. She was the 2013-14 Fulbright-Freud Scholar of Psychoanalysis in Vienna, Austria.  

Dr. Cooper-White holds 2 PhDs: from Harvard University (in historical musicology), and the Institute for Clinical Social Work, Chicago (in psychoanalytic practice and research), and an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School.  She is an ordained Episcopal (Anglican) priest and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor/Board certified counselor.  Dr. Cooper-White will return to Vienna in May-June, 2019 on a generous sabbatical grant from the Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien, to do research on Freud’s Moses and Schönberg’s Moses.

DWP: What brought you to psychoanalysis?

Pamela Cooper-White: As for so many of us, the answer to this is partly personal – I grew up in a household where trying to understand what lay beneath the family dynamics was necessary for maintaining some sense of my own psychic equilibrium.  My family also encouraged my intellectual curiosity, so I was drawn from an early age to the intellectual rigor and profound explanatory power of psychoanalytic thought to address big existential questions.

DWP: What fascinates you most about psychoanalysis?

Pamela Cooper-White: I am always intrigued by what lies beneath the surface appearance of things – not only in psychology but also in art, politics, and social dynamics. As I have moved in the past two decades more into relational psychoanalysis and intersubjectivity theory as my theoretical home, I am perpetually fascinated by the ways in which unconscious communication really does happen – in therapy, in interpersonal relationships, and in larger group dynamics. I am also intrigued and have written a great deal about the usefulness of multiple self theory – and as a pastoral theologian as well as a psychoanalytic therapist and writer, I have found wonderful parallels between multiplicity of the self and multiplicity of the divine in numerous religious traditions. 

DWP: What role does psychoanalysis play as a form of therapy for you?

Pamela Cooper-White: I have been on “both sides of the couch” as both analysand and analytic psychotherapist.  Psychoanalysis in a very real sense has given me a kind of worldview (in spite of Freud’s insistence that it is not a Weltanschauung) or at least a lens to understand myself and others. I am deeply convinced that there is always more going on than “meets the eye” in every interaction, and in every context. As a clinical practice theory, as Freud well knew, paying attention to what happens in the transference and countertransference is central in that it can open up insights that cannot be accessed any other way.

DWP: If you had the opportunity to talk to Sigmund Freud, what would be the topic?
Are there any specific questions?

Pamela Cooper-White: I would love to share with him my research in my recent book Old and Dirty Gods: Religion, Antisemitism, and the Origins of Psychoanalysis on the attitudes of his early circle toward religion – which were much more complex and varied than was previously assumed by historians of psychoanalysis. Even more important would be to have a conversation with him about my conclusion that antisemitism was the “total context” and catalyst for psychoanalysis itself because it allowed for a heightened perception from a position of marginality, and a disposition to look beneath the glittering, hypocritical surfaces of Vienna in the 20th century to see what was continually being denied and displaced onto Jews – namely, sex and aggression. I would love to know what he would think about that.

DWP: Fabric or leather couch?

Pamela Cooper-White: Doesn’t matter! It is the therapeutic relationship that is most important. (But it’s nice to have a blanket!)

DWP: Bruno Bettelheim pointed out the importance of fairy tales in childhood. Will you tell us your favorite fairy tale? And do you see parallels to your own adult life?

Pamela Cooper-White: I don’t really have a favorite fairy tale per se, or one that especially speaks to me. I relate at times to the Native American coyote fables. Coyote is the Trickster who can change shape (multiple self theory!), get in and out of trouble with his cleverness, and he is also the one who flung the stars across the sky in the beginning of creation – he creates beauty with his playfulness. He is the consummate survivor.  As a theologian, I of course also resonate with stories in the Bible, which I do not view as fairy tales, but certainly, like the narratives of Creation in Genesis, I relate to them as myths – i.e., deep truths told through metaphor, image, and story. I am intrigued by Freud’s fascination with the figure of Moses, and when I am in Vienna this May and June I plan to do a comparative study of Freud’s Moses with the composer Arnold Schönberg’s Moses (from his opera Moses u. Aron) which I studied in great detail many years ago.

DWP: I dream,….

Pamela Cooper-White: …of a world where human brutality would cease – where man is no longer “wolf to man”. Where Freud’s appeal to Logos would prevail.    

DWP: What can psychoanalysis contribute to today´s society? How does it influence your life? What are its limitations?

Pamela Cooper-White: As I wrote in the conclusion to Old and Dirty Gods, I believe that psychoanalysis offers a way of understanding the aggression that is rampant in the world today.  In particular, in our time, Freud’s Group Psychology should be on the reading list of every thinking citizen. Nationalist demogogues are on the rise in the U.S. and Europe, stoking the fires of fear and hatred of the Other, with frightening parallels to Germany in the 1920’s (if not yet the 30’s). And psychoanalysis can help us understand the irrational denial and aversion many people still have to taking global climate change seriously – and by understanding, perhaps take more meaningful steps to address it. If psychoanalysis is the “talking cure” for individuals who find themselves acting irrationally against their own best interests, what “talking cure” will we find to help us resist the blind repetition of the horrors of xenophobic nationalism and anti-scientific irrationalism in the America and Europe of today?

DWP: What do you particularly appreciate about psychoanalysis? Can psychoanalysis also have negative effects/cause harm?

Pamela Cooper-White: I appreciate many things about psychoanalysis, but maybe on a day-to-day basis I most appreciate the perspective it gives us to understand others when they seem to be acting most irrationally, and to cultivate empathy for what might be underlying behavior that we initially find hurtful. Thinking about another person as carrying their own wounds and anxieties from childhood – and being able to recognize our own vulnerabilities and trigger points – can help defuse conflict and foster compassion for both others and ourselves.  As far as harm is concerned, I think psychoanalysis is most apt to be harmful in its iteration as American ego psychology, where rigid adherence to certain theoretical ideas as shibboleths and a particularly unyielding form of abstinence in therapeutic practice really did cause harm to some individuals by pathologizing them or discounting elements in their experience and perception that did not neatly fit the theoretical boxes that had been constructed. As my American colleague Emily Kuriloff articulated so well in her book Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third Reich, this was likely a post-traumatic reaction of the analyst emigrés fleeing the Holocaust.  As well, much of the political and social engagement of psychoanalysis in the 1920’s was abandoned (for many reasons) when psychoanalysis was imported to America and became the hegemonic mode of psychiatry for several decades. Today, however, I see both an opening up of such rigidity in theory and practice, and, as well, a widening of the scope of psychoanalysis to encompass not only the individualistic focus on intrapsychic dynamics but an awareness of the importance of social, political, and economic contexts and the impact and psychic internalization of oppression.

DWP: Would you tell us your favorite quote? By Freud, or any other psychoanalyst?

Pamela Cooper-White: It is a very remarkable thing that the Ucs. of one human being can react upon that of another, without passing through the Cs. (Freud, The Unconscious, 1915)

Thank you very much for this conversation, we are already looking forward to your leading article!

Dr. Cooper-White has published 9 books: Schoenberg and the God-Idea: The Opera ‘Moses und Aron’ (UMI Research Press, 1985); The Cry of Tamar: Violence against Women and the Church´s Response (Fortress Press, 1995 and 2nd ed. 2012); Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care & Counseling (Fortress, 2004); Many Voices: Pastoral Psychotherapy in Relational and Theological Perspective (Fortress, 2007); Braided Selves: Collected Essays on Multiplicity, God, and Persons (Cascade, 2011); Exploring Practices of Ministry (with Michael Cooper-White) (Fortress, 2014); Old & Dirty Gods: Religion, Antisemitism, and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2017); Sabina Spielrein and the Beginnings of Psychoanalysis: Image, Thought, and Language (Co-editor, contributor and translator) (Routledge, 2019); and Gender, Violence and Justice: Collected Essays on Violence against Women (single author anthology) (Cascade Books, in press, 2019).  She has also published over 100 journal articles and anthology chapters, and has lectured frequently across the U.S., Europe, and Israel. She is currently President and a founding Board member of the International Association for Spiritual Care in Bern, Switzerland.  She serves on the Steering Committee of the Psychology, Culture, and Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion and on the editorial board of the Journal of Pastoral Theology.

Contact information:
Pamela Cooper-White

Sigmund Freud Museum SFU Belvedere 21er haus stuhleck kunsthalle
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