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In this interview with one of the founders of intersubjective psychoanalysis, Robert Stolorow discusses his interest in Heidegger and the implications of that interest for the psychoanalytic project overall. What do “worldness”, “everydayness”, and “resoluteness” bring to the clinical encounter? What is the role of trauma in bringing us to a more authentic place?

Stolorow is interested in pursuing both what Heidegger can do for psychoanalysis and what psychoanalysis can do, in a sense, for Heidegger. The development of “post-cartesian psychoanalysis” has embedded within it a critique of Freud’s intrapsychic focus. Analysts of the post-cartesian stripe seek to unearth “pre-reflectivity”, those modes of being that are part and parcel of us but remain out of our awareness. There is also expressed an interest in contextualism–and towards that end this book looks at Heidegger’s forays into Nazism as evidence of his own limits, precipitated perhaps by the loss of Hannah Arendt’s love and admiration. But for Stolorow, analytic work is best done by employing the tripartite perspective of phenomenology, hermeneutics and contextualism. Whereas Descartes separated mind and body, psyche and world, Stolorow argues for the importance of bringing those very same things back together.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Lapides November 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Bob, Hi! Thank you for this talk. I really appreciated your personal stories related to Heidegger’s concepts. The story about your father was very helpful and powerful. I thought of Ernest Becker’s book, The Denial of Death, in western culture’s avoidance of finitude. Josie Oppenheim, one of the interviewers, is someone I know. I had written her in response to the interview and to propose an idea for a talk her in New York City. She encouraged me to post it on this site for you and others to read. First off, I need to tell you that i’m trained as a gestalt therapist (I have also been training in psychoanalysis as well). Miles Groth, an existential analyst, and expert on Heidegger is someone I know (who I believe you also know). Several years ago I introduced Miles to Dan Bloom, a well-respected writer in gestalt therapy, steeped in phenomenology. They hit it off. Recently, the idea of having a talk about Heidegger emerged in our correspondence between the three of us. I envisioned a talk bridging the chasm of theoretical ideologies (gestalt therapy, intersubjective psychoanalysis, existential analysis, and other modalities) using Heidegger’s “desein” and phenomenology as common ground. Heidegger’s concept of “being-toward-death” is of particular interest to me. So, my idea was to have all of our psychotherapy communities come together around Heidegger’s “being-in-the-world” and it’s applicability to working with patients. Possibly a discussion of a case example might be really interesting. Dr. Groth has translated and studied Heidegger extensively in German. I know the intersubjective community uses the New School for many of their talks. I wanted to reach out to you for support on this project. Thanks in advance for your time. Please get in touch with me. I’d greatly appreciate it.

Bennett Roth April 1, 2014 at 2:17 pm

While working in a piece on H Arendt, The film, I found this quote by Hoberman ( former reviewer for the Village Voice ” He described her as “that German-Jewish wild child who embarked on a teenaged love affair with a married professor twice her age, the philosopher king (and future Nazi) Martin Heidegger. Are we rehabilitating Heidegger? If so WHy ?

Barry Cohn February 5, 2014 at 7:50 am


Thanks for sharing your deep insights into a topic that is most often experienced by most of us as a form of beingness that is simply experienced as walled off by virtue of being unbearable. Your personal anecdotes were quite valuable as demonstrations of how empathic “dwelling” has the possibility of assisting the shattered psyche into reaching cohesion by permitting the psyche increased metabolization and integration toward the unbearable trauma and thus, making things slightly more bearable.

Lynne Laub January 12, 2014 at 6:51 am

Thank you Tracy and Josie for bringing new thoughts to our minds…Alot to contemplate….

None January 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm

What could be more “everydayness” than posting about Heidegger on the internet. My problem with authenticity is the implied judgement of the inauthentic–either assumed others or as parts of ourselves. If we don’t get the magic flash and are forced to live the life of the deeply alienated, at least we have each other in this forum.

By the way, Herbert Dreyfus’s lectures on Heidegger are available for free download:

dirk January 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm

hi Lesley thanks for your generous reply not sure I can grasp paying conscious/intentional attention and especially making intervention/responses without decision-making/interpretation, and if I have the gist of what you are gesturing towards this sounds much more like the pioneering work of Eugene Gendlin than either Heidegger or what Robert was offering us in the interview but I certainly may have missed something vital along the way.

Lesley Stoller January 9, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Hi dirk, here are some of my thoughts in response to your interesting comment:
The mission you are asking about is approached not by deciding but rather following. The persons with whom we work are tightly structured, and, if permitted, will unravel according to their own rules. They will communicate their gradual undoing to us in direct and indirect ways. These are the contacts we follow. The poignancy of content is not ignored or minimized, but rather understood as deeply, almost infinitely, subjective. Any interpretation is heuristic and approximate. We must compose enough emotional space (safety) for them to dis-cover progressively each new weakest link in the armor.

dirk January 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

Josie (if i may), I actually don’t think that our being-towards-death is a structural feature (let alone the central one) of the human psyche, and in fact (and with some irony) such ruminations require in some ways treating/imagining the body as a thing/corpse ( not an uncommon practice for some religious ascetics, including at least on paper Heidegger’s beloved St.Paul) and may than bring some of the aesthetic values/experiences that we sometimes value as shocks of recognition/alienation ( uncanny and or jouissance) in works of art. But I think your second point of emphasis is the key one that all of our everyday acts are works of imagination (have some aspects of creativity/improvisation to them) either of our own or our take on someone else’s. This is why I think that Freud was right to focus on therapy in relation to sublimation (or as I prefer cultivation), and not so far from Sartre on our lives as ones of project-ed meaning.
if you get a chance see what you think of the anthropologist Tim Ingold’s take on all of this:

Lou Agosta January 8, 2014 at 9:24 am

Very timely. Very relevant. Given that our community is dealing with the return of soldiers from two wars, phenomenological and psychoanalytic methods in dealing with trauma are more important than they have ever been before. Freud’s first eighteen patients experienced sexual boundary violations – in those days, euphemistically called “seductions” – amongst the definitive causes of their neuroses. Freud initially argued that a sexual trauma was the cause of hysteria, analogous to the tubercule bacillus being the cause of tuberculosis. A single condition contrary to fact cause: “If there had been no X (bacillus / sexual trauma), then there would have been no resulting Y (tuberculosis / hysteria); whereby the removal of the X, also causes the Y to disappear. However, Freud subsequently had to give up the account in the face of compelling evidence that in some cases at least the overwhelming anxiety (“trauma”) was imaginary, fictional, psychic and a part of standard development of the moral conscience (i.e., superego). The debate goes on. The decisive engagement with trauma as a source of neurosis occurred during and after World War I, which invented new horrors to civilians and soldiers all around. Individual soldiers were over come with what was called “shell shock,” and early version of World War II’s “battle fatigue” and today’s post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The treatment of choice at the time on the part of army doctors was to assume that the soldier was malingering and to threaten (and apply) punishments to enforce conformity to duty. A psychoanalytically inspired Army psychiatrist, Ernest Simmel, found that talking to the soldier using psychoanalytic methods was effective in returning the soldier to duty with integrity and restored well-being. A conference was held in September 1918 with Freud and key psychoanalysts such as Ernest Jones, Karl Abraham, and Sándor Ferenczi at which government representatives from the German and Austrian governments were present. An ambitious project was envisioned at which Clinics and Hospitals would be set up using psychoanalytic methods for treating war neuroses. There was a real prospect that psychoanalysis would “break out” to the general public. The collapse of these governments, the related clinical projects, and the post-WW I political and economic chaos thwarted this vision. However, Freud went on to publish Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1921) in which the mastery of trauma through the repetition compulsion was on the critical path to dealing with aggression and overcoming neurotic suffering. The point? We are not done with trauma and suffering and authenticity. Thanks for the guidance.

Josie Oppenheim January 8, 2014 at 9:16 am

In my part of the interview I made it my quest to salvage some part of everydayness within our discussion. It was a great pleasure to be speaking with Bob and Tracy on these matters and stimulating of much thought. My final question was about art; I wondered if it did not have value as a form of resoluteness–Heidegger’s authentic response to Being toward death– for the artist. Bob responded that he thought it did. Had I more time I would have suggested that art exists in everydayness. Where else could it exist? On the way to the interview I was sitting opposite two young women in a subway car. One of the women whose hair was dyed a frankly improbable eggplant (I mention this as I believe self adornment is a form of art) was speaking in a very speedy manner about someone whose behavior was “cra-zee,” as she several times mentioned. I was struck by the beauty of her speaking style; I am tempted to say it bubbled out of her but nothing of the sort is true. Her speech and her being were melded like the gait of a leopard is wedded to the leopard. Yet she was creating her speech as well; directing it to her friend, soothing herself with her omnipotence, creating magic for those smart enough to partake of the show. I could not take my eyes off of her and I thought of my question about art which I was planning to ask. Art comes from this beautiful girl’s painted hair and brilliantly dispatched speech smack in the center of everydayness. Being-toward-death is a natural state for the human being, I think. Also natural to us is everydayness. Whatever life really is we are caught (via Heidegger’s throwness) in a dialectic that will not let us go: the futility of a finite existence and our body’s imperative to preserve our existence despite our finitude.– Winnicott says that its the mother’s job to create reality so that it corresponds to the baby’s omnipotent fantasy. Art and everydayness are our attempt to take over that job. If we give that job up we will have no more dialectic to worry about.

dirk January 8, 2014 at 8:39 am

Lesley Stoller, I’m intrigued how would one go about deciding which aspects of the “organizing context” to attend to that wouldn’t be done in the same ways that we habitually go about being persons of meaning/content and isn’t Robert’s project still one of hermeneutics?

Lesley Stoller January 8, 2014 at 1:36 am

wonderful interview
deeper and deeper

attention to organizing context (rather than personal meaning (content)) resembles the modern sensibility of non-interpretation; following contact – a structural unfolding.
thanks Tracy and Josie!
many moments of dwelling

louis berger January 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Hi, Bob, is there a more comprehensive summary of that chapter available anywhere? Thx, Louis

dirk January 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm

In this interview Robert gives us a fairly orthodox view of Heidegger’s take on the human condition (on human-being), but there is another more pragmatist take on Heidegger’s early work (and by extension our being-in-the-world) from contemporary American philosophers like Hubert Dreyfus and Eugene Gendlin, that may give us a kind of defense of our everyday ways of coping that is more in keeping with evolutionary theory and with recent neurophenomenology (that we are in fact creatures of habit) and less of the mindset that we are deeply alienated from some more Authentic reality that can only be glimpsed in flashes of revelation.
If we think of our un-conscious/non-conceptual bodily processes in terms of habits (as did John Dewey after William James), including all of our cognitive-biases (which may well account for most of what classical psychoanalysis wrongly takes as repression), than when we do experience breakdowns/failures of our usual means of coping (be they immediately bodily habits or our cognitive-extensions through tool-uses), when our grasp on/of the world is torn away or otherwise comes up short, than these are as Dewey taught us calls for reflection and experimentation/innovation (not unlike what Carl Jung called “active” imagination) to develop new habits, which as we become handy with them (even perhaps gain mastery with them, assuming they work) will become ingrained/habituated and so un-conscious but in our favor (even thriving) until our interactions with our ever shifting envrions call for some new prototype/innovation, some new habit.

dirk/dmfant January 6, 2014 at 9:22 am

thanks for this, we are slowly working out how embodiment plays out in our-being-in-the-world:

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