Impulse is a community newsletter produced by the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology (NCSPP) and distributed electronically at no cost to subscribers. We envision Impulse as an integrative source for local news, events, and thinking of interest to the psychoanalytically inclined. Our goal is to be your guide as you explore the Bay Area's rich array of analytic resources.

We invite you to become a member of NCSPP, if you are not already. And, we welcome you as a subscriber to Impulse. Join us as we highlight the exceptional diversity of psychoanalytic thought and practice in Northern California.

by Todd Rising, Psy.D., NCSPP President Elect

The smoke has cleared, the fires have largely been doused, and the ever-tardy rain season is just beginning to flush through the Bay Area. By the latest count, and barring any last minute desperate and dirty tricks, the reign of Trump is finally whimpering towards its conclusion, and the novel coronavirus may meet its foe in the coming months with the emergence of vaccines. The question, “can we breathe again?” crosses my mind, but not without the awareness of the words carrying the tragic associations of lethal White supremacy and the overwhelming number of racialized travesties and tragedies. 

My constant, months-long vigilance, demanding an exhaustive attunement to the actions and inactions of those in positions to prevent harm, will seemingly dissipate over the next while. I know but can only imagine the experience, however, given that I am a White man, that living with another lethal strain of this vigilance that will not lift for all in our communities. The overlapping pandemics of coronavirus and racism have again highlighted the fraught White-centric assumptions in the tensions between universality and inequities, the communal and the individual, and maybe most topical recently, historical privilege and oppression. NCSPP continues to grapple with the external tensions in our programming and our processes, but also internally within our own structures, mindsets, and histories. In addition to seeking to acknowledge and repair racialized missteps we have made, we continue to bump into the reality -- vis-à-vis our programming -- that some parts of psychoanalysis remain to be more fully analyzed through these lenses. 

by Lorrie Goldin, LCSW


“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” historian Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 essay, is as relevant as ever. “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” the essay begins. We have certainly seen this, particularly during the Trump years in which grievance, chaos, and division have reigned. At times it has felt crazy (and crazy-making), but Hofstadter is at pains to state that he is borrowing the clinical term “paranoid” to describe “the heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” among more-or-less normal people that’s existed from the country’s founding through the present day.

Hofstadter’s essay was published in tumultuous times, with the anti-communist fervor of McCarthyism serving as his contemporary exhibit of the paranoid style and its capacity for wreaking havoc.

Hofstadter notes the phenomenon’s “apocalyptic and absolutistic framework”:

“Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated.”

by Molly Merson, MFT

Frame of Mind: Psychiatry on Screen. If folks desire something to watch, the Criterion channel is currently featuring several films dealing with psychoanalysis, psychology, and the inner workings of the mind. Zoom watch party, anyone?

Is There a Cure for Burnout? This book review highlights the structural change needed to prevent burnout. Often attributed to individual choices, this piece and the book it reviews challenges us to rethink our collective social structures and the systems in which we live.

I am not attractive to others. Would life be better if I made more effort? This advice column interviews psychoanalyst Alessandra Lemma to provide a response to a reader’s query. In it, Lemma offers a psychoanalytic take on attraction. Psychoanalysis posits that there are unconscious forces at play in regards to attractiveness, seduction, and sexual energy, and Lemma suggests some reasons why “beauty is more than skin deep.”

Appointment Book: 

Healing from Socio-Political Traumas: Treatment, Policy, and Change
Wed, Dec 2 / 6:45 pm - 9:00 pm / Zoom
SFCP / (415) 632-2438 / K. Taffere, MSW, et al. / free

East Bay Psychotherapy Forum
Wed, Dec 2 / 7:15 pm - 9:00 pm / Zoom
SFCP / (415) 632-2438 / A. Bachrach, M.S., PMHNP; D. Yu, LCSW / free

Child Colloquium
Sat, Dec 5 / 10:00 am - 12:00 pm / Zoom
SFCP / (415) 632-2438 / S. Stadler, M.D. / free

Psychoanalytic Training Informational Evening
Wed, Dec 16 / 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm / Zoom
SFCP / (415) 632-2438 / B. Steinberg, Ph.D. & A. Goldyne, M.D. / free