Structure of the book

Freud told Erikson that “love and work” were the central therapeutic goals of psychoanalysis (Erikson, 1959, p. 96), the two pillars for a sound mind and for living a flourishing life, and when Buber heard this, he “laughed and said that this was good, but not complete. He would say: work, love, faith and humor”

(Hodes, 1971, p. 134). I would add that the art of living requires the capacity for making suffering sufferable. Hence, this book has chapters on love, work, faith, and suffering (see Marcus, 2013b, 2019, for psychoanalytic studies of tragicomic humor and suffering, respectively), with each chapter providing psychoanalytic views of these central human experiences in a wide range of their permutations, followed by a Buberian and Marcelian critique and expansion/ deepening, to be concluded with the implications for psychoanalytic treatment and the art of living a flourishing life. I have, where pertinent, drawn from research findings from personality/social psychology', organizational/industrial psychology, the empirical study of religion, and sociology to further illuminate and critically evaluate particular topics discussed by psychoanalysts and Buber and Marcel (my respectful attempt to be more “scientific”).

In the last chapter, I attempt to integrate and expand the aforementioned into a version of psychoanalysis conceived as a spiritual discipline. I do this by answering three questions:

  • (1) What is the Buberian/Marcelian version of the world, their spiritualized conception of the human condition, and the central problematics that the individual struggles with within a larger social context?
  • (2) In light of this conception of the human condition, how is individual psychopathology (i.e., problems in living) understood?
  • (3) How does this conception of the human condition inform this type of clinical psychoanalysis as it attempts to alleviate individual psychopathology?

I very much want this book to be of lively interest to psychoanalysts and psychoanalytically oriented mental health clinicians, for it suggests a new direction that may be helpful to theoretically and practically re-enlivening psychoanalysis. By using a religiously inspired spiritual optic, one lodged in Buber and Marcel, two dialogical personalist giants—“the therapeutic community’s conscience” (Orange, 2010, p. 10)29—my hope is that this book can be a small contribution towards reconceptualizing or at least significantly augmenting psychoanalytic theory and practice as a whole.