What happens when a Kleinian psychoanalyst wants to write an intelligent self-help book for the general reader? First, she recognizes that one must have an online platform from which to launch, so she starts a blog called “The Headshrinker’s Guide to the Galaxy.“ Then she sets about writing her debut book, Wisdom From the Couch: Knowing and Growing Yourself from the Inside Out (Central Recovery Press, 2014). Dr. Jennifer Kunst began to write not only to fulfill a personal dream but to help her patients and the public at large ponder the question: how is it that perfectly intelligent people do such obviously counterproductive things so much of the time? Vis a vis Klein these answers reside in the unconscious, in our internalized object constellations and in at least some recognition of how difficult it is to live in the world with its inevitable pain, loss, disappointment and imperfection. Many of the concepts that Klein felt were central to the human condition are laid out in the book: omnipotence, mania, splitting, projective identification, ambivalence, the paranoid/schizoid and the depressive positions to name a few.
In this interview Kunst explains that above all, Melanie Klein was intensely concerned with love. And she was passionate about making sense of the process by which people learn to love one another in all its forms: parental, platonic, romantic and analytic. It goes something like this: we are designed as highly emotional creatures who love and hate in equal measure. For Klein, the question of how we remain in loving connection with one another while accepting loss, hurt and inevitable disappointment was key. Kunst writes, “Aggression and desire, envy and gratitude, hope and dread are all roommates in the inner world.” One of the tasks of mature development is getting these opposing parts of our self in dialogue with one another achieving a kind of working harmony. Enter Kunst’s translation of the depressive position: all roommates are welcome at the table.
Dr. Jennifer Kunst has an uncanny knack for translating Melanie Klein’s complex theory of the mind into psychically nutritious bits. In Kleinian parlance, it’s a proper feed.