Dr. Charles Brenner, author of the classic "Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis," has a table set aside for him daily at the Madison Delicatessen on New York's posh Upper East Side.
"From the area which arguably has the greatest concentration of psychoanalysts in the country, they come to sit at their master's table and between mouthfuls of corned beef on rye and stuffed cabbage Roumanian style, they are enlightened on issues of psychoanalytic theory," Brenner's colleague and coauthor Dr. Jacob Arlow said when introducing him at the 75th Anniversary of the American Psychoanalytic Association earlier this month.
"This has been going on more than 30 years. It surely is an experience without parallel, and the delicatessen should be renamed 'The Mermaid Tavern of Psychoanalysis.' " (At the Mermaid Tavern, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe held forth in 17th-century London.)
Brenner's book is an eloquent introduction to the field, and, among other things, contains this explanation of the controversy surrounding it:
"In commenting on the effect of psychoanalysis on the world of ideas, Freud had compared the discovery of psychoanalysis to the introduction of the theories of Copernicus and of Darwin, whose 'Origin of the Species' was published in the year that Freud was born. The heliocentric theory of Copernicus shows that our world is not the center of creation, but is merely one of several planets which revolve around the sun. The theory of evolution similarly puts us in our proper place biologically speaking . . . Psychoanalysis, as Freud put it, tells us that we are not even masters in our own minds. We are swayed, even directed, by unconscious mental processes, by wishes, by fears, by conflicts, and by fantasies whose very existence was not even suspected before psychoanalyis was discovered.
"It is common knowledge that any such major challenge to accepted belief tends to make most people uneasy. The majority of mankind are not happy to have the ideas with which they are comfortable so rudely upset . . . They defend themselves against new ideas in order to avoid, or to minimize the mental discomfort, the unpleasure associated with the prospect of change . . ."