Matthew Sigman's article, "The Final Analysis" {Cover Story, Jan. 26}, is a poignant and heartwarming account of his grief over the death of his analyst. His comedic play on words and humorous account of some of his psychoanalytic encounter took psychoanalysis (and hopefully, psychotherapy) out of the realm of mysticism. The article was a tribute to Dr. David Seidel but also a tribute to Mr. Sigman's inner strengths in integrating into practice what he learned in analysis. After all, even the most skillful of analysts or therapists has limits. The patient must still do most of the work. And grief work is very difficult. Through Dr. Seidel's death, Mr. Sigman is given a gift of appreciation of life.

Life, indeed, is a series of losses and gains, pain and joy, endings and beginnings. Some losses are necessary. Some, like death, are unavoidable. The goal is not to avoid these losses but to come to terms with them, to untie the ties that bind one to the deceased, to experience the pain of grief and to reorganize one's life. Mr. Sigman, thank you for showing that the "talking cure" works.

Mila R. Tecala

Psychotherapist and Director

Center for Loss and Grief


I have come to realize that the good, dear doctor encouraged us as artists to push beyond the pressure-cooker situations of our lives in order to create and do the very best we can.

As a teacher of acting and directing for 19 years in a department of drama at a university and as a director of many stage plays, he saw me through the early years of racial tension and private relationships that I found myself trying to sort out. Yet primarily, he always insisted that I focus on my art and address the work.

The petit-point pillow that was mentioned in the article was a Christmas gift from me that I had not realized remained on his office couch as an ever present memory.

On Thanksgiving Day, my family and I said a prayer for Dr. Seidel's health. For only the day prior, I had spoken to him in the hospital thanking him for having given me so much. His reply, in characteristic manner, was, "Why, you did all the work!"

Vera J. Katz

Professor, Department of Drama

Howard University

Matthew Sigman's reflections on the demise of his analyst struck home. Two of mine died, the first of a heart attack after eight years, and the second of leukemia after 12.

Other therapists, group and solo, have also gone to their reward, by various means, over the past 32 years, though some had the decency to make a postiatric {after treatment has ended} exit, so to speak.

It seems some of us are fatal as well as mortal, and that transference works all too well.

Don Bronkema


Matthew Sigman writes that the relationship between patient and psychotherapist is a special one. It is that. When one has experienced such a relationship, scenes from therapy float up and play through the mind as easily as video tapes.

A lovely prayer in Judaism seems appropriate. It reads, in part:

"But memory can tell us only what we were, in company with those we loved; it cannot help us find what each of us, alone, must now become. Yet no one is really alone; those who live no more echo still within our thoughts and words, and what they did is part of what we have become."

Dr. Seidel said it well. To miss, indeed, is to love.

Donna D. Comarow

Social Worker


Radiation Safety (Cont'd)

As a research radiobiologist, I have read with interest the debate that has appeared in the Health Section {Letters, Jan. 5 and 19} regarding the health effects of radiation. Perhaps one additional point should be made. Although your readers have suggested that "there is no question that radiation is harmful" and that "low-level radiation exposure is a killer," there is substantial evidence to make an opposite claim.

At low doses, ionizing radiation can actually produce beneficial effects by stimulating various biological systems. In the scientific literature, this effect is referred to as "hormesis." Studies suggest that, after slowly delivered doses below 0.1 Gy (10 rads), animals benefit by exhibiting increased life span, enhanced reproductive capacity, disease resistance, resistance to larger doses of ionizing radiation and enhanced growth rates. In another application, extensive experiments in plant growth have focused on using low doses of ionizing radiation to increase agricultural production. The technique of irradiating seeds before planting is currently a widespread practice in China, for example.

Life originated, evolved and continues to develop in a milieu of ionizing radiation. Some scientists have suggested the possibility that life may have evolved a dependency upon ionizing radiation. This is to say that low levels of ionizing radiation may be necessary for optimal functioning of life on earth.

At any rate, the bold statement that "low-level radiation exposure is a killer" is simply not true in many circumstances. While large doses of radiation may be quite harmful, low doses may produce a variety of benefits to biological systems.

G. Andrew Mickley, PhD


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