(In April of 2010, I had the rare opportunity of participating in a lengthy conversation with Hedda Bolgar and Bert Karon at the Division 39 Meeting. I taped that conversation. Here are three jewels, three glimpses of Bert Karon: The Educator, The Clinician, and The Human Being)
I treat grad students differently from the way most people in my department treat them. And basically, there are four principles: 1) the grad student is just like you and me, except that they’re younger so they haven’t done as much, and they haven’t read as much. 2) Teach ‘em what you know. You can’t teach what you don’t know and if you don’t teach what you know, you’re cheating them. And furthermore, if you’ve done anything original let them know about it so they will, by identification, pick up the excitement of doing things that are original. Thirdly, get them to take their own work seriously. Their own research is as good as anybody else’s and they know what’s right and wrong about it. Their own clinical observations are just as valid as mine or Sigmund Freud’s. Get them to take it seriously and get them to take their own ideas seriously. And then fourthly, if they’re bright, get out of their way.
It’s based on Tomkin’s ideas of memory. When people give up smoking, they don’t have the smell or feel or taste of a cigarette. If you don’t, If you experience something in a complex context, and never again, the next time you experience it, you tend to re-experience the whole context. So when they give up smoking they don’t have any of those things, then when they, the next time one way or another they smell or taste or feel a cigarette -the urge to smoke is all back. So what you gotta do is get them to give it up while they have it and the key is very simple,…you buy your cigarettes every morning, whatever your usual dose is, whenever you want a cigarette, you take it, you light it up, you get it going and you put it out immediately. And you can go take another one right away if you want.
CB-B: Hah. That’s interesting. Do you puff at all?
BK: Just to get it going. That’s all. You will forget, of course, that you, and when you remember you smoke one more cigarette and now that you remember put it out. If you do this for a month, probably less, you’ll be cured. And, you’re not subject to, you don’t relapse. Cause when you get close to smoking is when you remember you’ve stopped.
The Human Being:
This part of the conversation was about Hedda Bolgar’s 100th birthday party (which occurred after Bert’s accident):
HB: And I sent you an invitation, but I didn’t really send you one, it’s on my desk. I could not do it. I could not do it.
BK: Well, like I say, I’m, ya know...things are getting better but awfully slow and nobody can tell me how far I’ll get better or, what time I’ll get better.
HB: Like analysis.
BK: As a matter of fact, psychoanalysis is a model for life.
HB: Exactly, I mean that’s what somebody in analysis would say.
CB-B: Absolutely. It’s exactly what somebody would say.
BK: My analysis took an awfully long time and I wouldn’t give up a month of it.
CB-B: Use it as a model for what’s happened. That’s very wise.