I met Bert in the fall of 1982 while an undergraduate student at Michigan State University and was enthralled with what he was presenting in his Psychology of Personality class. His ability to present complex psychological phenomena in simple everyday terms reflected a mastery of the material and a refreshing compassion for human suffering. He would soon become a mentor, which lasted the next 37 years. His guidance and unwavering support made the transition to graduate school and my early career years at a state hospital much more doable. I recall one conversation when I was complaining about a problematic supervisory relationship and he, in his uniquely Bert Karon way, advised me, "If they can't teach you what to do, let them teach you what not to do!" Bert's realistic optimism has helped countless students, clients and colleagues over the years.
As a third generation Freudian (his analyst, Richard Sterba, was analyzed by Freud), he was intimately familiar with the complexities of psychoanalytic theory, yet his writing (2 books, 33 chapters, and over 150 articles) was rooted in the compassionate awareness of human suffering and employed language that led to understanding and subsequent relevance. He published in a wide variety of journals in an effort to reach as many people as possible, which he certainly did.
His commitment to being helpful to those suffering from psychosis can best be seen in the daily calls he’d receive from people in search of help. It wasn’t uncommon for him to take multiple calls a day from individuals or family members looking for guidance, which often resulted in useful referrals, as he stayed in contact with many clinicians who were capable of being helpful to individuals struggling with psychosis.
A few years ago he agreed to let me edit his published papers (dating back to the 50's) into a collected volume. It was an honor to pull together his best work and make it available to the next generation of clinicians wanting to be helpful to those struggling with psychosis. “The Widening Scope of Psychoanalysis: Collected Essays of Bertram Karon” is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of lesson’s learned in the service of others who ultimately benefitted from their time with this truly gifted clinician.
While it's sad to lose such an important person in my life, I'll always have the warmth inside, knowing that I've been shaped by Bert's compassion, wisdom and support.