Let’s close our eyes for a moment and picture a round mahogany Victorian table filled with biscuits, pastries and wine set below a breathtaking chandelier with just the right amount of poignant light. Now let’s look around at the inhabitants of this room: Sigmund Freud, Viktor Frankl, Irvin Yalom and Martin Seligman. Four great scholars from different eras and mindsets celebrating their similarities and philosophies. They observe one another in detail, they speak and listen delicately as if not to miss a word and they seem overjoyed about this extraordinary gathering. “Let’s make the most of this meeting!” says Seligman, “Let’s find its meaning,” adds Frankl, “What a great group this makes!” cheers Yalom, ”Oh wow, is this a dream?” ends Freud.
As they exchange glances, they begin to drink and eat happily as if to fuel their brains with energy for battled conversation. Freud and Frankl begin sharing stories of their past arguments and confrontations and Freud apologizes for previous disdain: “Frankl, your words have touched me and I am glad to see even though I turned against you in your days as a student, you carried on and found your way to make such a movement. It is an honor to reunite once again.”
Frankl: “The honor is mine. I believe there is a reason we are all here tonight.”
Yalom: “Yes! There is great universality in this group and we will find how well we truly understand one another.”
Seligman: “I couldn’t have said it better myself, gentleman. Such virtue and positivity in this room!”
Freud grins and with a cigar in hand, lifts his glass and cheers: “Why, we are all Jewish—some more spiritual than others—but all Jewish indeed! Shall we start with that? To our ancestors! L’chaim!” Shocked yet pleased at the once controversial atheist, they all lift their glasses and toast in unison: “To us!”
As the night goes on, the doctors speak about their children, their students, their wives and of course, their theories. Unlike anticipated, they are cordial and laudatory with their remarks; they respect and admire each other’s work. While as a group, they argue on many accounts including religion, sexuality and pathos, they have come to understand that they are all fighting for the same reasons and with the same amount of ardor and passion; it is obvious that they want to forever remain founders and contributors of the sciences because in their eyes there is no merit more grand.
Under the influence of happy inebriation, the four men sing their words and chant their stories as if prideful of everything they have shared independently as well as collectively. They confess their sins and regrets and even shed a tear or two as they speak with full candor just as four old friends would after reuniting unexpectedly. They share their hesitancies concerning former patients, complex internal anxieties and the feeling of ardent melancholy they have faced throughout their existence. They laugh profoundly as they talk about technology and how much life has changed –swallowing its last remnants of romance and true communication. While older and wiser, Freud and Frankl quickly discover they have much to learn from the hipper and modern day minds of Yalom and Seligman; however, what they don’t know is that these young minds continue to aspire (with utmost admiration) to be revolutionaries and scholars of their caliber.
They are geniuses of their time and together they are a force to be reckoned with for their outspoken souls will be imprinted in our books for centuries to come. Yet the beautiful surprise is that they too are human and flawed like the rest of us, frightened and insecure about something or someone and constantly in search of the best versions of themselves and their work. Not only do they realize this but they embrace it with an almost poetic stance as if to be bowing to their loyal followers for always believing and admiring them. As they look around the table, they feel understood and fulfilled for the pieces they have given to psychoanalysis and the knowledge of the human condition.
Now open your eyes. What did you see?
Stephanie Dargoltz is a bilingual counselor who works at a private practice in South Florida with children, adolescents, and adults. Her interests include Sport Psychology/Counseling and plans to pursue these careers in the near future.