The title of this year’s Symposium is “Therapy in a Challenging World.” Another way we thought of phrasing it was “Therapy in a World Gone Absolutely Completely Batshit Crazy.” As Charles Manson once said, “It used to be that being crazy really meant something. Nowadays everybody’s crazy.” Yes, crazy is the new normal. It’s no longer a big deal when people go crazy. What more often catches our attention is when they go “normal”—especially in this town.
Whatever happened to the days when people kept their unconscious to themselves? Name a forbidden fantasy that’s not on display 24/7. Show me the difference between our public discourse and the most utterly unfiltered train of luridly unspeakable free associations? Everywhere you look you see, staring straight back at you, Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So that’s the world we live in and, crazy as it may be, it’s the world we’ve somehow grown accustomed to. We can no longer pretend that the forces that drive people’s emotional lives are limited to those that emanate from the small circle of their family and friends. We’re all part of a relentlessly overstimulating, ever more interconnected—and, yes, crazy-making—world that the human nervous system was never designed to navigate.
This Symposium—in bringing together so many of our field’s innovators, creative minds, and visionary thinkers—offers us the widest and most compelling range of, well, if not answers, then at least attempts at answers, both large and small. But here comes the disclaimer—and what else but a disclaimer would you ever expect at a gathering of therapists? And the disclaimer is this: if this event is successful, you’ll leave here with even more questions than you came in with—though, hopefully, they’ll be thought-provoking, clinically useful, and inspiring questions.
Knowing the long history of this gathering as I do, and deeply appreciative of the brilliance of the people who are gathered here, I’m certain there’s at least one answer that you will be going home with: no matter how crazy and chaotic things going on around the planet may be, we can’t build a wall to keep the world out. We can’t build a wall between, on the one hand, our profession and all that we strive to do as therapists and, on the other hand, all the upheavals and challenges that are shaping that wider world. While it may not be clear what our field may ultimately look like, whether we like it or not, it’s already being transformed, and it will continue to be.
What’s the main tool we have for understanding and guiding that transformation? It’s the same tool that each of us relies on to practice our craft every day: the power of conversation, compassionate conversation, intelligent conversation, open and honest conversation. And as always, this Symposium is a festival of conversation—and a celebration of what can happen when we come together to pose questions, seek answers, recognize blind spots, admit doubts and limitations, and dare to engage in debates about our differences.
Even though the world may seem harder to change—harder even to cope with—than ever before, our hope is that you’ll leave this gathering of friends, colleagues, and fellow seekers filled with the spirit that what you do in this challenging, even absolutely completely batshit-crazy world, is not only useful, but absolutely and completely essential—as crazy as that may seem.
PHOTO BY SAM LEVITAN
Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.