Helen and Don

by Gerald Fogel, M.D.

When I think of Helen and Don and what they mean to me, I imagine Helen holding court. A group of us are out to dinner, perhaps during the American meetings. Helen has not felt well recently, but as the night proceeds, time and troubles melt away and she is beaming, chatting, flirting, and fussing—like old times. Intimate exchanges, great analytic talk, and juicy analytic gossip create around the table an endless stream of smart, funny, cozy conversation. Wry, ironic, knowing looks pass back and forth all evening—usually brief, silent eye contact in response to insider jokes, shared recollections, or familiar spats that suddenly flare up here and there, then quickly die down. Don is beaming also. He has made sure everything is taken care of and that Helen is OK. Now that everyone is relaxed and having fun he can relax. You can tell he is pleased.

This is clearly a family scene, with Helen and Don surrounded by their analytic progeny. Some of us look old for the part, but somehow we are Helen and Don’s articulate and accomplished kids. We are becoming more known outside the family—as analytic clinicians, teachers, writers, thinkers. Although rarely stated explicitly, part of the reason Helen and Don are beaming is that they have played such an important part in developing these analytic offspring. Occasionally they complain we do not appreciate them, and probably we do act bratty with them more often than we should. On the other hand, if we are looking and doing so well, these two ‘‘parents’’ obviously did something right. Helen and Don must know at some level this is so— that their ‘‘kids’’ are living proof of their generativity. They seem to generate analytic quality. The people they analyzed, supervised, taught, and mentored seem frequently to be among the very best of the Columbia analysts. This generativity is no small factor in the Columbia story. During the twenty-five years between my graduation from the Center and my leaving New York, Columbia became one of the most powerful and envied institutes in the country. Many factors contributed. Major thinkers from other institutes joined us. Alliances with powerful psychiatry departments made for worldliness and flexibility lacking in more hidebound, conservative institutes during times of upheaval and change. Columbia’s rebellious and pluralistic intellectual roots poised us to play a major role in the paradigm revolutions that began in the sixties and seventies. We had important existing ties to psychiatry and academia.

But contact with many other institutes in recent years has taught me that heavy hitters and intellectual leaders cannot by themselves create the next generation of analysts. Generativity requires family. In a family, it is the day by day tending to the children that carries the offspring and the institute they inherit into the future. There are others at Columbia who have contributed in this way, but by this definition—the quality that begets strong generations for the future—Helen and Don win the grand prize.

By stressing this generativity factor, I do not belittle their many significant intellectual and political accomplishments. But as I think back on the many people at Columbia who helped me grow as an analyst, I see that many were important at one time, others at an-other. Helen and Don do not call up this or that interest or phase of my analytic life, however. They are ahistorical, timeless, always there—the ones we absolutely knew would drop whatever they were doing when help was called for, always fussing and making sure the kids were getting what was needed. I still think of them that way—to this day. They are good analysts in every sense, but the proof of that is their constancy, their generativity, and its result—their analytic kids. Those of us who benefitted and who quietly acknowledge this secret of Columbia’s success have a silent, shared bond. When we get together it is like family, and for any who share my feeling, Helen and Don will always be the very heart and soul of Columbia.