Scott: Hi there. My name is Scott Kampschaefer and I’m a therapist here in Austin, Texas and I’m interviewing today Mike Kampschaefer, who is a psychoanalyst in Oklahoma City, who also happens to be my brother, and he’s a well-renowned authority on all issues psychoanalytic. So I’ve got a couple of questions prepared for him and Mike, I’d just like to go ahead and welcome you.
Mike: Thanks, Scott
Scott: Let me go ahead and get you in up here so everybody can see you. Can you see me okay?
Mike: Yea, I can see you just fine.
Scott: Okay, great. Well, thank you for being with me and I just wanted to start by asking you how can issues in childhood have a negative impact later in life?
Mike: Well, the main way they have an impact on people is that the events that happen in childhood inculcate something that Freud called unconscious guilt, which is an idea that’s stood the test of time and what I find useful day in and day out in my professional work. The idea is that when we’re kids were naturally egocentric and we feel like everything that’s happening revolves around us, and so if everything is about me, basically it must be my fault. So the things that happen in the family that are frustrating or painful, or disappointing or what have you tend to get attributed unconsciously with a sense of blame-- self-blame-- that gets internalized. But because that’s unconscious that influences us automatically to be self-defeating in our way of operating... and influences self-esteem...and it’s always involved in symptom formation. So the point is that once those feels of self-attribution...and guilt and shame can become conscious and we can trace down the sources of them, then we can sort of de-bunk ourselves or disabuse ourselves of the fallacy that pain equals blame, which is another way of saying that. Anything that’s painful in the mind means that there must be someone who is at fault, and once we can disabuse ourselves of that notion during the treatment process, then we can start to free ourselves of the domination of these issues from the past.
Scott: Thanks, Mike...and yeah, that ‘pain equals blame’ is a familiar theme I come across in the clients that I work with. Now I guess I was wondering for those folks who might want to say, well tell themselves ‘I’m an adult and I should get over it’ with respect to one’s childhood. Is there anything that’s inherently ineffective in doing that? What would you tell someone who wants to just say that to get rid of all that stuff?
Mike: Yeah...well the wish to just get rid of it and not be influenced by it is certainly understandable...I mean nobody likes this idea that our childhood issues follow us...not even me...so if only it were true by willpower and positive thinking and affirmations and yoga and exercise and stuff like that, we can exert a certain temporary influence on these matters. But experience of generations of analysts and therapists of all kinds shows that unless and until we can really face these things and grapple with them consciously and deliberately, they still tend to come up on our blind side, and through a mechanism Freud called repetition compulsion...which is one of his greatest hits...I think I’ve said that to you before. The idea that these scenarios tend to repeat themselves cyclically throughout life...that just doesn’t: that can’t be prevented, but it can be that we learn to grow through...through grappling with it and coping with it, and it can come to not be such a matter of interference. It can be sort of a like a picture in picture phenomenon on the old TV’s where you can have one channel on the foreground and have another channel on the background, kind of like my picture is down on the bottom of your screen. Issues from the past can...be put in perspective and have a minor role in our life here and now.
Scott: Yeah...that all sounds very apropos and what I’m wondering is for those folks who choose to just not deal with that stuff, what do you see as the long-term consequences of ignoring childhood issues in a nutshell?
Mike: The consequences come out in two areas: they come out in work and they come out in love. So they tend to exhibit a kind of inhibition in our work life...affect our work performance in one way or another, or they can affect our relationship life: our ability to develop and sustain intimacy or to deal with interpersonal conflict that comes up in our relationships.
Scott: Okay. Well, so that really kind of sums up alot and we’ve had a much longer conversation on this and I appreciate you being able to kind of put it in a nutshell so to speak, like I mentioned. So Mike I really appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your extremely busy day to fit this interview in with me.
Mike: You too, Scott. Happy to do it.
Scott: Yeah, and I hope we can have this conversation or an extension of it again sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Mike: Okay! Me too! Looking forward to it.
Scott: Okay, well thank you so much and I will go ahead and let you go for today. Thanks again… be well.
Mike: Bye for now.