The evolution of the psychoanalyst's office

Gerald: "Yes, yes.

"I think that the books and the paintings are, for the most part, selected -- books are often selected because they're read by the analysts or they're part of the analytic training. A lot of analysts consider themselves being held by their own office. And I was thinking about this recently, the objects that analysts choose for their office are in part for their patients to use and react to.

"But they're also important for the analysts to create a space for the analyst to be comfortable in. The reason for that is that analytic work involves the analyst having a free mind to work with their patient, to be able to resonate with different elements of their own mind and their own being. And in their own environment, with their own objects, they often can do that more freely."

Spencer: "Common themes, apart from the objects that you're talking about?"

Gerald: "Themes are often themes that are designed to get at deeper areas of experience, things that are maybe not so obviously depicted. Things that may have a dream-like quality. I mean, in addition to the couch, you think of psychoanalysis, you think of dreams and of analyzing dreams.

"And dream space can be important in terms of creating space that's conducive to dreams. Freud called dreams the royal road to the unconscious. What he meant by that was that it was a use of a language to get at experience that was not easily accessible otherwise, through prose or through more objective language."

Spencer: "What about lighting? You mention dreams and relaxation and so forth. How critical is lighting?"

Gerald: "I think it's very important. I think that many analysts have offices where the lighting is more subdued, it's darker. It's closer to the kind of atmosphere that would sort of precede going to sleep. Now, you don't want your patient to fall asleep on you, and you certainly don't want to fall asleep yourself!"

Spencer: "It's just a soothing level."

Gerald: "It's the kind of thing that, you know, people get massages, and at certain point they begin to drift. You're conscious, but you're available to information from yourself that may not be available otherwise."

Photos: Inside the analyst's office

Spencer: "Does color matter?"

Gerald: "I think it does, and I can tell you from my own experience that I've had three different psychoanalytic offices, and in each of these offices that I've had, I've painted the walls the same color. They've always been painted with Benjamin Moore number 5202. It's sort of blue-gray, somewhere between a sky and the sea, and a color that I find very conducive to my own analytic state of being, of being able to listen. I always used it, and it accompanied me from office to office. And by the way many of my patients also accompanied me from one office to another."

Spencer: "So they felt at home. You still like it?"

Gerald: "I do, I do. I'm very comfortable with it."