Today casts a long dark shadow of the shocking loss of our dear colleague — and my personal friend — Jeremy Safran. It’s especially hard to put into words what this loss means because it is so fresh, and because Jeremy was so important in many aspects of our lives as a psychoanalyst, an author, a researcher, a Buddhist practitioner, a teacher, and a human being. I will miss him keenly.
And I am writing here, not only for myself, but for the community of mental health professionals that Jeremy has influenced in Vermont through his presentations and his research, especially the Vermont Association for Psychoanalytic Studies, the Gibbard Lecture Series at the University of Vermont, and the Vermont Institute for the Psychotherapies where his presentations, writings, and personal relationships have made an enduring impact. Jeremy was an original thinker and a unique leader among Relational Psychoanalysts, not simply because he was a Buddhist and a psychoanalyst, but also because he had “come over” to our side after having been a very successful practitioner, researcher, and author in Cognitive Psychology.
Jeremy’s contributions resonated with the breadth of his experience and also expressed his sense of humor and his deep interest in simply living. When he took over Hans Strupps’s seminal research on the curative factors and the role of conflict in psychoanalytic therapy, I was so happy because I knew that Jeremy would carry on in the venerable tradition of Strupp. Indeed, that was true and Jeremy’s work even exceeded my high expectations for it. It’s almost impossible to believe he is now gone and that his work will be carried forth by someone else.
I don’t recall exactly how or when I met Jeremy, but I believe it was in the late 1990s. He and I began to collaborate and to share our experiences very quickly, and I found him to be a person of great integrity and a scholar of great accomplishment. Soon we were collaborating on putting together the first program of Enlightening Conversations at New York University in 2007. Over 550 people attended and, in large part, the success of that conference related to Jeremy working closely with those of us who met as a Planning Board at Tricycle Foundation. After that beginning, Jeremy also came up to Vermont where he was a keynote speaker for the Vermont Association for Psychoanalytic Studies and the presenter for the prestigious Annual Gibbard Lecture at the University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry. In all of these capacities, Jeremy was engaged, lively, intelligent, generous, funny, and warm. He was able to draw on his own vulnerabilities and humanity, as much as his research and knowledge.
In all the ways I have known Jeremy, and I believe this is true for all of us who have been influenced by his contributions in Vermont, he has been an extraordinary teacher. He stuck with the things he started and he dug deep into whatever the project meant. It is hard for me to imagine the endeavors of Relational Psychoanalysis and the Buddhist-Psychoanalytic dialogues going forward without Jeremy. What a tragic end to an extraordinary life.
The Vermont Association for Psychoanalytic Studies (VAPS) is a local chapter of Division 39 of the American Psychological Association. Division 39, called the Division of Psychoanalysis, was formed by the APA specifically to represent within the broad field of psychology, professionals who identify themselves as having a major commitment to the study, practice and development of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. In such a spirit the Vermont Association for Psychoanalytic Studies has for over twenty years provided a forum for local professionals interested in psychoanalytic ideas. Our organization has grown from a small interdisciplinary group of committed therapists who sponsored one annual conference per year with an outside speaker/guest in the 1980’s, to a society of nearly one hundred members with several speaker events per year, an annual meeting, several active committees, and election of officers. We hope that this Website will keep our members informed about and connected to the growth and activities of our energetic organization.