Award For Best Book
Sandra Sherman, a Director of CPI, just won a coveted Gradiva Award for a book that she wrote with Dr. Ahron Friedberg M.D. Through A Screen Darkly: Psychoanalytic Reflections During the Pandemic (Routledge, 2021). The award, given annually by the National Association for Psychoanalysis, cites books, artwork, articles, plays, poetry, and films that make a substantial contribution to psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.
The Gradiva Award
Through A Screen Darkly won for “Best Book — Historic Moment for Reflection,” based on its depiction of how individuals coped with an array of disorienting challenges over the arc of the pandemic. These included job loss, physician burnout, loss of a loved one, addiction, loneliness, writer’s block, fear of the future . . . and on and on. The book is harrowing at times, but ultimately hopeful in its recognition of people’s resilience even under unprecedented stress.
“Play In The Pandemic”
One story in the book, “Play in the Pandemic,” was also posted on Dr. Friedberg’s Psychology Today blog, and explained why 20th-century, non-digital game-playing was so comforting when everyone was shut indoors. Here’s a quotation from the story:
“It’s not like there aren’t 21st century games. But somehow, maybe because they’re so involved with technology, they don’t feel like games. They feel more like the real world on speed, or on some mission to subdue a civilization that would like to replace us. You can disappear into these games, of course, but they’re so consuming that you have to remind yourself that you can still return. They’re maybe a little too trippy for when you’re already bummed out on bad news. The pandemic made us appreciate nice, safe games that let you play at your own pace while perhaps even talking to someone.”
They’re social, which is an important function of play.
Developing Empathy For Individuals Whom Author Never Met
Sandra said that working on Through A Screen Darkly led her to develop immense empathy for individuals whom she had never met, but whose experience she shared — even if, sometimes, only vicariously. “I ended up caring about these people,” she said. “It was a very rough time.” She wrote about games because they provided a simple refuge. “I played games that I hadn’t touched in twenty years,” she said. “I got in touch with a part of my life that I thought had disappeared.”
From the Publisher
“Through a Screen Darkly identifies the psychological distress caused by the pandemic, examining how the particular elements of COVID-19 – its ability to be spread by those who seem not to have it, its intractability, the long-term uncertainty that it engenders – leave even relatively stable people shaken and unsure of the future. The book examines how, amidst radical uncertainty and the prospect of massive social change, such people learn to become resilient. The main theme of the book is that, of necessity, we learn to adapt. Though we still can only see “darkly,” we can call on the resources that we have, as well as those we can reasonably acquire, so as to retain a sense of our dignity and purpose. Through a Screen Darkly examines what is possible now as the pandemic runs its course. It makes no predictions of how all this will ultimately play out, but offers a time capsule of how people have coped with a disease that landed suddenly and that we still do not fully understand.
Offering a series of intense encounters with worried, traumatized people, this book will be invaluable to in-training and practicing psychiatrists, as it points to the several possible directions for our national, psychological recovery from the pandemic.”
From the Critics
‘Through a Screen Darkly is a remarkable achievement. In elegant, precise prose it captures the personal suffering of individuals during the pandemic while rendering the universality of their condition. Each essay is a version of how any of us could experience these new complexities that will, one way or another, determine all our futures. Dr. Friedberg’s practice has been at the epicenter of the pandemic for several months, and he saw it all – guilt, grief, fear, feistiness, and self-reinvention. He helped people find their way towards some kind of accommodation with post-COVID reality. His account of this straitened reality is, therefore, tempered with possibility and hope. As we make our way through these dark times, this inspiring book will become an essential read.’
David Forrest, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University
‘As a literature professor and poet, I am engaged with many issues in this book from perspectives very different from the author’s – for example, writing poems about Covid-19. So, I’m indebted to this impressive collection for its valuable new insights, notably its readings of literature. And Through a Screen Darkly illuminates our personal experiences of the pandemic – we’ve seen the movie, now read the book.’
Heather Dubrow, Ph.D., John D. Boyd SJ Chair in Poetic Imagination, Fordham University
‘Through a Screen Darkly is a beautifully-written exploration of the human psyche as it struggles with the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear prompted by the pandemic. It is timely and fascinating. Dr. Friedberg’s patients navigate from the initial shock of lockdown, to venturing out into a ‘new normal,’ and ultimately to resilience. A Screen portrays the latest incarnation of an ancient human challenge: to psychologically adapt to change and, even better, to learn how to thrive within it.’
Heather Berlin, Ph.D., M.P.H., Neuroscientist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai