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Through the Times With Peter Kramer, M.D.

Through the Times With Peter Kramer, M.D.

When he first entered psychoanalysis as a patient, this 22-year-old Marshall scholar envisaged his future as that of a melancholic, isolated writer. Instead, he uncovered a repressed desire to become a psychiatrist. Through the years, Peter Kramer, M.D., has interwoven the two careers of writer and clinical
psychiatrist and followed a life path that he has described as "up from
melancholy."

In 1970, Kramer had graduated from Harvard
College with high honors in history
and literature and was attending University
College in London on a postgraduate scholarship, yet he
was uneasy. "I was someone who was very interested in literature and
philosophy," Kramer told Psychiatric
Times
. But that was during the Vietnam War years, and many young Americans
felt the imperative toward relevance, service and practical good.

Partly because of his need to feel relevant and partly because of his lack
of pleasure in his own academic successes, he entered psychoanalysis at
Hampstead Clinic, the Freudian epicenter in Great Britain. "In the course of
being an analytic patient, I came to the realization that I had in some ways
always wanted to be a doctor but had set that goal aside. In particular, I
wanted to be a psychoanalyst," Kramer added. In Kramer's newest book, Against Depression (New York: Viking, 2005), he writes of those
life-transforming years:

When I announced that I wanted to enter medical school and become a
psychiatrist, my analyst did not discourage me ... My analyst wanted me to
understand that the wish, from childhood, to protect my relatives--the need to
ward off depression and to conquer disease--was shaping my career choice ... I do
not deny that my attitudes toward mood disorder have deep roots.

Born in New York City
just after World War II, Kramer grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. He
wrote in Against Depression:

All my relatives were German Jews. Those few who had managed to get out--they
included my parents, my grandparents and one great-grandmother--had done so at
the last possible moment. Most other family members were killed or died of
medical neglect.

Disease also marked the family. In the first four years of Kramer's life,
his father, a pharmacist, was hospitalized twice with tuberculosis.

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