Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 171

America and Psychiatry as Fields of Dreams

“Build it, and he will come.”

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Yesterday was the second annual Major League Baseball Field of Dreams game. It takes place in Iowa, near the site of the popular 1989 movie titled “Field of Dreams.”

I watched the first game. I recall that I cried trice, once when Kevin Costner led players from both teams from the towering cornstalks onto the field and at the end when my beloved Chicago White Sox won with a walk-off home run.

I had once dreamed of playing for the White Sox and have something like that come true. When I had a compound fraction of my left ankle skiing in my senior year of high school, my dream turned to psychiatry and addressing the dreams of patients.

The movie itself time travels over baseball history and a father son relationship. To summarize, Ray Kinsella, played by Costner, facing financial ruin, hears a voice saying:

“Build it, and he will come.”

He then razes a cornfield and builds the baseball diamond. In some sort of vision, the field draws in real life legendary baseball players who missed out on their dream. That stimulates Ray to look into his own regrets. As the last player is ready to leave after resolving their regrets, Ray recognizes that it is his father as a young, happy man. Ray then hears the field whispering “ease his pain,” and realizes that refers to his own Oedipal-like guilt about his torn relationship with his father. Ray asks his father to play catch and forgives him. In life imitating art, the former well-known Black father-son baseball duo, Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. played catch before this year’s real game started yesterday.

The United States of America, has traditionally been founded and thought to have been a field of dreams, at least when it is open to immigrants, as the famous 1903 poem by Emma Lazarus inside the Statue of Liberty states:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .”

My 18-year-old paternal grandfather was one of them, escaping conscription into the Romanian army in 1898. Apparently, the rest of his family died in the Holocaust. On the other hand, much earlier in our country’s history, the forcible nightmarish bringing of Africans here to be slaves occurred. Intergenerational transmission of trauma may still need more resolution on both sides, former immigrants and slaves.

The voices and visions that Ray has are not like that of a psychotic depression, but maybe more like a psychiatrist making key interpretations. We can see here that a simple game of baseball can have much deeper meanings, just like in working with a patient.

I, too, had some similar conflicts with my father, who often played catch with me and took me to White Sox games when I was a child. Seeing the movie and then the first Field of Dreams game brought tears of relief, as if I had hit a relationship saving home run of life.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.