Dr Khilanani at Yale University

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Dr Aruna Khilanani, a psychoanalyst, was criticized by Yale University for expressing violent thoughts in a lecture she gave as part of grand rounds on April 6th. During the virtual lecture, she spoke of how hard it was to talk about racism to white people.

The doctor has a practice in New York that specializes on the subject.

I have not seen the videotape which viewing has now been restricted by Yale to their own community, after a writer had posted an audio version on Substack this last Friday.

My opinions are based on the article ‘A Psychiatrist Invited to Yale Spoke of Fantasies of Shooting White People,’ which appeared in the New York Times dated 6/6/2021.

Both the views of Yale University and of Dr Khilanani are presented in the article.

It is clear that Dr Khilanani is very angry about her experience with racism and she is very vocal about it. 

The problem I see is that during her presentation, the line between therapist and sufferer was blurred.

In the lecture, as described in the article, we got to hear aspects of the sufferer’s pain and her fantasies of retaliation. 

The doctor has never overstepped her boundaries in real life, which is why she felt the freedom to speak of her fantasies with great candor.

But such candor proved too unsettling for the audience. The attendees knew what the subject would be in advance. But the raw quality of the content proved most unpleasant.

I think the audience expected to hear how the profound pain of racism gets dealt with and neutralized. They expected to hear how such pain is defanged. They expected to hear how the analyst got to transform and soften it.

Instead they got a version of someone in the thick of her struggle. 

Dr Khilanani gives the impression of having made a strong commitment to the study of racism and to finding ways to resolve it but she’s still working her way through.  

Her path to resolution of such burden may not be yours or mine, for all of us have unique capabilities and may come up with different solutions, but I see her honesty as an important statement and as such must be heard and respected.

Yale University has their viewpoint, too, and it largely reflects the desire most people have that this problem we all face will find answers that are peaceful. We all want that.

But acknowledging the fullness of the pain is essential to get to such answers.

As the doctor says at one point, ‘My work is important. I stand by it. We need to heal in this country.’

At the end of the article a Yale professor is quoted as saying that, as a guest of the university, the doctor was free to speak on campus but that her views ‘must be soundly rejected.’

I disagree.

Dr Khilanani put it best, ‘my speaking metaphorically about my own anger… was a method for people to reflect on negative feelings… if you don’t, it will turn into a violent action.’

She has a point.

Oscar Valdes    oscarvaldes.net

Also available on apple and google podcasts, anchor.fm, Spotify, buzzsprout.com and others.

Please see the videos Letters to A Shooter in YouTube.com

1 comment

  1. However, I don’t see how her struggle is currently a service to her patients, until she works through it. But she should have the professional wherewithal to know she needs to control her message from the utterance. Once the words leave her (or anyone’s) mouth, she has no control over how her words are interpreted. A person with her level of education and professionalism should be capable of making herself clearly understood without the need to indulge in violent ideations. And I strongly feel she could have done it without diluting her message.

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