“NEW YORK CITY IN THE NEUROTIC TWENTIES”

In the Roaring Twenties, New York City was a hotbed of neurotics. There were neurotics of all kinds: obsessive-compulsive, compulsive-obsessive, hypochondriac, manic-depressive, depressive-manic, manic-compulsive, obsessive-depressive, depressive-obsessive, compulsive hoarding, hysterical… In short the whole spectrum of craziness. Then, there were the complexes. Some more than other, everyone was hung-up. Over weight, over height, over poor intelligence, over too much intelligence, over acne, over this or over that. The variety of complexes was infinite, it can not be enumerated. But the three-level podium was for the Oedipus complex (discovered by Freud); the Guilt complex (discovered by a child named Artie who, while ordering an old attic of his family, discovered it hidden among a pile of old clothes); and perhaps the favourite of every neurotic: the inferiority complex (discovered by Alfred Adler while wearing boots with artificial soles to look taller).

The inferiority complex achieved such success in the New York of the twenties that almost all Broadway theatres scheduled annually one or more shows (predominantly musicals) with this complex as the central theme. “What a little thing I am”, “The mirror is my enemy” and “Where did this belly come from?!” are some of the titles that shone with neon lights on the main billboards of the New York City of the Roaring Twenties. Wise psychoanalysts used to place their offices near Broadway and began the hour of consultation at the same time that the public left the theaters. In this way there was a transfer of the hung-up public that left the theater to the psychoanalysts’ consultation rooms, which were also announced with neon signs. Those offices counted each one with an army of professionals to attend to the enormous number of patients that accumulated in the waiting rooms at that late hour.

But where did so many psychoanalysts come from? Where had they received their training? The answer is: NYPSI, acronym for the “New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute”. The pedagogical work of this institute can never be sufficiently commended. Daily, an average of twenty psychoanalysts of both sexes, perfectly trained to face the most complicated scenarios of the human psyche, left its headquarters at 247 East 82nd Street in Manhattan. The professors used to be former students of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, who had emigrated to New York, where it was estimated that ninety percent of all the neurotics of the world resided. (This is not counting New Caledonia. If we include New Caledonia, the percentage drop to sixty-seven percent, a figure not negligible either. This anomaly is due to the expeditious way in which, in his early years as an analyst, Freud used to get rid of his most embarrassing patients.)

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Broadway in the Roaring Twenties

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