Psychohistory Forum is Back

for Tom Ferraro’s
Psychoanalytic Work with Athletes: Probing the Unconscious in Sports

After an over two-year-long in-person intermission, we will finally meet in-person on September 17, 2022, at Fordham University to probe sports, an incredibly important part of our society to which an enormous amount of time, energy, and money are devoted.  As a presidential psychobiographer and sports fan, I find that sports mirror American politics, emphasizing aggression, anger, anxiety, denigration, extreme competitiveness, grandiosity, idealization, identification, the “us vs. them” mentality, unconscious inhibitions, and so much else.  An example of the power of the unconscious was illustrated when Chuck Knoblauch, who had been a topnotch second baseman for the New York Yankees, suddenly was unable to throw to first base, an essential requirement for his position that he had previously done without a problem his entire career.  Despite some intellectuals and even analysts feeling that athletics are somehow juvenile or beneath them, I find that many of my psychoanalytic/psychohistorical colleagues follow different teams closely.  Sports are a metaphor for life, and I hope you will attend our session on this important endeavor.

Thomas Ferraro, PhD, is a sports psychoanalyst and columnist who has had a long career treating athletes.  He is completing the tentatively titled book Unpacking Depth Sports Psychology: Studies in the Unconscious for Routledge.  Tom, who was a longtime member of the Forum, like so many of us, has longed for an in-person session.  Finally, one has been scheduled, with the ability for members at a distance to attend online.  In our Work-in-Progress seminar, we will finally be able to sit around and spontaneously respond after Tom’s brief presentation in our 40-year-long process of working to nurture and deepen the work of our presenter.

He is quite interested in receiving feedback from colleagues who have read the attached paper and heard his talk.  He wants your insights on his work, as well as thought on the general issue of the aggression, anger, anxiety, competitiveness, grandiosity, and so forth in sports and their relationship to the same elements in our somewhat politically correct society.  Most sports highlight issues of individuality and teamwork, which are important in so many aspects of life.  Because many therapists have patients who reference sports, this should be an opportunity to have a greater understanding of the meaning of particular sports to the patient as well as in society generally.  For many in our society, watching and to a lesser extent doing sports is an addiction, which will be good to learn more about.   It is worth remembering William James’ suggestion that sports is the “moral equivalent of war,” which might serve as a substitute for it, and bring about a decline in warfare.  Directly after my invitation is a letter Tom has written explaining more about his project and what he expects from those who participate.

Ken Fuchsman or I will serve as moderator, and Harold Takooshian is our host who will welcome us back to Fordham.  Included below and attached are the papers.  The meeting particulars are as follows:

TOPIC:“Psychoanalytic Work with Athletes: Probing the Unconscious in Sports”
PRESENTER:Tom Ferraro, PhD (Sports Psychoanalyst)
MODERATOR:Paul Elovitz, PhD (Clio’s Psyche), or Ken Fuchsman, EdD (U. Connecticut)
DATE:September 17, 2022 (Saturday)
TIME:9:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
LOCATION:Fordham University-Lincoln Center, 113 West 60 Street at 9th Ave (room 604 on the 6th floor, or a nearby room), photo identification required
LUNCHEON:1:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. To be arranged at a nearby restaurant

Dear colleagues,

I am completing a text entitled “Unpacking Depth Sport Psychology: Case Studies in the Unconscious” for Routledge with a publication date in early 2023.  The book represents the first of its kind to discuss in detail how psychoanalytic theory and technique is used with professional athletes in my practice.

The field of sport psychology is currently frozen in a cognitive behavioral paradigm, which has proven to be ineffective in helping the athlete to cope with his or her performance issues. Very little has been written on the psychoanalytic treatment of athletes despite its unique ability to help patients resolve repetition compulsions, past traumas, unconscious guilt about winning, etc.  The book demonstrates the way dream analysis, free association, transference, and resistance analysis is used with athletes.

I am hoping that in a forum presentation, you will be able to give me further insights and research direction into this much neglected and fascinating area of work.   I work with Major League Baseball (MLB), Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and National Football League (NFL) players, Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) golfers, soccer professionals, tennis and lacrosse players, swimmers, long distance runners, figure skaters, and gymnasts. Case studies will be presented on some of their inhibition of function, anxieties, depression, yips, self-doubt, narcissism, sociopathy, drug use, and obsessive compulsive traits.

If you enjoy sports or recreational activities, I am sure you will find the discussion of interest.  If not, this Psychohistory Forum Work in Progress seminar will help you understand an extraordinarily important aspect of our society, and the treatment of performance problems can be applied to other aspects of our lives, those of our patients, and our families.

Tom Ferraro, Ph.D.

Below are some selections from Tom Ferraro’s forthcoming volume, which you need to read before our meeting, and prepare questions for him.  [Since the attached document is 43-page long, we are asking all attendees to read at least the Prologue.]

Although it has been over two years since we’ve had an in-person meeting, please remember, we start our in-person meetings with those involved stating who they are and asking a question of the presenter, which may be answered after his no longer than 20-minute presentation.  If by chance you are at a distance and attending the meeting virtually, you will not have the initial opportunity to introduce yourselves, but please do put your questions in the Chat box.

Clio’s Psyche and the Psychohistory Forum are looking forward to an insightful and productive 2022-2023 academic year.  We are collecting materials for our Winter 2023 (our 107th) issue of Clio, which will include Part II of the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma and Resilience, the Psychoanalysis/Psychology of Music and Musicians, psychobiography, and much else.  Of course, we will also seek papers reflecting your current interests and research.

I hope you can join us on September 17, 2022, for a most stimulating and important discussion.

Best regards,


Paul H. Elovitz, PhD, Historian, Research Psychoanalyst, Professor, Director/Convener of the Psychohistory Forum, and Editor in Chief, Clio’s Psyche.  Author of The Making of Psychohistory: Origins, Controversies, and Pioneering Contributors (Routledge, 2018).