Spotlight on Mercedes Puchol

by Susannah Grant posted on 28 March 2020

This time we take a deeper look at the life and heritage of Valencia-born, highly accomplished psychoanalyst and writer, Mercedes Puchol.  Busy mother of twins, Mercedes´ world spans the scientific and the artistic, with renowned relations going back generations.

You have spent time in the UK, how do you think the approach to psychology varies between different countries?

I like the fact that the Anglo-Saxon education system focusses on a more global view of psychology from different schools and favours critical thinking and debate amongst students. As opposed to the Spanish system which is more formulaic, closed and unilateral.

What is psychoanalysis in a nutshell?

Psychoanalysis was founded by Freud who believed that people could be cured by making us aware of our unconscious thoughts and motivations. The aim is to help people release and rewrite their ignored emotions and experiences which lie at the heart of their symptoms and suffering in order to move on, feel freer and even become “more themselves”.

Giving a speech at the Instituto Cervantes

I gather that all psychoanalysts have to do their own psychoanalysis before treating patients, what sort of things do you think you and your colleagues tend to discover?

Indeed, unlike other psychological work this didactic analysis is mandatory for psychoanalysts. In order for a psychoanalyst to help others, he/she must first get to know himself/herself in the deepest possible way. Secondly, this will enable the psychoanalyst not to confuse his/her own issues with those of his/her patients.

Today you are the President of the Asociación Psicoanalítica de Madrid (APM), has that trajectory been harder as a woman?

I think psychoanalysis is actually a profession that really allows women to develop personally and professionally. The feminine or the female universe is also a subject of growing interest in the field of Psychoanalysis.

In addition, I have been lucky to have a very supportive husband who has also been very hands on with our twin boys who are now 13 years old.

Talking about psychoanalysis and culture

If you were cast off to a desert island what two items would you choose to take with you, other than your mobile phone?

I would take a computer where I could read my best books and watch my favorite movies although the idea of going to a desert island is losing appeal given world events!  

Did your grandfather, a prominent scientist, tell you any interesting anecdotes about his friendship with José Ortega & Gasset, a leading Spanish philosopher?

As a teenager my grandfather, who had been part of Ortega & Gasset´s tertulia groups in which topics were discussed with deep respect and tolerance, confided to me that he missed that peaceful climate of dialogue and tolerance that prevailed in Spain at the beginning of the 20th Century.

El Volador – Vicente Martínez Sanz

Tell us about your collection of photographs from your maternal great grandfather, a renowned photographer you are currently cataloguing.

Vicente Martínez Sanz was a highly-prized Valencian photographer from the Avant-garde period who was also responsible for introducing colour to Spain. My husband and I are continuing to preserve and expand his legacy as both of us are passionate about photography and the arts.

What is your secret Madrid?

I enjoy walking around Quinta de los Molinosparkespecially when the almond trees bloom. Or visiting Madrid´s emblematic cafés such as Café Gijón and Café Comercial which were regular hotspots for Spain´s great novelists and poets. 

Mercedes and family in the Parque Quinta de los Molinos, Madrid

How did you become interested in the arts?

I´ve always been fascinating by painting and photography and my father, a retired notary and novelist, instilled in me a love for literature. Cinema has also been a keen passion of mine and I´ve written essays and reviews of films, applying my psychoanalytic knowledge where it´s due.

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?

I´m so lucky to have found my true vocation, so I´d continue to do exactly what I do now!

Do you have any final words?

During this difficult period that we´re all going through, I would like to express my solidarity and affection to the wonderful group of (mainly) women in the INC with whom I have shared so much. I also wish to make myself available as a friend and also as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst to help you channel any need for help that may come to light in your life during these challenging moments.

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