B. D’Amato is a well-known psychoanalyst based in New York City who has gained recognition for her in-depth analysis of literary characters and their creators. With a keen interest in understanding the human psyche and emotional communication, she has written extensively on dreams, adoption, and the therapeutic potential of human connection. In her most recent publication, she explores the hypnogogic perspective of Bob Dylan’s “Murder Most Foul.” However, her debut work of fiction, Triskele, marks a significant departure from her previous writing, showcasing her talent as a storyteller. Through her work, D’Amato brings her unique insights into the human condition, and her debut novel promises to be a thought-provoking and engaging read.
1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Active, Curious, Compassionate
2. Your book, “Triskele,“ has fundamentally awakened the necessity of good parenting. How do you think children’s mental health is hampered by their parents’ parenting?
Parents have an enormous influence over their children’s mental health and wellness. It is a huge responsibility to raise a child, and should be done thoughtfully and with knowledge of development. Each level of maturity achieved in a young child’s life is dependent upon the success of every prior milestone.
How did you first become interested in the field of psychoanalysis, and how has it influenced your career as a therapist and writer?
I was a special education teacher and realized I was more interested in my students’ mental health than in their academic learning, because teaching them to read and write was easy. Understanding why so many highly intelligent kids were in special ed puzzled me. Many of them were placed there because they had behavioral problems in the mainstream due to emotional needs, which, when met, allowed them to flourish. It was there that I began my formal training as a psychoanalyst.
3. Can you tell us more about your experience teaching theoretical and clinical aspects of psychoanalysis at The Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies and The New York Graduate School of Psychoanalysis?
I teach psychoanalytic concepts, theory, and techniques to students seeking an academic master’s degree in the field at NYGSP and a more clinical approach with candidates seeking certification as psychoanalytic practitioners. Discussing concepts is a large part of the training for both as is modeling of the techniques of psychoanalysis through the teaching process.
4. Your recent venture into fiction writing is described as a natural progression of your work as a psychoanalyst. Can you explain how writing fiction allows you to further explore human nature and understand the inner conflicts and desires of your characters?
Freud very eloquently said that literary writers have an innate understanding of human nature and unconscious motivations. As a psychoanalyst with several decades of experience in helping patients to understand their unique conflicts and driving forces, I felt that my clinical practice had informed my writing of fictional characters, quite organically. If one understands what is driving a character, then describing their behaviors simply flows from that starting point.
5. Your characters, like Paul and Bethany, have been portrayed with a bond of closeness, trust, and protection. Why did you choose your characters as children? Was it difficult to write about the thought process of these child characters?
I believe that conflicts arise early in childhood. Siblings growing up in families that suffer from extreme dysfunction tend to be closer at times, in the absence of parental nurturing that can exist in such families. I felt it was important to demonstrate to the reader where and how the childhood bond began. Having worked with many children and young people throughout my life, I actually found it quite easy to write about the thoughts and feelings of very young characters.
6. Another key element that “TRISKELE” highlights is dysfunctional relationships and family conflicts. What was your inspiration behind choosing this plot of disturbed families?
Most people come to psychoanalysis, or to other modes of therapy, due to early family trauma or unresolved conflict that has arisen in childhood. As a psychoanalyst, I have heard many stories of horrific behaviors that have occurred in numerous disturbed families. Most patients have disturbing histories to work through. No specific individual presented as inspiration, but rather the archetype of the disturbed family in general.
7. Lillian is more of a well-wisher than a psychoanalyst, who not only helps us connect with the characters’ pains and emotions but also lets us question ourselves as well. Is Lillian a reflection of your own personality or a visualization of your ideas?
Lillian is my understanding of a psychoanalyst. She is committed to understanding her patient’s trauma and strives to do what is therapeutically in their best interest. Because the reader comes to see Lillian’s own foibles and vulnerabilities, it may diminish her appearance as an analyst who is in control. However, all psychoanalysts are human beings who suffer in many of the same ways that Lillian does. In analytic sessions, both analyst and supervisor, Lillian, was entirely professional. Falling in love with one’s supervisee is, hopefully, not a common occurrence. It did make the story that much more problematic. And Lillian suffered great emotional duress finding herself in that compromised position.
8. While reading “Triskele,” one can experience and understand the creative world of psychological stories. How can people belonging to non psychological areas relate to and read this book?
Disturbed family dynamics are universal, and I think early childhood trauma and abuse are more widespread than any of us would like to believe. In that way, I think lay people might easily relate to the pain of the characters.
9. In the contemporary world, what is often unnoticed are the struggles that individuals have with their own emotions and desires. Do you think psychologists lack a holistic understanding of mental health?
I think mental health is one part, albeit a very significant part of the whole individual. I would hope that clinicians of any modality see their patients as complete multifaceted beings.
10. “TRISKELE” is also tremendously important for self-introspection and awareness. What do you think is more important, regulation of the mind or liberation of the mind?
Regulation of behavior, not the mind, is the important thing for people to be able to attain. Liberating the mind seems to mean that an individual comes to accept who they are, for example, Paul came to accept that the priesthood was not necessarily what he wanted. Everyone needs to understand their deepest and truest thoughts and feelings in order to live a fulfilled life. Choosing how we behave rather than acting on impulse is what cures.
11. You have also given many illustrations of modern psychoanalytic techniques. Would you like to share how these helped in attaining emotional wellness?
Modern psychoanalysis strives to help individuals experience a full range of emotions, from completely positive to completely negative, with the caveat that all feelings are acceptable, while all actions are NOT. Many people are afraid to have negative thoughts and feelings because they are afraid of acting on them. So instead, they suppress them, which creates physical symptoms or mental illness. Being free to know that you can choose whether or not to act upon any feeling is incredibly empowering. Modern analysts meet patients where they are, and we wait until they are ready to question their own behaviors and try something new. It is a slow process but can reap permanent results.
12. The conflict between Jackie and Paul, which leads to an interesting turn in the story, leads Paul to feel guilt more than grief. According to you, is guilt a positive or negative feeling?
In Paul’s case, his guilt is a negative feeling. It haunts him, not only for believing he was responsible for Jackie’s death (which he was not) but also for having abandoned his sister Bethany. Paul tortures himself with nightmares and decides to become a celibate priest to atone for his sins. These actions do not help him to work through the guilt.
13. The most emotional and thought-provoking character of the book is Bethany, who was forced to foster care out of her choice. Why is bonding and unification more difficult between children and foster care families?
Children in foster care have been separated from their biological parents and are frequently moved from home to home for various reasons. This leads to a cycle of repeated abandonments. After being left by potential loving caregivers numerous times, a child loses the wish to reconnect because it is potentially too painful.
14. The book “TRISKELE” also has strong visualization as the scenes easily build the imagination of both the characters and the stories. Have you ever thought of converting it into a movie or television series?
Wouldn’t that be nice! I’m open to any invitations!
15. The most critical element is the nonpleasurable experience that readers can have while reading about characters whose painful experiences can bring tears. Why did you choose to focus on trauma and alcohol use in your novel ?
As I said earlier, psychoanalysts hear a great deal of trauma in their every day sessions with patients. Alcohol abuse and reckless parenting are rampant in our society.
16. What is the meaning and symbolism of the title of the book Triskele, and what inspired you to choose this title?
A Triskele is an ancient Celtic pre-Christian symbol consisting of three spirals interconnected via a central core. Lillian, Paul and Bethany are the three characters who do not know how much they need each other in order to resolve their individual conflicts, or as you might say, to liberate their minds. Through some act of fate or specific unconscious forces, they find each other.
17. The most critical aspect of the book is that you have put your psychological lenses on the childhood traumas and their impacts on their future engagements and interactions. According to you, why do these childhood incidents impact an individual’s overall mental health?
We repeat what we know. If we grow up in a traumatic environment, it will shape our entire life, in one way or another. If, and until, we can work through the conflict and come to accept who we are in spite of it.
18. The two worlds of outer and inner conflicts are contrasting but impacting each other in diverse ways. Do you use your subjective and career experiences to add meaningful insights to the book?
Absolutely. The inner and outer conflicts usually go hand in hand.
19. Your other writings about a monster in Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde emphasize the multidimensional nature and sometimes contradictory sides within one’s personality, but the world tends to understand its surrounding people and environment with a rigid division of right and wrong or sacred and profane. Why is it important for a psychoanalyst to uncover the grey layers of human personality ?
We all have both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde aspects in our characters. I think it is the darkest areas of ourselves that we all try to hide and deny. Accepting our dark sides and being able to control them, by not acting on negative impulses, in other words, by not going into action every time we have a negative thought or feeling, is the key to mental health.
20. In the professions of psychoanalyst, therapist, and counselor, generally, society frames the people in these professions as being perfectionists and someone who is emotionally strong. What are the daily challenges that you encounter in your profession’s practice?
Like Lillian, all clinicians are human and have vulnerabilities, shortcomings, and blind spots. For this reason, psychoanalysts remain in analysis and supervision for most of their lives in order to keep a close eye on their own behaviors with patients.
21. Modern society constrains individuals to be rational and practical, but “ TRISKELE” challenges this bifurcation and highlights the urgency of acknowledgment and deep understanding of irrational and destructive behaviors as well. Do you think people are scared of sharing their few instances with you because of the societal construction of something so defamed?
Definitely. We all tend to minimize our capacity for destructive thought and action. It takes a great deal of time before patients are comfortable enough to let an analyst know their darkest desires. To be able to differentiate thought and feeling from going into action with these thoughts and feelings requires a great deal of maturity and ego strength. Psychoanalysis, when it works well, takes a person through that journey.
22. The two kinds of relations are defined in the book as blood relation and universal relation; the love between the siblings was more than blood relation, but what unites them together is their universal relation with Lillian. Do you think you also have universal relationships with your characters?
Excellent question. Like characters in a dream, I think all of the characters in Triskele represent some aspect of myself or my experiences, both in my life and in my work.
23. The conversations among the characters act as therapy sessions for the readers, who are guided by emotional advice and interconnections. Do you think in pleasing others, we are missing out on real and emotional talks with our loved ones?
“Pleasing others” is such an interesting expression. I think we really please others when we are true to ourselves; in that way, they understand who we really are. If we are acting in ways that we think might please others, we are actually doing a disservice to them and to ourselves.
24. Confusion is far better than drawing wrong conclusions, as portrayed in the book’s quote, “She considered the facts and tried to compose herself. She attempted to be logical and reasonable. There must be a practical solution to the confusion. Was this priest the brother of her patient? Was he Bethany’s long-lost Paulie? It could not be. There must be another Beth Commarera who was not her patient. But deep down, Lillian knew it was true.” How much Lillian’s dilemma of protecting the confidentiality and family connections of both her patients is important to the overall understanding of the story ?
It demonstrates the professional conflict that nearly killed Lillian. If she revealed the truth to Bethany, she would betray Paul’s confidential relationship (Paul was her supervisee, not her patient – he wanted to change that arrangement, but they never agreed to it). If Lillian told Paul that she knew Bethany, she would betray what she knew in confidence from Bethany. A psychoanalyst’s role is not supposed to interfere with any patient’s actual life outside the session. An almost larger problem for Lillian was the disbelief she felt when she made the connection that both Paul and Bethany were in a professional relationship with her.
25. The relationship between doctor Wilfred Mitchell and Lillian is also beautifully expressed with the words and symbolization of love with the things that we considered to be tangible, as in the quote, “Wilfred snapped the clasp and admired the cross as it on perfectly on Lillian’s chest.” It was my mother’s Celtic cross. She wore it most of her life. My father gave it to her on their first wedding anniversary. “I have never told you this before, but my Irish mother was deeply spiritual.” What makes the love between Wilfred and Lillian more spiritual and emotionally rooted?
Perhaps it is because Wilfred has died. We don’t really know him as a living character in the story but only in a flashback of a memory from Lillian’s aggrieved heart.
26. According to you, “perhaps psychoanalysis and writing are two ends of the same proverbial cigar.” Do you think writing has helped you not just decode your surroundings but also your mind itself?
I have been a psychoanalyst and have been in analysis for many many decades. I like to believe that I know who I really am, for better and for worse. And yes, writing has been a wonderfully cathartic tool.
27. Do you have other writers in the family?
My sister has just written a chapter that is a personal account of my grandmother’s journey to America in a book about Ukrainian immigrants going to press this year. And my brother has published a book on energetic healing.
28. What advice would you give to aspiring writers, particularly those who may be struggling to find their own voice or develop their own unique style?
Write about what you know as if no one will ever read it but you. The editing comes later after the story is down on paper.
Triskele, the debut novel by B. D’Amato, offers a gripping story that is sure to captivate readers. Drawing from her expertise as a psychoanalyst, D’Amato weaves a compelling narrative that explores the complexities of human relationships and the secrets that we keep from ourselves and others. With her unique insights into the human psyche and the power of emotional communication, D’Amato offers a thought-provoking and engaging read that is not to be missed. Order your copy of Triskele today on Amazon and discover the talents of this remarkable author for yourself.