Blanton, Smiley (1882-1966)

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BLANTON, SMILEY (1882-1966)

An American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Smiley Blanton was born in 1882 in Unionville, Tennessee, and died on October 30, 1966, in New York. A patient of Freud, his Diary of My Analysis with Freud appeared in 1971. Born in the South into a family of strict Presbyterians, he studied medicine at Cornell University, became an M.D. in 1914, and was trained in psychiatry by Dr. A. Meyers at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore. After serving in World War I, he received a degree in neurology and psychological medicine from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in London in 1922-23.

He taught at the University of Minneapolis, where he had created the first child guidance clinic associated with a public school; then, in 1927, created a nursery school at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Two years later he moved to New York City, intending to practice psychoanalysis. Through George Amsden, who was leaving to be analyzed by Sándor Ferenczi, he replaced Clinton McCord, who had just finished his analysis with Freud.

The first period of the analysis began on August 31, 1929, in Berchtesgaden, where Freud spent his vacations. Blanton later described his first meeting with Freud: "A small, frail and graying man suddenly appeared and moved toward me to greet me. Although he seemed older than in the photographs I was familiar with, I recognized the silhouette that approached me to be that of Freud. Cigar in hand, he spoke to me almost timidly."

Blanton took great care in recording Freud's remarks, which were frequent and lengthy; Freud also provided numerous suggestions on analytic technique, avoided interpreting his patient's colitis, asked him not to write down his dreams, and added, "For an analyst not to relate his dreams, now that's a sign of serious resistance!" He would soon involve him in his research concerning Shakespeare's identity.

From September to the end of October, Blanton followed Freud to the Schloss Tegel clinic in Berlin, and then resumed his analysis in Vienna. He was again forced to interrupt his analysis at the end of April when Freud went to the Sanatorium Cottage of Vienna and then to Berlin for treatment of his heart problems. At the end of Blanton's analysis, on May 30, Freud provided him with a letter of recommendation to Ernest Jones: "I would like to introduce you to Dr. Smiley Blanton. He is a pleasant man, especially interested in the orientation of children (Vassar College). He has undergone six months of personal analysis with me; I think he will return home a sincere believer in PsA."

Five years later, in August 1935, Blanton had a further two weeks of analysis with Freud, who was then at his vacation home in Grinzing. Freud accepted payments before the sessions began by saying, "I accept them on account. If I happen to die before the fortnight is over, they will be returned to you!" During the analysis Freud spoke about Ferenczi and techniqueBlanton was now seeing patients of his ownsigned a copy of the Interpretation of Dreams for him, and, when Blanton left on August 17, after expressing his wish to return the following year, responded, "I regret that I cannot promise I will be here . . . ."

However, two years later, on August 1, 1937, Blanton was again in Grinzing with Freud. He described him as "more alert and more dynamic than he was two years ago . . . His hearing remains poor, but no more than it was two years ago." While planning a trip to London, their discussion turned to phenomena that Freud was skeptical of, such as parapsychology, "with the exception of telepathy, whose existence is possible and which deserves to be studied."

In London, on August 30, 1938, Blanton saw Freud for a final week of therapy that lasted until September 7, the day before Freud was scheduled for a new operation. Blanton resumed his habit of recording his dreams and investigating the resistance that occurred during their interpretation. As for Freud, "he appeared to me as dynamic, alert, and lucid as ever." But, Freud confided to him, "At my age it's natural that one thinks of death. Those who think about death and talk about it are those who are not afraid, while those who are afraid neither think about it nor talk about it." Blanton added, on September 5, 1938, "In reading these pages, it will become apparent that the professor spoke often to me of death."

Later in his career, Blanton collaborated with Norman Vincent Peale in establishing the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry. They opened the Religio-Psychiatric Clinic at the Marble Collegiate Church on lower Fifth Avenue, where free assistance was offered to people suffering from emotional disturbances such as anxiety and depression. The clinic also trained clergymen of all denominations to help people deal with their emotional difficulties. Blanton and Peale wrote several books together, most notably their first collaboration, Faith Is the Answer: A Pastor and a Psychiatrist Discuss Your Problems.

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Face-to-face situation; Neutrality/benevolent neutrality; Psychoanalytic treatment; Religion and psychoanalysis; Weltanschauung.


Blanton, Smiley. (1971). Diary of my analysis with Freud. New York: Hawthorn.