Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Hedda Bolgar PhD: A Life Well Lived!

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 14, 2013

My colleague, Hedda Bolgar PhD, practicing psychoanalyst for 80 years, passed away yesterday at age 103. Her mind was vibrant. Her compassion was enormous. Her vision for the future was spot on. She taught, she saw patients, she started a free-standing psychology graduate school and a psychoanalytic institute. Los Angeles Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies (LAISPS), an institute that I am on faculty, came to life because Hedda recognized that psychologists, social workers and MFTs, needed a place to explore psychoanalysis. This was at a time when the American Psychoanalytic did not admit non-MDs (other than academics) into their training programs. LAISPS carries Hedda’s tradition of understanding that although the world is changing rapidly, what does not change is an individual’s need to share their stories, to be listened to, to be understood. No medication, no neuromodulation device, no psychosurgery, will ever change this. She was a wise woman because she realized man’s evil, as she lived through and protested against the Nazis, yet at the same time, she loved life and she loved people. Her home was a constant place for get-togethers to share stories, do book signings, and plan conferences. She was warm, intelligent and caring. She often voiced how she understood that working into her sunset years meant that she would inevitably abandon those who depended on her. She was open and honest about her impending departure from this material world. Her strength of character came through with this brutal honesty and integrity. She was both ambitious and nurturing, a combination that is rarely seen. She wanted to make a mark on the world, while at the same time, helping her colleagues and her patients strive to be the best that they could envision for themselves. She was a visionary, both for herself, and for psychoanalysis, but for those who came in her path. I was fortunate to be in her path, although in a small way, allowing me to feel her goodness, her reliability and her strength. Her loss is huge, but so is her legacy.

See also….,0,2504238.story

3 Responses to “Hedda Bolgar PhD: A Life Well Lived!”

  1. Jon said

    And what a wonderful life lived. Two quotes from the video: the first, about a method for living and the results of that method, “If there is an unmet need around, you try to meet it. This has been sort of my life… I go around in a chronic feeling of gratitude. I don’t know to whom, but I feel grateful for the life I had and am having now.” The second, the universality of people, “You know, there are some basic issues in human life, and they have not changed much. The human condition has variations….” How wonderful to have lived that life.

    • Thanks, Jon. Gratitude is an interesting experience, especially, as you say, when you do not know where to direct the feeling. Of course, the psychoanalyst in me, also sees gratitude as a way of denying the unfairness in the world, in that anger is a necessary stepping stone to change. People, not necessarily you, can use gratitude to become complacent. I do not mean to imply that since you feel gratitude that you do not also feel anger, but I wanted to illustrate a point. Thanks again.

      • Shelly said

        What does it mean, “People can use gratitude to become complacent?” I should think that people who still feel gratitude are the most humane, most feeling of all people. They do not deny the unfairness of the world at all…in fact, they seem to expect unfairness and that is why they still feel gratitude.

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