As I thought about my journey as a psychoanalyst, musical performer and writer, so many things came to mind that it felt quite overwhelming to condense this into such a small space. After all so much that is central to my life is entwined despite containing very differently defined aspects of myself and the roles that I play. For some, many of these things may come more easily but for me it has been a lifelong struggle to allow myself to travel this journey because of my upbringing and experience. However, I have been very fortunate that an indispensible part of this landscape has been the unconditional support of my husband and life partner who has for 34 years supported and challenged me to improve as a writer, singer and performer and always strive for advanced training and excellence in any of my endeavors. Without his support and sacrifice, I would never have gone to social work school or completed psychoanalytic training, nor complete two books of poetry (Angry June Moon Says Hello and The Bridge of Love) or performed three solo cabaret shows (You've Got a Friend in Me, I Love to See You Smile, and The Rainbow Connection) that he produced and wrote! Miguel has always supported my vision and helped me work to make them happen. So you see, he has also been an indispensable part of my journey. Of course, it is vital to understand that much of this has also been due to my dream to sing and play guitar since I was very young. This brings me to a central part of all of this and that is the importance of having a sense of urgency and drive to make these dreams come true. This has motivated me to be these things along with how I view them from an analytic and creative perspective and the functions that they have played in my life and in the lives of others.
As I said before, this has not always been easy or smooth sailing. It has largely been trial and error, success and flight from success that has marked my journey along the way: much of it due to traumatic fear, fear of failure, guilt and lack of confidence. Suffice it to say that I had my singing debut when I was 11 years old at a junior high school assembly where I was so scared that I lost my voice until I finally forced myself to go out on stage to sing. That was a success but there were times that I would get on stage and completely bomb and felt so ashamed. Later I took up the guitar at 13 and would sing church, folk and protest music. It was in High School that I discovered that I could write poetry and began writing everything that came into my head; much of it overblown abstractions and pretensions. Quite frankly, expressing my feelings was not very easy for me to do since I was very afraid of my deepest feelings, particularly my sexual identity. It was much easier to be a religious pacifist, afraid, guilt-ridden and confused by my sexuality. In a real sense music became my refuge from all this but I always kept it at a self-conscious distance. Of course this all eventually changed after my being gay had been viciously exposed and mocked in an anonymous letter to my father in 1975 written by a musical colleague and "friend." All of this occurred when I was in my first gay relationship. But with the confrontation of my father over its truth and the rejection by many of my friends, I ended the affair and withdrew into myself while I tried to heal in therapy. Prior to my being outed, I had been on television several times in a folk group, played in various rock bands (often quitting in guilt and confusion) and writing many songs. However, my final coming out did not really occur until I entered another serious relationship in 1976 and later became part of a gay Franciscan community called the St Matthew Community in 1977. Later in 1979 I entered a mainstream Roman Catholic Franciscan order where I stayed until I finally left religious life in 1983. By then I had become quite the church musician but of course I wanted to broaden my musical horizons and I wanted to find someone that I could share my life with out of the closet.
Being the analyst and person I am, a large part of my journey has been trying to make sense of these things, my drive to create and perform and the creative process itself. This has led me to see these things through Winnicott’s lens of the True Self, to be who I really am with in-depth understanding of how my entire life has been leading me to be these things since I was a young child (I am 66 years old now). As one can see this journey has been a very important part of my analysis for many years. It has been in great part through analysis that I was able to better consolidate these different aspects of myself and allow myself not to box myself in by other’s nor my own limiting expectations. Thus, I was able to have a clearer sense of what the creative process really means for me, not just as a therapist and social worker but as a poet and musician. This allowed me to enter more deeply into these various acts of creation, giving private and public witness through the use of self and the discerning and expressing the story of my object world and the object world of others.
This is what I believe I do as an analyst, performer and singer and instrumentalist and as a poet, whether it is the creative act of helping a patient transform their unconscious life into insight and change or as an artist who gives voice to the inner word that wants to express itself in song, or poetry. I have always had a deep yearning to tell my story especially in poetry and song. This yearning longs to be spoken about and shared, it longs to be written about and told. It longs to be sung and improvised and composed about! To me it is all about transforming my life and the lives of others. In other words it is about resurrection and reparation of the self and others!
By the time I was 39 years old, I had consciously begun to also yearn to hear others’ stories and learn how to help them as a therapist (as I had been helped). It is why I adore being an analyst and supervisor: helping others find their paths towards helping others as we put into words the patient’s journey which so often can feel so ineffable, confusing or empty. This is the transforming power that words can give. For words can give a sense of control and allow the ego to begin to make sense of the unconscious powers of the Id and Superego thus increasing one’s sense of control, autonomy and harnessing the power of dreams! My journey as an analyst and artist has taught me to be attentive to a vision fueled by the power of my dreams. Staying close to our dreams keeps us connected to our deepest selves. For as Freud said, "Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious." and as Oscar Wilde in The Critic as Artist stated, “Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” In my world this is the dawn of self-realization and expression.
Kevin Burke is currently working on a new cabaret show: Dreaming Away and on a book of poetry entitled, Xuleca Lounge: Songs of Creation and Experience. He is a senior supervisor and faculty member of the Training Institute for Mental Health and has a private practice in NYC. Kevin is also a manager and supervisor for New York City's Administration for Children's Services.