Andrea Marzi – Replay to Parsons’s comment

First of all, let me thank both reviewers for their commitment in commenting my paper. Their commentary add to the positive ones that have been published in the IJPA, the Psychoan. Quarterly, the Japa and the Revista Portuguesa de Psicanalise (as well as in the Italian Rivista di Psicoanalisi). My paper, like the other two by my Italian colleagues, aimed to address “the identity of the analyst” as a subject in its own right. Therefore, each paragraph and clinical illustration were conceived or chosen to that end. Yet, in his comments, after having properly identified some of the main themes that I tackled – and for this I am grateful – Parsons doesn’t seem to adequately understand the sense of my first clinical illustration (which refers to both the psychic use and also the experience of the digital world in the session) as being an integral part of the rest of my paper. In fact, the clinical vignette underlines to what extent the analyst’s feeling of his identity is challenged by the digital world and how important it is to maintain a sense of identity in an analytic way within the analyst-patient relationship. I have published a book in English (Psychoanalysis, Identity and the Internet, Karnac 2016, recently presented also at the recent ApsaA meeting in New York) addressing this wider subject, but it doesn’t seem to have been taken into account. In that book, I explained the rationale for and the theoretical context of my thinking. The idea of the “reversal of flow” and also what I called “proto-informatic elements” (following Bion’s proto-mental phenomena and proto-mental systems) are also discussed in detail. As far as I know, no one has ever illustrated such movements from this standpoint, nor the relationship with the necessary three-dimensional space, connecting these to a psychoanalytic study on virtual reality. Parsons, unfortunately, dismisses this vantage point as a trivial one, foreclosing upon a thorough inquiry.
Parsons does not even mention the second clinical vignette, which refers to the experience of remote analysis via videoconferencing. There I emphasized once again the presence of “psychoanalytic objects” that can be worked through within cyberspace itself. In my opinion these objects constitute a category of essential substances in cyberspace. Many concepts which are essential to my inquiry were not addressed in the comment. This include the crucial concept of the useful analogy between cyberspace and Winnicott’s notion of “potential space”, the concepts of the claustrum (Meltzer) and the idea of failure of alpha-function (Bion), three-dimensionality, the presence of the medium as a “digital third”, and the relation of the medium to the psychoanalytic field and therefore to the analyst’s identity, which I deeply tackled in my paper. Perhaps I need to repeat that these things are discussed in order to better explore the analyst’s identity, and not to describe remote analysis tout court, which was not the goal of my paper in this case. About remote analysis in particular one can read Marzi A, Fiorentini G (2017), “Light and Shadow in Online Analysis”, in Savege Scharff J (ed) Psychoanalysis Online Vol 3, Karnac, London, 2017.

Parsons remarks that when I speak of “not overdramatizing” and the disappearance of “good sense” I seem to disconfirm that “overdramatizing and the disappearance of ‘good sense’ may be exactly what an analyst needs to address!”. He would be right if I were referring to the required characteristics also of a session of remote psychoanalysis. But with a more careful reading of my paragraph, including all the other requirements that I list therein, one would understand that I am talking about the attitude and the openness to the experience before it begins. I am talking about the mindset and the approach to this specific technical modality in itself, and not to the analysis which is to be experienced. Such a technical modality is often demonized by those analysts (who, in fact, practice it) who often are over-dramatic and lack plenty of good sense

Finally, it is quite difficult to understand Parson’s closure: “Marzi has several good points to make about remote analysis, but the essential text on this subject is Gillian Isaacs Russell’s (2015) book Screen Relations…” Russell’s book is very interesting and does approach some topics I have addressed (see, for example, chapter 8), but it takes other directions. So I fail to understand the sense of such an unrequested endorsement of another work while talking about my paper. No one has ever wanted to set up a competition. It might be helpful to recall that my book was published in Italian in 2013, prior to the publication of the work by this British author.

Parsons was meant to have commented about the identity of the analyst in the digital world, but, in fact, his commentary seems to dismiss (at times with some snobbishness, and/or skepticism regarding investigating the characteristics of analytic situations involving virtual reality) all of the above-mentioned points as being trivial. He seems to shift to the unrequested stance of supervisor or referee. This is, unfortunately, a well-known and also damaging endemic attitude adopted by all too many psychoanalysts.