Response to Stefano Bolognini
It is a pleasure to engage with Stefano Bolognini’s work and its sureness of touch in approaching the fiery disputes and extreme loyalties, that, despite some loosening of the rigidities of the past, continue to plague psychoanalysis and its practitioners. We still observe our colleagues, but much more significantly, ourselves, clinging to entrenched ideas of the right, correct way of doing psychoanalysis, of being analysts, of understanding one practice or approach as psychoanalytic.
While this should encourage a determination to think through the aspects of personal rigidity we find in ourselves as well as the instances that provoke them Stefano points to how it often seems to produce a further petrifying of thought processes, and a refusal to engage with how some theoretical shift or some institutional decision by which we are initially challenged may, with time and thought, prove to be productive and enriching.
While the international dimension, about which the author displays much valuable first hand experience, has consistently provided me with a welcome breathing space in encountering the variety, solidity and integrity of international psychoanalysis, the article goes well beyond the phenomenon of individual analysts who, in their own institutes may cling tenaciously to their theories as protective shields., only to find a heady freedom in international meetings. Rather, we are invited to think psychoanalyticallyabout our personal identifications, at home and abroad, our over-involvements and idealisations with theories and theorists and what this may bring to our work if our analytic foundations, and our analytic selves take on dimensions of dogma, purity, correctness, inflexibility.
In further developing a field we may regard as a familiar part of what as analysts we ordinarily do Bolognini invites us to interrogate the dismaying challenges of our own assumptions and their historical evolution personally, theoretically, and institutionally. I found his thoughts about the intractable presence that our theories may assume with our patients particularly arresting in its implications for the dynamics of the consulting room if/when the patient is unconsciously faced with becoming the overlooked or unsatisfactory partner, drawn into having to fit in with an analyst and her preferred theoretical partner. I found this idea that the space of the studio may come to embody a preferred otherness that resides in an other inaccessible to the patient, always at a disadvantage, and unconsciously knowing only exclusion. A compelling idea to think about.
Another association that reading this article led to was not only the sense of my own engagement with my preferred theories and their promulgators but of my attachment to my own versions of them. My growing interest in Winnicott first through my analyst, then subsequently through a series of largely chance events, has left me with certain ways of reading him, so that there is the challenge on occasion provided by the different readings and assumptions of others. Strangely this has been most pronounced where Winnicott has been warmly received and celebrated, rather than in those gatherings where the predominant atmosphere is a kind of caricature of the person available in the texts.
I can then find myself in the kind of position described by Bolognini where difference inscribes a tendency to argue for a preferred reading rather than remaining open to what more may be discovered by a differently inflected account that may seem at variance with one’s own, and yet can offer a deeper new approach to something that has become taken for grante.
From yet another association what of a favoured author displaying what can only be described as mean, potentially cruel disparagement of a colleague, which Winnicott certainly does in a series of letters to Michael Balint only now in the process of being uploaded as additions to the online CW . These letters, housed at the University of Essex in the Balint archive there, remind us that the intensely personal choices that shape our decisions about our theoretical allegiances in psychoanalysis also involve an encounter with the person of the analytic theorist and that areas of disillusion and disappointment are constantly threatening our professional existence and our capacity to act as the analysts we aspire to be. My thanks to Stefano Bolognini and to the Rivistafor illuminating some of the complex areas that we aim to negotiate in our work and setting off these various strands of thoughtas a result.