Dialogues from the Italian Psychoanalytic Journal - Archive

Comments by Abel Fainstein


Comment on  Enchantments and disenchantments in the formation and use of psychoanalytic theories about psychic reality by Stefano Bolognini.

Abel Fainstein


It is a great pleasure to have been invited to comment on Stefano´s very interesting paper. As others wrote, I agree that it helps to be aware of the relevance of conscious and unconscious connections between theories and practice and can thereby refer to very important issues on the formation of future analysts.

Years ago I wrote about the analyst’s knowledge, beyond the analyst’s “supposed knowledge”. At that time, I quoted Denise Duncan’s idea (1983) that after Van Gogh had painted sunflowers, anyone who wanted to paint sunflowers, would then need to deal with sunflowers and with Van Gogh.

For me that means in the face of the patient, we listen with an intuitive knowledge, as well as to a vague dialogue with theories.

Here Bolognini proposes a personal dialogue with authors.

This provides us different dimensions of meaning. Duncan wrote that prior to our formation, we depart from intrinsic theories of human motivation that overlap and interact with those acquired in the institutes. This brings up the topic of the analyst’s knowledge and its connections to clinical work.

Is it only a supposed knowledge that the analyst needs to depose? I do not agree. I think that in doing so, institutes the analytical process; and the only thing we need not do is apply it to our practice.

We listen and we intervene guided by theories, though both of them need not be theoretical.   Even questions highlighting some aspects of the patient’s words are guided by theories.


I agree, however, with Anzieu’s (1969) idea that in order the interventions to be effective, they need to express the analyst’s secondary process infiltrated by their primary process, and in this way, connect to the patient’s unconscious dynamics.

I also agree with Kravis that there is an anti-theoretical feeling in many analysts.  They prefer to be close to the experience and transference, working closely with clinical theory, but not with metapsychology. Kravis thinks that postmodernism has generated skepticism about universal and the dismissing of causality.

I have personally described the risks, especially for training, of the apology of singularity and of the no knowledge of the analyst.

I finally agree with Duncan regarding the set of theories that are more frequently used by the analyst. They are very centrally integrated in the analyst’s ego, by means of training or by means of personal preferences, so its functioning will remain out of the analyst’s scope for introspection, therefore remain overshadowed.

That needs productive work on the current plurality of theories available today in psychoanalysis, especially during training.

This connects with Stefano’s proposal in this text, as Duncan also refers to different connections between ego and theories.

To allow for that work, we need to be aware of the influence of transferences and especially of the institutional power held by certain authors. This latter is connected to the Antigone syndrome described by Patrick Guyomard that affects our institutional and scientific life.

We need to take into consideration that most of our training programs are guided by a limited group of people from a society or group, some of which are very small and whose members are seniors with training functions.

I have been working on this issue for several years. I wrote my master thesis on this matter. I am especially concerned with the idea that training analysis is at the basis of many of these problems, when it could only be carried on by analysts of the same society.

Many colleagues in training are in analysis and in supervision. as well they are learning with people of the same group which are sometimes characterized as “families”.

Mass psychology is one of its consequences and sometimes it profoundly influences institutional life and training. One example of this is what Bolognini in 2013, writes: “…less authentic imitative bases that can even substitute the Self” are favoured instead of authentic contributions to individual identity”.

I agree with Stefano that in those cases, the analyst, without realizing it, defensively becomes an Author (who is not him or her) instead of working with that Author and/or others, hosting them internally, and instead of entering into dialogue with them in a regime of mutual separateness.

 This latter aim is interfered by the analyst’s unresolved transferences and awareness needs about them.


As I wrote before, this is connected with Duncan’s point of view of overshadowed theories in his mind that do not allow a vague dialogue with them. Following Stefano’s ideas, it does not allow to construct or co-construct the most appropriate model of psychic reality with the patient.


In this context, the training of future generations is affected.  The privileging of certain theories and the dismissal of others, is, in my experience, part of the problem, which is connected to transferences, policies and institutional power. As Stefano writes, it is related to the “fundamental importance of the powerful, inescapable, and never sufficiently analysed transference of individual analysts to their formative Authors and Schools”, especially when their analytical family, as in Antigone, is dominating the scene.

As he writes, this is connected with the “how” this is managed more than with the “what” it includes.


I appreciate Stefano´s point of view on these issues, due to his long and deep institutional experience in the SPI and in the IPA, as well as his enthusiastic commitment with the IRED.

I think that the reading and discussion of this text in societies and institutes, will satisfy his wish of  “if possible, to help reduce to some extent the excessively idealizing residual transferential components which may interfere with analysts’ use of the broad and richly detailed contemporary theoretical-clinical heritage”. I personally invited a group of colleagues from my society to do it.

Therefore, our practice and that from future generations will be benefitted, as well will be our institutional life in order to offer the best conditions for training and for the future of psychoanalysis.



Abel Fainstein is a Psichiatrist, Training and Supervising Member and former President of the Asociaciòn Psicoanalìtica Argentina (APA)