Comments by Fred Busch
I always learn a great deal when I read something that Stefano Bolognini has written. This started when I read his paper on “empathism” (Bolognini, 1997), and continued to the present. My reaction to this paper is a little bit different in that I have written briefly about a similar topic (Busch, 2013), but not in such depth and with such elegance as Dr. Bolognini has. I can only say that I agree completely with Bolognini’s characterization of the way an author becomes an Author, and how her views become the framework for a “new theoretical truth which cancels and replaces all its predecessors” (Bolognini, 2019, p.6). One can see how acolytes form an identification with the Author and feel compelled to spread her teachings in a dogmatic fashion. It has been of interest to me how within certain theoretical schools only authors within that school will be quoted.
I believe Bolognini describes accurately the reaction of the psychoanalytic community to ideas presented as the new great theory (i.e., antagonism), and also the counter-reaction of the Author’s group to become more hardened in their views. To add to Bolognini’s perspective I would like to briefly mention the situation of Nina Searl, a Training Analyst at the British Psychoanalytic Institute who I wrote about (Busch, 1995). In 1936 ”Searl published a brilliant exposition on the significance of resistance analysis. It was as well a singular exploration of some technical variables to be considered when the role of the ego is contemplated as part of our interpretive methods” (ibid, p.326). It was an extension of some of Anna Freud’s ideas published in that same year. Previously Searl had published a number of articles within a strict Kleinian perspective. From 1924 to 1937 she was a frequent presenter at the scientific meetings of the British. In addition to being a prolific writer, she was one of the first (if not the first) to present a paper to the British Psycho-Analytical Society on the technique of child psychoanalysis. However, her psychoanalytic career ended abruptly in 1937, just one year after the publication of her article written from an Anna Freud perspective. We learn from King and Steiner’s (1991) book on the “controversial discussions’ that in a series of meetings held between February and June 1942 to discuss the acrimony and distrust between the Freudians and the Kleinians, Melitta Schmideberg, who was Melanie Klein’s daughter and one of her fiercest critics, scathingly attacked the Kleinians for trying “to force their opinions on us, and to browbeat us by subtle and by not so subtle methods into accepting it” (ibid, pgs. 97-98).
In this context Schmideberg had the following to say about Nina Searl:
“About 1932 started the crusade against Miss SearlTo give only one example of the methods employed: when she gave lectures for candidates Kleinian training analysts and full Members attended them in order to attack her concertedly in the subsequent discussion in front of the candidates. This induced the Training Committee to lay down the rule that Members should not attend lectures for candidates. In the meetings no occasion was omitted to make a joint attack on her (ibid, p. 93).
In a tragic footnote, Nina Searl resigned from the Institute in 1938, believing she was becoming psychotic. She never returned. While I think the kind of enmity Searl dealt with is a thing of the past, I’m not so sure that it still doesn’t occur in a more subtle form, such as a supervisor advising a candidate why she shouldn’t go to a particular supervisor because he’s a committed (put in any theoretical position).
As I have experiences on both sides of the issue, I don’t know what to think about Bolognini’s optimism about the integration of theoretical positions previously seen as irreconcilable. While I have written about the coming together of diverse views on the goals of treatment (Busch, 2013), I generally have some doubts. In recent discussions of clinical material at international meetings I have observed the predominance of hardened theoretical positions with little interest in somewhat different views. Yet I have also seen the increasing interest in Bion and Klein especially in the United States, and according to Bolognini there has been increasing acceptance of the less extreme versions of self-psychology and the relational perspective. Further, while I have presented in many Psychoanalytic Societies that have different theoretical perspectives than my own, I have felt that the majority of analysts’ have tried to understand my position and even appreciated it.
Finally, I judge the quality of a paper not only on the soundness of the argument put forward, but how much it stimulates me to think further about a topic. I’ve indicated above how much I valued the depth of Stefano Bolognini’s thinking in this paper. From the very beginning it led me to think about my own experiences, and what I’ve seen happening our field, with more complexity. As I said earlier, I have thought about similar issues presented in his paper, but not with such profundity. For this I am grateful to Dr. Bolognini, as I have been for so much of his work that I’ve learned from. Within our dyad of analysts from two different cultures we see the possibility of cross-fertilization that Bolognini believes possible.
Bolognini, S. (1997). Empathy And ‘Empathism’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal.,
Bolognini, S. (2019). Enchantment and disenchantment in the
formation and use of psychoanalytic theories about psychic reality. Italian Psychoanal. Annual, 1-14.
Busch, F. (1995). Neglected Classics: M. N. Searl’s “Some Queries On
Principles of Technique”. Psychoanal. Q., 64:326-344.
Busch, F. (2013). Creating a Psychoanalytic Mind. London: Routledge.
Freud, A. (1936). The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence. New York:
Int. Univ. Press, 1946.
King, P. & Steiner, R., Editors (1991). The Freud-Klein Controversies
1941-45. London: Routledge
Fred Busch is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is the Author of Creating a Psychoanalytic Mind ( Routledge, 2013) and The Analyst’s Reveries ( Routledge , 2019)