Dialogues from the Italian Psychoanalytic Journal - Archive

Comments by Ludovica Grassi


In his profound and sensitive paper, Stefano Bolognini enlightens the surprising realisation of how difficult is to get to the bottom of such complex and largely group dynamics as choices and conflicts among psychoanalysts and their groups about conceptual and technical orientations, notwithstanding analytic formation is well anchored in a deep individual analysis. Why is it so hard to stay in a state of free fluctuating theorising, when confronted both to our patients and to theoretical formulations, and why are we so often caught by the need to hold on to well-known and therefore reassuring theoretic systems?
Transcription is a musical form used by musicians in order to appropriate of and transform their masters’ works. Our work, too, can be breathing and transformative only if it can ceaselessly transcribe our predecessors’ heritage while at the same time welcoming otherness. Even our own thought needs to be now and then transcribed, since we are always encountering new and wrong-footing experiences. This sets up our own unique way of being or spontaneous gesture, which, according to Winnicott, is so important for us to stay alive.
But what makes it so difficult for analysts to be both deeply convinced of their theories and at the same time respectful and curious of the others’? Unresolved elements of their transference to analysts and supervisors are of course at stake, supported by the attempt at erasing most of the doubts, conflicts, risks and frustrations inherent in the epistemophilic movements. Such efforts to get rid of suffering lead to repetition and imitation, thus transforming the desire of knowing into the need to preserve unaltered one’ own believes. Gaddini, too, quoted by Stefano Bolognini in reference to imitation as differing from introjection, described those analysands and analysts, as well as analysts and supervisors, sharig what looks like a satisfying analytic or supervising process, but is in fact deeply undermined by a mainly imitative transference and results in en bloc taking up of the other’s thought, theoretic tastes and attitudes.
In addition, I think it is important not to underestimate earlier unconscious movements. Among these, I would point to the endowing of each new human being in a pre-existing psychic and cultural reality that accords her/him a place and an investment, but also demands to preserve and perpetuate its own values, aims and reasons for existing, in an encounter between the individual’s unconscious wish for immortality and the group’s need to last through generations. I am obviously referring to Aulagnier’s thought, that I find very useful in dealing with disparate fields of psychic functioning, though I studied but English at school! We can assume that something similar may happen whenever a new candidate enters our psychoanalytic institutions, as if a new narcissistic contract should be agreed upon and be the basis for the unfolding of a personal identification process, without trying to hold her/him in an unchanging net of dependency links.
Staying with Aulagnier, we could also consider the topic in terms of thought alienation, a situation rooted in the early mother-infant relationship, when the mother has the function of word-bearer for her baby, but should also be able to conceive for him/her a future that does not coincide with her own anticipation. Alienation results from the encounter between an individual who wants to alienate and another one who looks for being alienated, a pathologic destiny of idealisation, completely undetectable by the involved individual, that can lead eventually to the death of thinking.
Not to be overlooked is also the implication of unconscious elements in the choice of models of reference as well as in idiosyncratic theory elaborations, that can be dated back both to infantile sexual theories and to unconscious pluri-subjective links and vincula. The very coexistence of conflicting theories in the analyst’s tool box unveils their unconscious origin. What is specific in our work, and also the fundament of both its richness and frailty, is just the awareness/unawareness of the engagement of our unconscious in the encounter with our patients’ unconsciouses.
I find therefore very appealing the idea of a co-construction of theories best fitting any particular patient-analyst relation, in each particular phase of analytic work.
Probably most of available theories provide useful means to analyse and overcome our inclination to rigidly grasp to theorisations received by our either chosen or happened masters. Besides international experiences of working with the weaving thoughts model, a praiseworthy effort that is being made lately throughout the psychoanalytic societies is the application of the 3-LM model, that is now undergoing in Italy a large application in a national research project. Its value resides, more than in its ability to produce research results, in its gathering in small groups analysts from different cultural and theoretical traditions, asking them to develop a specific sequence of steps from clinical material up to generalisations that imply a genuine confrontation between colleagues, thereby avoiding fruitless stiffening and splitting.
Last but not least, time, specifically in its psychoanalytic declination of après coup, as Stefano hinted at briefly, is a key element in the elaboration of the encounter with what is perceived as absolute otherness.

Ludovica Grassi is a full member of the Italian Society of Psychoanalysis and IPA, expert in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis.