Dialogues from the Italian Psychoanalytic Journal - Archive

Comments by Lesley Caldwell


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.

Lesley Caldwell.

BPA London.


Lesley Caldwell is a Honorary Professor in the Psychoanalysis Unit at UCL. She is a psychoanalyst of the British Psychoanalytic Association, London rep. for Cowap. She is with Helen Taylor Robinson Joint General Editor of the Collected Works of Donald Winnicott.

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