I would like to start by sharing with you something that happened to me at the Joseph Sandler conference in March.
While listening to Bernard Reith, who was in a most magnificent way discussing two very good and very, very different papers, by Alessandra Lemma and by Johannes Lehtonen. He had just, with his body conveyed to us what it felt like to try to do that, like doing the splits. He then referred back to a presentation the evening before by Mark Solms and was saying ”I was happy to hear Mark Solms refer to das ding”. At that very moment I hear myself translating the beginning of that sentence to Spanish. “Fue contento escuche Mark Solms..” . I wondered to myself why on earth I suddenly jumped into Spanish. Here I have to let you know that since I visited Buenos Aires and Montevideo in October last year I have been studying Spanish, in fact it has been a passion of mine that has given me much pleasure. I had indeed been doing a lot of translating in my mind at that point but this was the first time Spanish had entered my mind during the conference. So I wondered why it did just then. I thought of what Bernard had just said and was doing, he was trying to encompass two very different papers, and to help us do the same. The moment he, in doing so, bring in a third, from the evening before, my mind decide to translate. He showed us spatially what it felt like to him and then brought in time, in referring to a third, a third who had himself been bridging theory and neuroscience, bridging 1923 and 2013. So at that moment my mind decides to convey to me one reason for why learning Spanish had become my passion at the moment it did. I realized my passion for learning Spanish is a very concrete way of, in myself, preparing to bridge all the different ways of being and of seeing psychoanalysis in IPA.
Me bathing in Spanish was preparing me for sitting here, next to Stefano with you today. And for, together with Stefano, sit at the head of the table with the new board here in Prague tomorrow.
IPA is in itself a very complicated organization. It houses 12000 members in 63 countries divided into three regions. The geography of IPA could be worth a comment in itself but I won’t go there now. It has 70 component societies, 6 provisional societies and 19 study groups, three models of training, many many ways of viewing what psychoanalysis is, many different cultures and 4 official languages. This itself indicates that working in IPA is a constant work of translation and of building bridges.
As we study to become psychoanalysts each and every one of us has to make the theories our own. Once we have done so we can start defining and refining our thoughts in dialogue with another. We are hopefully given the space to do so in an environment with a high ceiling in the society that gave us our education.
We are molded by our mother societies and start out viewing psychoanalysis from our local perspective. If and when we go to international congresses we get a chance to discover how psychoanalytic practice, it’s reality in society and it’s theoretical differences can vary in different areas and to discover what unites psychoanalysis over and between different countries.
That is what is so unique about IPA. It can be a true meeting place, not only a place to learn from the experts among us but for each and everyone to meet and exchange ideas. At the same time the mere size of our organization and of our congresses can be overwhelming and work against us getting to know others.
But a true meeting place is a picture of how both Stefano and I would like to see IPA as you will soon hear when Stefano presents our plans.
When Stefano asked me if I would run with him we did not know each other very well at all. We had seen each other in action at the EPF Council where we both sat as presidents of our societies.
It was the way he described to me the kind of leadership he envisioned and the visions he had for IPA that made me accept his invitation to run with him. So the two years leading up to this day has been a period of getting to know him. And the more I interact with him the more impressed I have become with his very humble stance, his mild force and his wisdom.
We live in a time when psychoanalysis is viewed as being under attack. It has also been termed the crisis of psychoanalysis. And yes, psychoanalysis is questioned in many a place. But I think we have to make ourselves aware and be careful in what words and metaphor’s we use when we talk about this situation. If, for example we use the word defend as in “defending psychoanalysis”, what does that imply and what does it do to ourselves in the communication with the other? To me in using the word defend it implies defending something static. If I instead say “stand up for” it gives a different image in my mind.
I would like to point out, and as others have said, the mere fact that psychoanalysis is being questioned implies that psychoanalysis is valued as something to define oneself against. The questioning of psychoanalysis actually also gives us the chance to further define and refine our own theories. One challenge we have is to translate our psychoanalytic thinking into a language that can be understood by others, to enable a dialogue. The coming years one of the things we hope to do is to make psychoanalysis have a voice in psychiatry again. Psychiatry needs our perspective and I think that one of the ways of doing that is for us to translate our knowledge to a language that can be understood, that can enable a dialogue anew, with those that question us, those that define themselves by opposing psychoanalysis. I think that if we carefully reflect on how we think and speak, what metaphors we use, if we ourselves are ready to vary our perspective in how we stand up for psychoanalysis, we may have a very good chance of being listened to.
There is a sad trend that many societies are splitting. This is probably an effect of not being able to bridge differences in thinking. It becomes an unbridgeable difference instead of a defining and refining dialogue with another.
It is my hope that IPA can help societies enable integration processes to avoid further splitting. To ensure that societies remain healthy and open to a positive development, rather than staying static, I think requires for the societies to reflect on their own organization. But this requires courage just as it requires courage to enter in to psychoanalysis for our patients. Here I think IPA can play a supportive role.
I have found that IPA for many members is perceived as something distant. Unless you are involved in the organization or come to the congresses IPA is something far away. One of the things that Stefano and I are hoping to do is make IPA feel meaningful and closer for more members.
As I mentioned earlier we envision IPA as a meeting place. One of the ways we hope to do this is how we plan for the next congress that will take place in Boston in 2015. We have found a beautiful venue that architecturally presents a wonderful area for meeting, with meeting rooms with lots of natural light with a feeling of “high ceilings” that promote reflection. We also plan for a new form of small group discussions that we hope will enable meetings between members from different parts of the world.
I would like to end this by sharing a poem with you. In doing so I also share with you a tradition that comes from my mother society and Arne Jemstedt who would always end our annual meetings with a poem when he was president.
The poem is written by John Wipp, it is originally in Swedish.
You will hear it three times, in Swedish, in English and in Spanish. In my mother tongue, in my second language and in the language I am getting to know. I have done the translation into English and I played with translating it into Spanish after which I had help from my multilingual assistant Andreas Silva who corrected it for me. I have asked for the simultaneous translators to not translate while I read in order to let you hear the sound of Swedish but I will pause to let them translate in the end before giving the word back to Stefano
Låt mörkret inom mig,
Som dammens botten
när jag med handen
för att inte ytan
under blanka hinnor
som jag måste se igenom
Let the darkness
within me, for me
Like the bottom of the pond
as I with my hand
screen the light from above
so as not the surface
the deapth of the sky
which the light
under shiny membranes
which I have to see through
Deje la oscuridad
dentro de mi, para mi
Como el fondo de la charca
cuando yo con mi mano
tapo la luz del cielo
para que la superficie no
la profundidad del cielo
que la clara
debajo de membranas brillantes
que mi vista tiene que atravesar
John Wipp, Blick, 1996