Stefano Bolognini The IPA President’s speech


Dear Colleagues,

I imagine there is a certain curiosity about who we are, we the new administration, and what our plans are for the future of the IPA. We are here today to tell you.

First, however, allow me to express our thanks to our Czech colleagues, who have welcomed us to this beautiful “mitteleuropaeische” city, so miraculously preserved in spite of wars and dictatorships (much the same as psychoanalysis! …) allowing us to rediscover the atmosphere of the origins.

It was near here, in Pribor, that Freud was born, and it is from here, 157 years later, that we set out once more towards our future.

Even though this speech is part of traditional protocol on these occasions, on a more informal note, I wish to openly express to you all how deeply moved and honoured I feel to be taking on these institutional functions, together with the Vice-President Alexandra Billinghurst, the Treasurer Juan Carlos Weissmann and the Representatives of the IPA Board.

I express our shared gratitude for the trust you have placed in us, and our desire to work with the utmost commitment to develop psychoanalysis and the IPA, this great association that has united us for over a century from so many points of view: historical, scientific, educational, professional, organizational and identitary.

We feel a sense of continuity with the values of those generations of officers who have preceded us, and we will combine our analytic passion and our love for this “shared home” of ours with the sense of responsibility that is needed to manage such a large, well-structured and prestigious institution.

Since the time available to us – here today – is limited and this is an immensely valuable opportunity to convey to you all, in person, our overall vision, inspirational principles and at least some details of our plans for the future, I will come straight to the point in addressing some fundamental issues.


We live in an era that is profoundly different from the ones that came before, characterized by a speed of information and communication that has completely transformed the way we relate to one another.

In a few short years, there have been radical changes in political and educational systems, in the pace of everyday life, in sexual habits, in agreements for the cohabitation and separation of couples, families and work groups, in the core values shared by different communities, in the new social characterizations and multi-stratifications, as well as the increasingly diversified and dynamically interactive cultural and ethnic identities.

It is by no means a coincidence that we have decided to entitle the next IPA congress in Boston 2015: “Changing world. The shape and the use of psychoanalytic tools today”.

While our era offers extraordinary, positive opportunities, it also exposes us to undeniable risks in terms of identitary confusion, loss of contact with reality and consequent imbalances or reactive defensive entrenchment. It is an era with fewer wars in the developed world, but with rampant, far-reaching destructiveness that is now chronic, tied to drugs, terrorism and legalized, commercialized perversions.

The attack on thought has taken on new forms, more sophisticated than the generically repressive ones that prevailed in the past.

The balance of power between the Super-Ego and the other agencies, on both a social and intrapsychic level, appears to encounter new imbalances, different to those explored at the beginning of psychoanalysis. New pathologies present themselves in our consultation rooms, requiring a level of understanding and continuous theoretical and technical adaptation that is not always easy for the analyst.

The acceptance of physiological dependence, in analysis as in life in general, has diminished, perhaps as a result of defenses and the different investments and narcissistic organizations in a world in which the basic objects are missing or disappear, mainly for reasons of work, much earlier than in the past, with respect to the primary physiological fusionality and the continuity of relations necessary to babies.

The duration and rhythms of treatment today are jeopardized by these new defenses and it is not uncommon that, in many cases, analysts have to begin treatment with a reduced frequency, to then lead the patient progressively towards a regular analytic regime suited to their needs and to the method.

The experiences of omnipotence fostered by the virtual sphere and the ease of remote communications open up new possibilities, but they also raise new methodological interrogatives for psychoanalysts, who are faced with requests for treatment over the phone or Skype, the credibility and limitations of which are now the subject of heated theoretical-clinical debate.

Recognition of the validity of psychoanalysis is challenged in the ministerial decisions of many countries. Universities seem to dedicate an overwhelming number of teaching posts to behaviourist schools, and competition from professional psychotherapeutic associations, with much lower training and professional standards than those of the IPA, is ubiquitous and pervasive.

Despite all this, the positive resources that are available to psychoanalysis and the IPA are such as to allow us a feeling of well-founded regard for ourselves, our method and our future.

We are sustained by the strength of the psychoanalytic idea: by the evidence of the existence of the unconscious, of transference, of defenses, of the process and the transformations that are set in motion when two people meet regularly and learn to work together to develop thoughts, affects and shared exchanges, within a regime of cognitive and relational honesty.

We are sustained by the strength of experience, which for each one of us has its roots in a personal analytic story that, more often than not, has changed our lives.

Yes, psychoanalysis has changed our lives as human beings, and this is something far too intense to be forgotten or denied or lost: like a new complex instinct, this experience naturally leads us to provide listening, attunement, resonance, understanding, shared work and interpretative formulation, from generation to generation.

Much like parents who, having been cared for and nurtured as children, love to care for and nurture their newborns.

We are sustained by a tremendous wealth of research and theoretical and clinical knowledge, passed down for over a century now.

Some oft-repeated citations in our papers, which refer to the thinking of a certain genius born not far from here in 1856, do not help us to climb the ranks of the “impact factors”, but they reward us with a “compact factor” effect that unites our scientific community: like a single trunk that supports the foliage of a flourishing and many-branched tree, yet one that is sure of its origin and its solid roots.

We are sustained by the international nature of our organization, one that is unique in ensuringextraordinary opportunities in terms of contacts, debate and continuous collaboration for analysts across all the continents.


The IPA, established by Freud in 1910, is the shared home of psychoanalysts from all over the world.

The IPAs headquarters at Broomhills, with its highly qualified specialist staff, managed by the Executive Director, Paul Crake, gives us all the support we need to deliver a coherent organisation; this enables us to take advantage of all the skills and talents of the IPAs members.

Our Administration, like those that have preceded us, intends to preserve the spirit and the general functions of the IPA, but not in a way that is fossilized.

For this precise reason, we have planned a number of innovative developments and improving changes geared towards keeping the association efficient, representative, and beneficial to its members, the communities it addresses, and those it could potentially address, as well as to the institutions that could work together with the IPA in a fruitful way.

And, precisely, towards strenghtening it in a changing world.

These developments and changes are the subject of our presentation today, so that we can share with you the overall vision that characterizes these plans.

Our vision is that of psychoanalysis as a living organism, one that has to relate to the outside world but also to its own inner world. One that keeps the essence of psychoanalytic thought intact, but that is open to the transformations suggested by the progress of scientific knowledge; one that is capable of transforming itself in an intelligent way (so as to enjoy a long life, in both a selective-Darwinian and genetically transformative-Neo-Lamarckian sense).

1)Communication Plan 

We have decided to reorganize the communications system for our psychoanalytic community, both internally and externally to the Association. We are exploring how to present ourselves more effectively to the outside world (one of our leitmotifs is: “If the psychoanalysis-object does not present itself, the subject does not know where to find it”) and how to enhance communications between our Members with regard to all of the activities carried out, to achieve a collective participation that produces not only information but also a sense of community belonging.

Of course, these changes will take into account both the needs for information and transparency and the absolute need for legal correctness and respect of the confidentialy rules, which change year by year.

More specifically, we aim to improve links between the various areas of the organization, for example by connecting together many of the Committees, in a sort of necessary synaptic network that is broader, more efficient and capable of a richly integrated mental life.

2)The website as a mental field for the psychoanalytic community.

The website is not a bulletin board for messages: it is a living expression of the scientific, cultural and interactive life of contemporary psychoanalysis.

Our desire is to stimulate and build curiosity, pleasure and interest in visiting the website: not only among Members, but among all those who are in search of useful elements to give a non-superficial meaning to their personal and cultural experiences, by reading a variety of clear and carefully considered articles.

We think of it – the “public” part that is – as a “complex magazine”, which represents psychoanalysis in a non-academic way and encourages further reading and contacts.

Part of it will be interactive, with blogs and discussion forums in constant evolution. We have the people, the technical tools and the ideas to do it, and it would be such a shamenot to use these resources and this opportunity.

3)Intersight in Education.

Just like an intelligent and complex organism, psychoanalysis must continually reflect on the flow of expertise to the new generations of analysts.

Our aim is to ensure a serious and frank discussion between the various societies with regard to their training, so that IPA membership is not based solely on formal and/or quantitative criteria, and that the experiences and specific characteristics of the various psychoanalytic schools are better known and become the object of shared knowledge.

I personally think that only a true, in-depth debate can mark the difference between a scientific community and a religious community, distinguishing what is recognized as truly essential, on the one hand, from what is experienced as sacred, on the other.

We have to preserve “the real gold “of Psychoanalysis, without falling into the prison of the “castle” that Franz Kafka so effectively depicted in his unforgettable novel.

4)Children and Adolescents.

In our view, this area also requires special care and continuous confrontation between the various psychoanalytic societies.

We consider this extremely important, both for the future of psychoanalysis and for the future of the new generations. Aside from the specific treatment of many individuals and despite recurring criticisms and controversies in the media, we know how powerfully psychoanalysis influences contemporary culture, and especially the style of raising children and adolescents, in the majority of advanced societies.

In addition to all the traumatic situations that life offers, we must take note of many new “statistically normal abnormalities”, such as the breakdown of families and systematic misuse of TV, cartoons and Playstations for the purposes of entertainment, which has provoked an excess of substitute fantasies in children at the expense of creative and anticipatory imagination.

The collective tragedy of unrecognized or mistreated mental suffering in childhood demands our responsibilization as analysts in support of a more appropriate culture and a more competent practice and presence in helping children and their caregivers.

We do think the IPA has the duty “to be there consistently”, both for scientific and humanitarian reasons, and we will certainly strengthen our investment in this area.

5)Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry.

We intend to invest considerable energy in reopening the once-thriving dialogue between psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

This crucial sector has been witness to a paradoxical situation in many countries: many psychiatrists turn to psychoanalysis for help on a personal level, for themselves and for their families, and many psychiatric teams actually use the institutional supervisions provided by psychoanalysts.

However, these partnerships remain a split area from an institutional and educational point of view because, both in terms of university teaching and in public services, the psychoanalytic presence is either ignored or openly opposed.

We have asked Professor Claudio Eizirik to organize and chair a specific Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry Sub-Committee, with the help of distinguished colleagues working in that field, in partnership with the University and Psychoanalysis Committee and with the Research colleagues. We are confident that we can rebuild a bridge between psychoanalysis and the public area that deals with mental illness.

It is absurd that choosing psychoanalytically inspired treatment is a last resort for so many people who could have benefited from it enormously from the outset of their journey as patients, amidst hospital admissions and massive, not always appropriate, doses of psychopharmacological drugs.

Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts can recognize their specific areas of expertise, to work together in the fight against mental illness: a field where there is room for everyone and where there is a need for mutual support.

6)Research: connecting IPA membership and researchers.

A complete reorganization of the Research area has been studied with the new Chair Mark Solms: the central idea was to simplify the structure by having a central Research Executive and three sub-areas: Conceptual, Clinical and Extra-Clinical.

The method of working will be much more proactive than now, inviting applications based on a consideration of the research priorities, rather than waiting to receive applications and then assessing them.

Three other key points will be:

1) constant contact between the IPA Board and the Research Executive, also to suggest possible areas of interest or need that require the development of specific research projects;

2) a continuous flow of information to Members about the research activities they are funding, through a specific research area on the IPA website;

3) the possibility of interactive communication, again via the website, between IPA members and researchers.

In essence, since the economic efforts of the IPA in support of Research are substantial (around 20% of the total budget), it seems only right that IPA Members are regularly informed about the activities carried out in this field, and that they also have the opportunity to express their opinions constructively with regard to those activities.

7)The IPA/REGIONS Electronic Journal

Having enjoyed for many years now a most fruitful partnership on equal terms with the PIEE and ILAP training institutes, the Regional Organizations EPF, FEPAL and NAPSAC (supported by APsaA) have decided to partner together for a new publishing enterprise, as part of a similarly equal and co-responsible “joint venture”.

The “IPA/REGIONS E-JOURNAL”, a supranational scientific body (owned neither by a society nor by private individuals, but by the institutions mentioned earlier), is currently undergoing study by a special Committee made up of institutional representatives and technicians, who will prepare a plan to be implemented in a short time.

This idea has gathered a vast consensus as it did seem paradoxical that, despite an international psychoanalytic institution having existed for over a century now, the community did not have its own journal to represent it fully and impartially.

This new journal will be very different from the already-existing, long-standing journals and will be committed to ensuring the absolute internationality of its editorial management, including policies of editorship rotation and representations of all countries at all levels.

If, as seems certain now, we can succeed in carrying through this complex new initiative, it will be an enterprise our partner organizations can be proud of, culturally and scientifically balanced, open to contributions from the different schools of thought, centrally independent and politically supranational.

8)The IPA Encyclopedic Psychoanalytic Dictionary.

Finally, we believe that the time is ripe to embark upon another great scientific endeavour: the preparation of an IPA PSYCHOANALYTIC DICTIONARY.

There are many excellent dictionaries of psychoanalysis, but the IPA (and, in our opinion, only the IPA, at this time) has the human resources, the scientific potential and the cultural articulation to create an extraordinarily complete and advanced one that is truly representative of the various theoretical trends and schools in the psychoanalytic world.

A work of this magnitude requires not only an extensive knowledge of psychoanalysis, past and present, but also considerable editorial and organizational skills: it will not be the work of a few – however valuable – researchers, but of several coordinated work groups.

The goal is to provide all psychoanalysts and all psychotherapists who work psychoanalytically with a truly international and up-to-date tool for consultation and reference, of superior quality and “wide scope”, which represents both the “trunk” and the “branches” of the psychoanalytic tree, as it has grown from Freud to the present day.


All of these ideas can become realities if we are able to work together, in partnership with our colleagues from the various Regions.

Personally, like most of you, I spend a lot of time in clinical work with patients, in contact with both their inner life and my own: clinical work is the true core of analysis; there we find depth, precious, partial timelessness, the immense potential of psychoanalysis, with its “secret passages” that open inner doors and allow recoveries, transformations and integrations that would otherwise be impossible.

However, for a long time now I have also been used to working with colleagues: in my Society, in the Working Parties, in the IPA Board and, like many of you, I have dedicated a substantial part of my energies to our psychoanalytic community.

As we all know well, each one of us draws inspiration and strength, in a more or less conscious way, from our own personal “urszene”, the scenario of our origins: each one of us has our own Pribor, which we can achieve(if things progress well enough, and if the Kafka’s castle doesn’t imprison us) our own Berggasse, our own Gesellschaft and, finally, the International Association.

My initial world was centered around the large kitchen of an old house in the hills near Bologna, where every evening my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and siblings would gather together under an oak architrave dating back to the fifteenth century.

My world today does not negate these origins, on the contrary it brings them back to life here, in this great scientific and professional community that also works to integrate the old separation experiences and the further developments attained first through school, then through university, specialist hospitals, seminars and conferences.

My oak architrave today is Psychoanalysis: under it our many languages and cultures are an inexhaustible wealth of resources and we will work together to ensure that the IPA really is a home for all psychoanalysts, in the outer reality but especially in the inner one.

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