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Comments by Violet Pietrantonio


Violet Pietrantonio

Becoming psychoanalists in Covid-19 era: the revelation of the deep meaning of O-psychoanalysis.

Unison, faith, negative capability as the only psychoanalytical tools in the dark of the beginnings of this unknown Wuhan time.


It has been a matter of hours…days…and with the entire world, as psychoanalysts, we’ve felt brutally thrown in a spectral scenario, where the necessity of adopting a new setting has urgently imposed itself, in order to adjust to the new configuration of social distancing, necessary to the mutual protection in every kind of human contact.

There has not been time to think: in a present overflowing with anxiety, uncertainty, denial, and not-understanding, bombarded by images of breathing agonies and cardiologist’ and virologists’ worried faces, we’ve found ourselves starting to abstain from shaking hands with our patients, disinfecting desks and couch before each session. We now have to propose a temporary setting mutation, instead of a full suspension, in order to continue our analytical work in the indefinite transit through this uranic Time Wuhan.


Covid-19 has also insinuated in our analytical practice and, in a few short instants, we have been forced to become pioneers in the just barely found, but not beaten territories of the phone and skype analysis. We do not only have to imagine a new setting but also practice a dimension of analytical work quite completely unknown or scarcely explored  by most of us and almost never as patients in our personal analysis.

Perhaps, now more than ever, the new ontological dimension (Eshel 2017; Ogden 2019) of the Psychoanalysis of O, outlined by Bion at the end of his life (Bion 1967, 1970), is revealing both the deepest meaning of the analytical work to which it alludes and the evidence of its analytical necessity to be able to be in and working through this catastrofic change. A catastrofic change which is dismantling also the material elements and structure of that original frame of our analytical practice, still common and fundamental to all streams of contemporary psychoanalytical thought.

What else remains, save for staying and being in unison with the impending unknown (O) of this emerging new covid-era, in a total absence of memory, knowledge and possible  expectations, trying to bear, with negative capability, all this not-knowing and not understanding, keeping Faith in the resources of the psychoanalytic function of the mind to contain, feel and, perhaps,  at a certain point dream the yet not representable which we are living?

In my mind, this article by G.Civitarese  belongs to a quintet of recent articles (Civitarese 2019, a.; Civitarese 2019 b.; Eshel 2017; Ogden 2019.) which could really become a sort of theoretical-technical compass to an analytical navigation through the never before experimented of this coronavirus-outbreak.

Published in what can now be perceived as an advent time of this pandemic big-bang, they are texts where we can find rescue and instruments to metapsychologically configure and mean also our current  analytical sperimenting a new a and unknown setting dimension. As a matter of fact we are talking about works that are able to translate and convey the sense and the quality of an analytical work oriented on the last bionian thesis, in which the experience of being, becoming and dreaming with the patient the nameless emotional experience awakening in the hic et nunc becomes central.

An ontological dimension of the analytical work which Ogden (2019) and Eshel (2017) clearly evince different to the epistemological one characterizing the freudian and Kleinian model, where the knowledge, understanding and becoming aware of unconscious contents form the goal and the core of the whole psychoanalytical process.

An ontological and intersubjective dimension of O Psychoanalysis that G.Civitarese (2019 a., 2019 b.) is able to explore and map both at its epistemic and aesthetic roots, in the thought of philosophers and in the works of great artists, and in its clinical achievement, describing and illustrating clearly the new principles of technique and the new intersubjective vertex that terms as O, unison, Faith and negative capability were criptic heralds in the last chapter of bionian work (Bion 1967-1979). They are pages in which, listening to the narrative voice of the author, following him through his unusual and bold explorations of curious researcher and bionian expert, we find ourselves immersed in the profound and

undefined atmosphere of O. We are able to breath and slowly focus on the level and on the phenomenology of the analytical work which spreads from the baumian aura of this letter-concept.

The more we go further into O’s  woods, the more O resounds within us as the sound of a concept-genome: a chromosomic pool of feelings, preconceptions and intuitions about a method and depths of analytical work that can be extremely transformative, but also occasionally obscure, parlous, unsettled.

A genome which, with Civitarese’s microscope, we can find out to be an extremely precise cluster of new principles of analytical technique necessary to a psychoanalysis that selects O, the unknown emotional experience inhabiting the here and now of a session, as the object of the whole analytical work.

Just like the “ The Number Devil” (Ezensberger 1997) with the abstruse mathematical formulas, these Civitarese’s last works seem to have the great merit and value of transforming the Rosetta Stone of late bionian metapsychology in a scientific novel of O Psychoanalysis, introducing the reader to the details of the rigorous method and to the live clinic emotional sphere of a psychoanalitic exploration that we’ve iherited from Bion in enigmatic preconceptions, main areas of probing and evocations of protomental environments as turbulent and ineffable as fertile of deep psychic transformations if intercepted and dreamt in unison.

Just today, after 50 years, expert psychoanalists  like Ogden and Eshel are able to identify and define this specific level of analytical work with the word ontological… And perhaps now, more than ever, we feel it revealing itself as a new theoretical and clinical resource essential to continue being psychoanalysts in the dark of this present so immanent of undreamable unknown.

An “here and now” in which, perhaps more sharply, we have the impression of grasping in Bion’s O not so much the signs of a mistic drift, but more the traces of a lived experience.




Civitarese, G. (2019 a.) I nomi di O: Bion è un mistico? Rivista di Psicoanalisi LXV, 2: 281-3012.

Civitarese, G.(2019 b.) On Bion’s Concepts of Negative Capability and

Faith, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 88:4, 751-783.

Eshel, O.(2017) From extension to revolutionary change in clinical Psychoanalysis: the radical influence of Bion and Winnicott. Psychoan. Quart. LXXXVI, 4: 753-794.

Ogden, T (2019) Ontological Psychoanalysis or “What Do

You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 88:4, 661-684.


Violet Pietrantonio is psychologist, Phd in Clinical Psychology, Psychoanalyst, member of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society and of the International Psychoanalytic Association. She lives and works in Bologna.


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