Oedipus (Biannual Greek Psychoanalytic Journal)

Stefano Bolognini(1) (B) is interviewed by Editor Nikos Lamnidis (L)

Bologna, 1/5/2010

L: …Let’s try first of all to explore the question of your personal motivation to become a psychoanalyst… to the extent of course that this issue can be approached, consciously…

B: When I read this first question , I approached it by thinking, how I answered it during my life. My answers were changing… We know that when one interviews a young psychologist or psychiatrist, who wants to become an analyst, for becoming a candidate or for entering training analysis, this question is very frequent. Why do you want to become an analyst? And the most frequent answers are: Because I read Freud; because I had an intellectual and a cultural interest; because I want to explore the mysteries of the human mind etc. However, when one asks a person, a candidate or an analyst, the same question, after his or her analysis, the answer changes and if the person is intellectually honest, he or she answers: Because I needed analysis… I had my problems in life; problems with myself, with my history… and I needed analysis. So, behind what was partially masked as an intellectual interest, there was an urgent need for a sense of person. After many years of working as an analyst, I have changed again my answer. Because… it’s true that I had read Freud, like the majority of my colleagues, and I was stimulated by that. It’s true, and this is basic, that I needed analysis and this was the real reason for which I started analysis. It’s true that I am so grateful to analysis because, my own analysis enabled me to work as an analyst, in a really passionate way; but, after many years, I would add something more: In my specific case, there were also in my family some cultural circumstances which facilitated these needs to get acknowledged by myself. For instance, in my family… my grandfather was a doctor, and he was interested in the matter…

L: …the matter of psychology…

B: …of psychology… He was an internist. But a teacher of him, a University Professor of Medicine, here in Bologna, wrote a book on Freud. So the Freudian matter was in the family. Also, an uncle of mine was a poet… And my father too cultivated my interest in this matter… So, they facilitated the acknowledgement of my needs. All this has to be included in the frame… So, the first answer to the question at that time was defensive: Intellectual reasons! The second one was more authentic: My personal needs! The integration, after years is to recognize how all this family cultural interests facilitated the acknowledgement of my needs.

L: And… what would you consider as the psychoanalytic elements of your home town, Bologna?

B: …The psychoanalytic elements of my town are clear enough. Because Bologna is considered, in Italy, as having two basic features: One is the oldest to University in the world, we cultivate intellectual interest; but this is more obvious. The other feature – and this is more interesting to us – is that Bologna is represented, in the collective imagination, as a maternal object: Due to its cuisine and because of the 40 kilometers of arcades – the porticos – which are like containing structures… But, above all, because of its valorization of the maternal figure, it is traditionally represented like the par excellence maternal object in Italy. One should say that Bologna is represented officially with three Ts. In Italian this is connected to Tete, which means breast, Tortellini…, the best food one can desire… and the third element is Torri, which means towers. They are two in Bologna. One is higher and the other is lower. You know them… And they represent the father and the mother. So the parental couple that overlooks the town… this is the imaginative aspect…

L: So, it is not joke!

B: No, no. It’s the popular idea about the city Bologna… And there is a 4th T that is treatment…

L: …I see…

B: …But the first 3 Ts are really considered as the symbol of the town…

L: But let’s link it with the next question. You spoke in terms of imagination; and in terms of collective unconscious; collective, imaginative unconscious. At the same time, we have a very strong impact, and pressure, today from opposite perspectives; for instance the perspective of a more empirical and a more scientific approach; maybe, there is a difference, there; a distance between the imaginative, constructive element and the empirical element… I wonder if you feel any differences of this kind, separating the period you were trained and today’s period; I would like you to comment a little bit on that; I mean, how do you conceive the difference between today’s Zeitgeist and the Zeitgeist of the period of your training. What has changed?

B: Probably when I was trained – it was in the 70’s – at least in Italy, there was a major idealization of psychoanalysis; at the cultural level, outside the Psychoanalytic Institutions, there were important investments on Psychoanalysis; by the Universities, by Psychiatry, by the instructors… But, I would say, also by writers, by the media…

L: Consequently… by the public itself…

B: By the public also, yes. Psychoanalysis was invested a lot. And one spoke so much about Psychoanalysis and many intellectuals where involved both in personal analysis and in cultural issues about Psychoanalysis. There was a flourishing period that created also a huge development in the Italian Psychoanalytic Society. Inside the Psychoanalytic Society, there was a Kleinian period…

L: Kleinian!

B: Kleinian! In the 70’s; Psychoanalysis started in Italy as Freudian Psychoanalysis. The Italian Society was founded in the 20’s. It stopped during fascism. It started again after the WWII.

L: So, it stopped totally during fascism…

B: They had to escape…

L: … nobody remained active…

B: Nobody. All Italian analysts at the time were Jewish. And all had to escape; out of Italy.

L: It was not the same as in Germany, where some… remained…

B: No, no… they all escaped. We have not an equivalent of the Goering Institut. Absolutely not; they escaped to the United States, to India and to Switzerland.

L: To India?

B: Yes. Servadio, one of the founders of the Italian Society, escaped to India and he contributed to the foundation of the Indian Psychoanalytic Society. Later on he came back. But the real founder, the first Italian analyst, was Edoardo Weiss; who fled to Chicago; and he stayed there; he never came back. Two other, escaped to Switzerland; and so one. After WWII, the Italian Society started again as a Freudian Society; totally Freudian. But during the 70’s, there was a Kleinian wave that characterized for a decade the Italian Psychoanalysis. Later on, during the 80’s, we had a Bionian period. And during the 90’s we had a Winnicottian period!

L: Interesting periods!

B: Of course, Freud remained the basic reference; but we had these periods. Nowadays we have an integration period. Even if many colleagues are Freudians, other Kleinians, or Winnicottians, or Bionians, there is today a more shared perspective and language, in the Italian Psychoanalysis. This is the general picture of our Society. When I started my training the Kleinian influence was very strong in the Italian Society and I would say that the main attitude of the Italians was to import psychoanalysis from other countries, through conferences, through supervision. Many leading figures from abroad were invited to Italy. We had, for years, seminars, by Rosenfeld, by Meltzer, by Green… Many leading figures came here; and, personally, I did appreciate a lot the contributions by Leon Greenberg…

L: From Spain?

B: Exactly. I also appreciated the contributions by Oracio Echengoyen, from Argentina; and many others. So, the sense… the general feeling was both, excitement and idealization… At that time, for instance, British Psychoanalysis and French Psychoanalysis were the two poles that influenced Italy; almost no influence from North America; also no Lacanian influence. Italians were interested in French Psychoanalysis but their rejected Lacan; totally. So, when I started my analysis, I found here a very flourishing environment; and I want to add that, particularly in Bologna, there was a Ferenczian influence: The founder of the Bologna Institute had Hungarian roots and he, together with another colleague, translated the books of Sador Ferenczi; they were published here in Bologna, for the first time.

L: So, as we can juxtapose the idealization of the 70’s to the integrational culture of our era, how would you comment on the relation of the two "modes"?

B: I would say that today the integration process is going on. For instance, I initially became a psychiatrist. The field of research in Psychiatry, and more generally in Medicine, was very important for this first education. When I passed to Psychoanalysis there was a split between these fields. Psychoanalysis was at the time totally separated from research. And I would say that, in the 70’s and in the 80’s, there was an antagonism between the two. Then, we, in Italy, started to integrate the two. So, today, I don’t feel a sharp opposition between, for instance, empirical research and conceptual research. I consider them different, but I feel the need for both of them. I considered both of them important; but they are not a same thing! For me; but I would also say for us, in Italy; all colleagues agree on that. We appreciate both; the empirical research and the conceptual one…

L: This is interesting. So, in Italy, you don’t feel this conflict to such a sharp degree. But this conflict in other places becomes sometimes very apparent: At least some representatives of the French School seem to be very much against empirical research, and some representatives of the Anglo-Saxon School seem to be a very critical concerning metapsychology. So these two poles seem to be in a conflicting relationship…

B: I know. I think that there are institutional reasons for these conflicts; because of money, time and representation allocation problems; I mean this: During these conferences, the big continental Conferences – of EPF and IPA – one represents Psychoanalysis in different ways. And these representations, for instance, through empirical research or conceptual research or clinical presentations, can occupy smaller or bigger spaces in the collective mind that is the scientific program of the Congress… At the same time, these different kinds of activities are funded, supported by money, by the Institutions: EPF, IPA and the local, national Societies. Both aspects, the founding through money and the representation in the scientific program, create an arena for struggles and competitions. And we, as a community, haven’t found, until now, a balanced and appropriate way for distributing the resources and the spaces to all these activities in our Congresses. But in fact the conflicts between the supporters of one or the other point of view are mainly based, in my view, on the fear that one of these trends will overwhelm the other. So they feel threatened by the prevailing of the other side. If our international community could be reassured about the fact, that all these kinds of activities, of scientific activities, can be confirmed, and each of them can have its own space and money – and narcissistic acknowledgement – probably the level of the struggle could be lower, could decrease. Because now each side is struggling for survival; the fear is that if the others prevail, the rest will no longer be approved… confirmed… financed… and so on…

L: So, the way you consider it means that you see it as a political issue rather than a substantial question for Psychoanalysis…

B: Of course. Because if we consider the matter in itself, the different kind of researches and activities can absolutely coexist; they are not cancelling each other scientifically…

L: …that’s true…

B: …but rather they can be considered as different aspects of the subject. When I listen to Peter Fonagy, for instance, concerning empirical research, or when I listen to André Green, concerning metapsychology, I can absolutely listen to both of them… They do not conflict at all, as to their internal logic… What is threatening … is the idea that one will cancel the other. And politically means also scientifically…

L: …finally…

B: But for an Italian analyst who is not so involved… It is very good to listen to both of them…

L: To change slightly the level of our discussion, and maybe to return anew to this vibrant issue later, what would be the reasons, today, for a young man or woman, psychiatrist or psychologist, in Italy or all over Europe, to become a psychoanalyst?

B: I would say the same reasons I mentioned earlier. Although, one should say that, today, the professional perspectives for an analyst is no longer the brilliant carrier, as it was in the 70’s or 80’s. When I was a candidate, after a month I had my waiting list completed; and I started putting people in my waiting list; as a candidate; at the first year of my training…

L: … here in Bologna…

B: … at the time I was living in Venice. But it was the same situation all over Italy! Today, even the most famous analysts have some problems in finding suitable patients. So, we can not say that a young candidate is embarking in this career in order to earn a lot of money or to become a famous celebrity. There are, in Italy, 1000 official IPA analysts! So there is no longer the motivation and the excitement for being a pioneer or for becoming famous or to earn money; psychoanalysis is a job, like many others. But still we have many candidates. Why? Because this is a wonderful job in itself; it offers the opportunity to have a fruitful professional life, to be in contact with ourselves as well as the selves of other people, our patients… to be creative, I would say.

L: So, you mean that we are witnessing – and experiencing – at least professionally speaking, a kind of decline, and, simultaneously a kind of maturity… not only at the general level of integrating theories but also in the level of people who are choosing psychoanalysis as well as the reasons for choosing psychoanalysis as a career . If I understand it well, your point is that the criteria for choosing Psychoanalysis as a profession – as well as a treatment modality – tend to be less narcissistically motivated…

B: Yes… Socially, less narcissistically gratifying… than it used to be…

L: … and, at the same time, there is a turning of the motivation towards more genuinely internal reasons…

B: Yes. Stemming from an initial personal need… and then creativity can come into play; one could say that there are less available social reasons for this choice; less reasons connected to fame attached to a brilliant professional position. Today being an analyst in Italy is professionally equivalent to a kind of specialization in Medicine; nothing more! During the 70’s or the 80’s being an analyst meant something more. It was like being a brilliant physician with a surplus of cultural prestige.

L: Another aspect of this issue is the fact that in your country, in Italy, other psychotherapeutic traditions also exist and have a long tradition. Not only inside Psychoanalysis but also outside it; Family-Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy. And you also have the two official journals of your Society, which have to compete with a lot of journals of different perspectives; inside and outside psychoanalysis.

B: Exactly!

L: Consequently let’s turn towards an issue that Otto Kernberg has put on the table: Until the 60’s Psychoanalysis was the one and only psychological theory that could convincingly explain psychopathology. Our theory had an exclusive character; everybody was somehow "obliged" to think in psychoanalytic terms. Today there are competing hypothesis; competing answers for the same questions. Maybe not convincing, for us psychoanalysts, but still… eventually valid… in the scientific community. How should we deal with this problem?

B: In Italy, we have resigned as to that. We know that, for instance, within the medical community, physicians do not like so much Psychoanalysis. So, if they have to refer a patient to a treatment or if they have to send a member of their family person to a treatment, they do prefer to send that person to Behavioral treatment, because they don’t like the deep and long perspective of analysis. In Italy we are trying, we are doing an effort for contacting the medical community in a broader and more engaging way, because we realize that the physicians are not well informed about Psychoanalysis and, maybe, basically, they don’t like Psychoanalysis.

L: Do you have any research evidence for that, because survey results in the United States from a large group of mental health professionals who were asked the question: ‘what would they do if they would have to suggest treatment?’ did not answer it in this, expected way. An interesting finding was that when they have to suggest treatment to a patient, they would not prefer a psychoanalyst; but if they should suggest a therapist for a member of their family, in that case a psychoanalyst would be their first choice.

B. We haven’t conducted any formal surveys, but we discuss a lot about that in Italy and we share the opinion that very often physicians feel a sort of rivalry towards psychoanalysts. They have a kind of competition, because Italian physicians have the idea that they are also psycho-something. They do not consider themselves as ‘technicians’. But today they consider that they have the competence to treat the whole person…

L: …this is not a bad thing!

B: …it could be good. But, in fact they feel rivalry with the psychoanalysts. For instance, we discovered that many physicians initiate treatments as if they were psychotherapists. This is surprising… a sort of unacceptable rivalry!

L: Let’s see it more globally. As you are exceptionally active in the IPA and, consequently you travel a lot, you have a lot of experiences, outside Italy with people and environments in the United States, in South America, all over Europe and, finally, all over the world. Do you think that there are real differences in the settings, the ways of practicing and the conceptualizations of the clinical and theoretical entities, which, maybe, would affect the way we conceive psychoanalysis?

B: My opinion is the following: I have taken part for years in numerous working groups, international working groups, international working parties, like the CAPS, which are small international groups meeting periodically for clinical interchange. The working parties are groups inside the regional organizations where people from different countries, meet for 2 days and they interchange about clinical matters. These working parties are now connecting also people from different regions. So I had the opportunity, like many other colleagues, to work together, intensively, each time for 2 days; with clinical presentations in small groups, usually from 8 to 10 people, coming from totally different cultures. I want to add that I present as well as I discuss papers for different reasons. Well my final and summarizing opinion is that the differences are mainly about the literature! We all utilize the same Freudian or Kleinian, or Winicottian terms; with the exception that they are organized in different sort of literary way. So, the clinical and the technical approach, when one speaks concretely about a clinical case are less different than the psychoanalytic literature serving as their base. Let me explain: The papers from the different regions, countries and traditions, differ a lot, of course. Differences also are mentioned and quoted. Different concepts are also focused in these papers. But when analysts meet in order to discuss a clinical case, the differences are absolutely less than one could expect. It’s true that very often French analysts focus more on sexual aspects, on primal scene; I would say, on psychosexuality. It’s true that very often British colleagues are more focusing on the dyad, on the dyadic level. You can also observe North-American analysts being more interested in the relationship that has developed between analyst and patient. But these are very often nuances; because, when we are dealing with the clinical case, all these elements, sexuality, primal scene, dyadic environment, basic object-relationship, real relationship between analyst and patient are in fact always considered, by all of them. And the differences are less important and less evident than I expected, after having read so many articles from these cultures and these psychoanalytic traditions. It’s false that North-American analysts don’t consider sexuality or don’t consider the deep level of the internal object life. It’s false that the British don’t consider sexuality. It’s false that French analyst don’t consider the basic object and the dyadic dimension; all these analyst work in a very complete way. And I realized during these groups, how many colleagues from different countries or regions were surprised, they did not expect the high level of integration the others had. I mean that there is the sort of expectation of a caricature rather than the real analyst from another country. Very often, the French imagine that a North-American is engaged in a sort of the very superficial interaction. The North-Americans, on their turn, fantasize that a French analyst is absolutely like a sphinx and he/she is unable to interact in a fruitful way while interpreting; as if he/she was a sort of blank mirror; a blank screen. And so on; on the other hand the French would expect that the British would be without sexuality… Of course, all these expectations are unreal. It’s true that there are some countries where the integrative process is totally accepted. For instance, I discovered that, like Italians, the Brazilians and the Germans too are strong integrators. They are used to import, to read different kind of papers and to integrate declaratively all this…

L: …shamelessly…

B: Yes, shamelessly; without problem. I am a reader of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. And when I receive a paper for a review… it is without the name of the author. But if I go to the bibliography, to the references, I can immediately understand from which country it comes. The French quote only the French. The British quote almost only the British. The North-Americans quote only North-Americans. Brazilians, Argentineans, Italians, Germans, quote all of them. So, there is a mark, from the very beginning… I don’t know what happens with the Greeks…

L: My impression is that the Hellenic Society is rather at a level of development where we try to find out who we are. Because it is a rather new, young society; with strong influences from both sides, you mentioned: North-American and French influences. I think that one of the motivational thrusts of this interview is to get some profit from your experience!

B: Well, that’s a good opportunity to say this: Till now I spoke based on my general experience, as an Italian analyst. As a person, as a single analyst, I would say that as I have participated to several conferences in all these countries, I appreciated all of them; at this point I want to add something personal: I grew up in very large family; we were living together in a big house with many uncles and cousins; a truly extended family. And, thanks to this personal experience, I have come to appreciate a great variety of qualities and competences, very different from each other; qualities and competences that I met among all these relatives who were very present in my childhood and my adolescence; my father, for instance, was a manager and a chemist; my uncles were a historian, a musician and an economist; all these people used to meet in the evening, after dinner, and they spoke together. I enjoyed a lot the ‘rhythms’ of this world… my uncles’ wives and my mother… they were also very interesting people… so, I had the opportunity to realize, early on, how many different perspectives on ‘reality’ there exist and how we – myself, my brothers and my cousins – could develop in this surrounding; consequently, when I go to an IPA Congress, with so many and different voices, I like very much to listen to all this kinds of Psychoanalyses… I don’t feel them so incompatible to each other… but as different views of the same object… this is my really personal way to see these things…

L: …I think I understand. It is very interesting for me to follow and to listen to your point of you, as a kind of new humanism; a new humanistic attitude in the sense of the best Italian tradition, deriving from the Renaissance… This kind of looking at the world… It is like trying to find and re-find a kind of classical forms, again…

B: …probably, yes…

L: …the same way as a Renaissance masters did it…

B: …yes; and let’s add something about the authors of our discipline: when we read for instance, Klein, or Kohut, or Winnicott, we find in their texts several declarations about the fact that they consider themselves as authentically Freudians. They see themselves as contributors, that they have developed some branches, some specific areas of the psychoanalytic discipline. It’s true that they declare so; but then they focus so much on specific models, phantasies, patterns and concepts that it seems as if they dismiss the previous positions in favor of their own observations; and this, of course, is true; but I think that, initially and basically, they thought of themselves as Freudians; and I consider them so; in all these books there is really a kernel of truth; consequently one could say: Yes, but when they contradict with each other? For instance, if an author says something that seems to be the opposite of what was said by Freud, by Klein etc? How can we have them harmonized, how can we connect them?

L: Exactly.

B: I think that the apparent contradictions have to be tolerated, because the principle of no contradiction, which is a logical principle, valid in philosophy, in my view, is not valid in psychoanalysis. What is psycho-logical can be non-logical. What is true, in our internal world can be apparently contradictory. And my father Freud or my mother Klein or my uncles Winnicott, Kohut and Bion can quite coexist, collaborate in my internal world. Because I exist as a subject and sometimes one of these (objects) comes to my mind and I can work with it, but I am not totally identified with it. I mean that I can work in my life and can act in my life consulting them; exactly as I consult my father, my uncles…

L: …but not narcissistically colluded to them…

B: …exactly! I am myself, and I am a person who has in his internal world, all this objects, all these authors, all this figures of my family. I consult them; I know them, but I am myself. And when a patient speaks to me during a session, I remember Freud, I remember Klein and Winnicott, and so on; but I am Bolognini; I work by utilizing the analytical concepts and tools that I have received from my father, my uncles, my grandfathers; but it is me who decides concerning what will happen between me and the patient and which concepts I feel more helpful, more apt, more present, at that particular moment…


L: …I see; but to continue this extremely interesting elaboration of yours and to provoke a little bit your thought… in that case, we have to reconsider the problem of truth. Because, if we follow the post-modern, idea of accepting that there are many truths, then it’s ok, we could accept your thought – if we put the prefix partial truths. But still remains the question of some more long lasting, more permanent truths; a question that approaches also the ideals of science; and the ideal of the Renaissance masters: the finding out of classical, truthful forms. And this, I think, was also the ideal of Freud himself, at least as he was approaching the end of his life. He was working with such a passion, looking for the truth of Moses; the truth of the origins of the Jewish people; it is the only paper where the term truth is used so many times. So, maybe there is a problem here!

B: Yes, I think that each of us can have a very personal truth that has to take in account his internal objects; our internal objects are our historical personal objects and our scientific objects. And to take them into account, during the clinical work means, for me, to give room in our associations to what comes to our mind; for instance, during certain sessions, Freudian concepts and scenes come to the foreground. It’s also interesting that sometimes, some authors come to my mind that I don’t love; for instance, with some patients, Lacan, whom I don’t like, comes to my mind. In such cases I am to accept and to realize, that something in the clinical situation, involves some concepts, some models, some ideas, that were presented by this author and that are suitable for a better understanding of what is going on at that moment with the patient. When I say that all these important authors wrote something meaningful, I mean that they gave us tools and like a sort of artisan, or handicraft, we are instinctively, preconsciously finding; not looking for, but finding in our hands some tools, unexpectedly, that are given to us by our preconscious. Each analyst, each normally cultivated analyst has at his disposal a variety of tools that he has received from his teachers, by his training and through his readings; and his preconscious gives him the opportunity to connect during the sessions with all these patrimonies; Sometimes I meet, during my preconscious associations my beloved authors; like my father; or some uncle. Some other times, I meet unexpectedly undesired interlocutors. Like some relatives whom I didn’t like but I must admit they had some competences, during some situations. At the same time, for instance Lacan could be a right interlocutor, appropriate for some situations…

L: …appropriate uncle…

B: …appropriate… even if undesired. It’s clear that we don’t accept all kind of objects in our internal world.

L: I wonder if we could say that in the way you conceptualize things by using this metaphor of desired and undesired persons of your internal family world, you introduce some aspects of what in theory has been called the death drive; by saying that we need to invest in a negative way some aspects of our internal world.

B: This is probably far from my conceptual view. Even if I am not so strongly against that instinct, that concept… because I am in a suspended position regarding this matter; I don’t exclude. But I would connect more, my metaphor… to the primal scene. Because, the primal scene is of great importance in all its possible expressions; not only the sexual intercourse between the parents, but also, for instance, watching my mother while she is feeding my sister; or attending all kind of interactions between other analysts and their patients; or all kind of interactions that exclude me. I admit that the primal scene, in all its expressions, can become not only a source of exclusion and frustration feelings; but also a source of resources. I can learn a lot from primal scenes. I can be also fed by them. Of course you can also feel excluded, feel humiliated, feel out of the game, out of the play; but there are also a lot of opportunities; by perceiving the existence of the older equivalents of a primal scene; in the following sense: when an undesired author comes to my mind; or when a colleague comes to my mind, a colleague who presented his ideas or his material but he is totally foreign to me; he can be a resource, even if I don’t like him at all; or I feel rivalry; I feel someway differently. So, I admit that, if my preconscious proposes him or her to my mind at that moment, then probably I can receive something helpful from that presentation (Vorstellung).

L: So, this could be also heard as an indirect comment on the question concerning this negative psychoanalytical tradition of creating dissidence; creating a kind of unresolved conflicts that finally, at least during a certain historical period of development of Psychoanalysis, would lead to expel somebody; a tradition which was reversed in Britain, during the controversial discussions; it was the first time they had and they could accept that they should co-exist without being in agreement…

B: …perfect! You are perfectly right. In my view, what is important is the connection; or rather, the possibility for connection. I mean that, for instance, in my ideal psychoanalytic institution, if such a thing would ever become a possibility… it would be important to maintain connections; and interchanges; not to make all these people uniform. For instance: What I would require from all societies – I speak about societies as if they were individuals – would be to participate orderly to the conferences, to the committees, to the interchanges and confrontations and to communicate with each other. I wouldn’t require from them to have exactly the same training models or ideas. No, not at all! I would tolerate or appreciate the differences, but I would require from them participation; what I consider dangerous for Psychoanalysis is the isolation…

L: …dangerous…

B: …yes! The splits, the lack of connections and of interchanges; for instance, what I would concretely ask from the societies, like from individuals, like from the members of the Institute, would be to participate actively and specifically in the meetings; to participate in the committees. I worry a lot for Institutes where many members don’t take part to the meetings, the conferences, the seminars…

L: …it is a very interesting what you say…

B: …I don’t worry about differences in their ideas.

L: You worry about not participating!

B: Exactly! This is the symptom! Not the fact that they consider or use more one concept in comparison to another one!

L: You raise such an interesting point!

B: Yes. We know for instance, that the ethical violations occur mainly – not only but mainly – when a member, an analyst, is isolated; when he cultivates a grandiose idea of himself, thanks to not confronting himself with the others. This is a meaningful factor and I think that this reveals a worsening in his analytic attitude that is connected to the lack or the loosening of connections to the others. Because connections lower the risk of grandiosity, of illusions… the same holds for societies: if societies are engaged in continuous confrontations, exchanges and information flow from each other, there is really a minor risk to have a really serious deviation from our shared psychoanalytic model, practice, conceptualization etc. The problem is to keep the connection.

L: What you say is very interesting! I think it also from the point of view of my own experience… even the absences… from the meetings… What could this mean for an institution! For a group! For a family!

B: Yes. And one could say that if the interchanges among analysts are exclusively kept on a theoretical level, it’s easier for the dispute to become radical. Because one goes to a more… abstract level… and thus the human element of each one of us becomes a very far and detached reality.

L: You are right! The moment you realize what the other analyst is doing in his everyday work can become unbelievably important as a shared experience…

B: Yes. We share much more our common ground if we speak also about clinic, not only about clinic…

L: Of course! Because the opposite is also true. If you speak only clinically you can be shocked by how the other is conceptualizing what he does; because he may interpret in the same way and he conceptualizes totally differently.

B: And finally, I would say that a danger is the religious level in our institutions. The religious level is the level of the sacred object. When we are struggling against the others, to defend an idealized mother, or father, or parental couple, these objects of ours can be killed by the sacred objects of the others. In such case the community is intoxicated by struggles because sacred objects, like ideal phalluses are facing each other and the problem of the truth becomes so radical that implies killing each other. If these objects are too sacred then they are dangerous.

L: And you connect the problem of truth with such kind of primitive idealizations.

B: Yes. For instance an idea I have that can scandalize some colleagues is that, in my view, many analysts have a problem to transform, they are unable to transform Sigmund Freud from a father figure to a grandfather figure! I mean that the genitality is considered in such a case the exclusive right of only one figure. Genitality cannot be practiced by others. If there is no idea about the intergenerational transmission of the genitality, no one else can be genital except Freud. And I think that there were also other genital figures and that we also have genitals. Of course we are grateful, immensely grateful to Freud who started this capacity for generating. But if we fix on Freud – or on someone else – as the only one who can be genital (I mean also scientifically genital) we loose the sense of the reality of the different generations, and of genitality and creativity as something that is beyond the single individual; which means something that is transmitted generation by generation.

L: What you just said, apart from being extremely interesting, touches once again the problem of life and death! Of us not being permanent and thus not being omnipotent.

B: Yes, exactly.

L: And I wonder, and I would like to ask your opinion on this: Maybe the fact that Psychoanalysis is already 100 years old – this year we had the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the IPA, in London – means that we have to admit we are no longer a young discipline! And this statement has its quantity of disillusionment but has also its value!

B: Exactly! Exactly! So if we can transform idealizations to gratitude, to appreciation, to conviction for its validity, and if we consider we are no longer pioneers… with phenomenal apparitions… but we are now the representatives, actors and interpreters of a well founded science…

L: …with a long tradition…

B: …with a long tradition, yes; with its developments, which were not revelations of the thought of God but hard won learning which grew out of several scientific achievements, we can become more realistic, human, genital figures. I would like to underline genitality and fertility; it is something very human; not idealized. To value it is our real strength, today. Otherwise we go either towards magic or towards the religious and the sacred. As you mentioned; the omnipotence!

L: So, we have to come in terms with our age… also as a science… I thank you very much for this extremely interesting discussion.

 

(1) Stefano Bolognini is a psychiatrist, training and supervising analyst as well as the president of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society (SPI). He is the author of many eminent psychoanalytic papers and books – among them a book with short (not psychoanalytic) stories. Stefano Bolognini is running for the next President of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA).
A list of preliminary questions had been handed to Dr. Bolognini.