Psychoanalysis in a Changing World

By Eizirik, Cláudio Laks | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Psychoanalysis in a Changing World

Eizirik, Cláudio Laks, International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The author reflects, in this opening speech of the IPA Berlin Congress, on some changes in the world, in Germany and in psychoanalysis in the 85 years that have elapsed since the previous congress in Berlin, in 1922. He emphasizes important developments in psychoanalytic theory and practice, research and applications to understand several wider realms. He also stresses the importance of psychoanalysis for the current discussion on the transgenerational effects of traumatic events, and connects all these aspects with the theme of the Congress-remembering, repeating and working through.

Keywords: current challenges, current trends, psychoanalysis

Zog nit keyn mol az du geyst dem letzten veg,

Khotsh himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg;

Kumen vet noch undzer oysgebenkte sho,

S'vet a poyk ton undzer trot - 'mir zaynen do!'

Never say that you are going on your last way.

Though leaden clouds may be concealing skies of blue,

Because the hour we have hungered for is near,

And our marching steps will thunder, 'We are here!'

With these lines, in Yiddish, begins the song written by Hirsh Glick in the Vilna Forest for the Partisans. In time, the song spread through all the forests, not just in Eastern Europe but throughout the world, joining all who were fighting the Nazis and, after the war, were remembering the battles during that terrible time. An expression of resistance against oppression, it illustrates how the human mind is able to endure and to survive under the most extreme conditions of suffering and despair.

Many times hope seems to vanish, whether in the analysis of a severely ill patient or in social or institutional situations that appear to be leading to despair.

Under these circumstances, the lessons from the past and the resilience both of our patients and of the many millions of human beings who have been subjected to pain and physical and psychic suffering give us the strength and determination to never surrender.

After 85 years, we are here, back in Berlin, where the IPA held its 7th Congress in 1922, under the presidency of Ernest Jones, and after 22 years we are back in Germany, where the IPA held its last Congress in 1985, in Hamburg, presided over by Adam Limentani.

The first Berlin Congress was held from September 25th to 27th, 1922, at Kurfürstenstrasse 115-116, where we are to unveil a replica of the Gradiva this evening, thanks to the generous idea of the two IPA German societies. It was the last Congress to be attended by Sigmund Freud. 265 people registered, which was then considered a success, and is one tenth of the number here today. Several seminal papers were presented, by Freud himself, Karl Abraham, Melanie Klein, Sándor Ferenczi, Franz Alexander, Jean Piaget, Sándor Radó, Sabina Spielrein, Karen Horney, Edoardo Weiss, and Max Eitingon. The Congress was organized by the Berlin Poliklinik.

At the Business Meeting of 1922, there was a discussion of the possibility of offering a diploma to the members trained by IPA constituent organizations. This was a way of introducing the idea of the international regulation of analytic training. Abraham attempted to take advantage of the meeting in order to promote psychoanalysis while the Berlin press protested at not being allowed free access to the Congress presentations. As we can see, some issues are unavoidably repeated, despite our ability to find new ways of dealing with them (Schrçter, 2007).

In the decades since that time, dramatic events changed the world, Germany, psychoanalysis and the IPA. I would like to reflect on them briefly.

'Remembering, repeating and working through in psychoanalysis and culture today' expresses some of our main concerns as well as areas of current development in theory, practice, research, training and the interface with culture. Why should we dedicate our Congress to revisiting Freud's paper? What is its possible relevance in reflecting on the many challenging issues of our current world? …

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