Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Origins and Destinies of the Idea of Thirdness in Contemporary Psychoanalysis

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Origins and Destinies of the Idea of Thirdness in Contemporary Psychoanalysis

Article excerpt

To my father, a present absence.

Writing about two of the top authors in contemporary psychoanalysis is a risky and exciting adventure. Separated by a great difference in style, both in terms of thought and the way they express themselves, Thomas Ogden and Andre Green are connected by their theoretical and clinical interests, which, as a whole, currently form the main thrusts that drive various forms of thinking about and practising psychoanalysis. They helped to construct one of the main aspects of contemporary psychoanalysis, which is the freedom to cross the boundaries between different theories and practices without the curtailment or threat of dogmatic positions that have frozen psychoanalysis for decades in the period of the principal schools (Lacan, Klein, Ego Psychology). In a certain sense, the best psychoanalysis currently practised appears as a third, a constituent element of and composed by the pair formed by these two authors who textually referred to each other, especially as regards the subject in question. As early as 1994,1 Ogden draws on the notion of Green's analytic object (1974) in his relationship with the notion of an analytic third, as well as on Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott and, in 1997, refers to Madeleine Baranger (1993), on her correlated contributions to the theme of analytic intersubjectivity. The idea that a new notion is born based on an intertextuality rooted in the history of psychoanalysis is dear to both Ogden and Green. Since 2000, Green's writing on the subject of the third continuously referred to Ogden (but also Freud, Lacan, Bion, Winnicott, and Bleger), generating an intense dialogue between the texts and between continents that heralds the new moment of a psychoanalytic community no longer entrenched in sectarian ghettos.

Betting on the possibility of furthering an investigative adventure on the concept of the third is what sustains this paper. The central aim that animates this work is to present and discuss the idea of thirdness or the analytic third in psychoanalysis, from its origins to the concepts formulated by Green (De la tiercéité) and Ogden (The analytic third). As I have indicated, it was in the beginning of the 1990s that both authors began to construct, in a more decisive manner, a notion of the third, which soon came to become part of the structure of their thinking. In Ogden's work we find the basis for a refined understanding of different transference/countertransference combinations, with unique clinical examples, in which the notion of the analytic third illuminates and gives sense to different modes of action, speech and thought of the analyst and analysand. In Green, the notion of thirdness meets his metapsychological and psychopathological effort, in which Freudian theory receives the supplement of the object relations tradition in the construction of an innovative theory of the constitution of subjectivity and its vicissitudes in psychopathological disorders. I consider that, in Ogden, the notion is more marked by the innovations he proposes for a theory of the analytic situation, while in Green, thirdness came to constitute one of the hubs of his metapsychological thinking on the clinical and psychopathological dimensions. Furthermore, he sought to criticize the comprehension of object relations in two body psychology's dual terms, proposing a concept of these latter that includes an inaugural reference to the third. But, in any case, they are the authors who, over the past three decades (even if Green had already been referring to tertiary processes since 1972), have given the most attention and importance to this psychoanalytic idea.2

It is important to emphasize that the idea of a third already existed, in more or less explicit forms, in the minds of many other psychoanalysts (Freud, Lacan, Klein, Winnicott, and Segal, among others) well before the publications by Green and Ogden. We have the third of Oedipus, the third of the name of the father, the third of the depressive position, the third of the intermediary space, the third as the symbol (internal object) that connects part of the ego with the representation of the abandoned object, the third symbolized by interpretation (and/or by language) and the intersubjective third, as well as that of several other concepts. …

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