Some Thoughts on the Diffusion of Psychoanalysis: The Group Dimension, Ethics and the Sense of Identity

By Namer, Albert | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Some Thoughts on the Diffusion of Psychoanalysis: The Group Dimension, Ethics and the Sense of Identity


Namer, Albert, International Journal of Psychoanalysis


In this paper the author questions some of the ways in which psychoanalysis is passed on to the wider public, one of which is sometimes evocative of the sales promotion of a consumer product in contemporary society. This methodology does not give sufficiently deep prior thought to the eventual consequences of side effects. The detailed exposition of clinical cases, for example, raises sensitive ethical issues, even when anonymity is preserved. Although it is true that making information about Freud's theories more widely available may indeed encourage people to think about training as psychoanalysts, it is noticeable that this process is sometimes considered to be a form of training in itself. Some participants feel that acquiring a psychoanalytical vocabulary and reading clinical reports form a sufficient basis for practising thereafter as psychotherapists, both in institutional contexts and in private practice. The absence of group work on the part of the organizers might explain why closer study is not made of the methodologies of transmission and the different levels that it involves. This is sometimes due to the absence of a common object, formed within and by the group, and to the emergence of manic defences in the group.

Keywords: ethics, group, illusory object/common object, institution, loss of interest, methodology, transmission, privacy

Attempting to tackle the following subject involved several difficulties and certain risks. The first was that of articulating questions in relation to some of the current modes of diffusion of psychoanalysis, in particular, clinical work; and the second was that of examining the analyst's identity at the individual, group and institutional level. As the question of identity is in itself a complex subject, its consideration would have deserved a much longer treatment than is possible in this paper. Furthermore, I was concerned in this contribution not to overlook certain aspects of group functioning. Finding the best possible balance between open and closed positions, each of which comprises advantages and disadvantages, still remains an unresolved dilemma. While this is a possible and valid debate, it does not have its place either in the present paper because it would entail different levels of reading. One of the episodes of the history of psychoanalysis that is seldom mentioned, but which is interesting in connection with my topic, is Freud's encounter with the cinema. By 1925, the importance of making psychoanalysis, its discoveries, its progress, its theories and its practice known more widely had become necessary. This project no doubt followed certain rules inherent to a strategy. Sam Goldwyn, the American cinema tycoon, proposed to Freud, whom he admired, the sum of 100,000 dollars to collaborate as a consultant for a film on love. This opportunity, which was just a first step, with larger perspectives in view, was aimed at reaching a broader public beyond the domain of scientists. Karl Abraham, who was associated with the project, was in favour of accepting the offer. Freud, however, refused, fearing that it would result in a trivialization of psychoanalysis. His argument was that it was not possible to represent the abstractions of psychoanalysis on the screen. His disagreement led him to decline the meeting requested by Goldwin (Jones, 1953-57; Rodrigu, 1966).

My reason for writing this paper is not to muster certitudes, but to propose another point of view as a contribution to stimulating a process of deeper reflection. Its potential value does not reside in making a prognosis, but in proposing an 'ecologica' approach for the future. To justify the use of this term, I would say that, as with certain developed industrialized and consumer societies, insufficient attention is accorded to polluting phenomena, thereby increasing the risk in the near future of disrupting the equilibrium of the environment.2 In our case, it is psychoanalysis in general as well as child and adolescent psychoanalysis that is in question. …

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