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Paper given by Mauro Santacatterina at the College of Psychoanalysts-UK International Conference PSYCHOANALYSIS AND STATE REGULATION, 31 March–1 April 2006 special thanks to Simona Revelli, who translated this contribution.

1989-2005: that is, psychoanalysis against itself

The title of my presentation is ‘psychoanalysis against itself’. This is a statement.

I am asking you to consider this statement in its literal, rather than metaphorical sense.

Indeed, what has happened in Italy from nineteen eighty-nine until now, proves that sometimes psychoanalysis goes, literally, against itself.

Perhaps some of you are thinking that the Italian case is after all a specific one, and that this specificity is due to the fact that psychoanalysis came into the Italian language later than it did than the French or English languages.

Well, I am here to hold that, if even particular, the Italian case is paradigmatic; and in as much as it is paradigmatic, it may well teach us something essential. Therefore, I am here to hold that this could serve as an example of what English psychoanalysis must not be tempted to either do, subscribe to, or put up with.

But note: I will not accuse Italian psychoanalysis! After all, of what? Of its weakness!

Instead, I wish to signal a very dangerous paralogism into which psychoanalysis as such, in whatever State, is in danger of falling. A paralogism is a mistake – a logical mistake – that starts from correct premises and leads to incorrect conclusions.

It is this that Italian psychoanalysis has done. At the time, only a few psychoanalysts had a sense of it, and now many more do.
Today, this is a much larger, but, also, very silent group; silent, because it is difficult to correct one’s own mistake. One always runs the risk of making an even greater one.

So, with regard to the regulation of their profession, the majority of Italian analysts continue to sleep undisturbed, awaking only to regret the scarsity of ‘classical’ cases – the dear neuroses - or of didactical analysis – meaning, trainees.

But they do not manage to make a connection between the crisis of their profession and the lack of an adequate politics; or, better, the profoundly sad politics that they have implemented.

Sure, they wanted to defend psychoanalysis from the effects of the State regulation of psychotherapy, but in ways that have ended up condemning it to a complete marginality.

My contribution is in three parts. The first, very briefly, is about what has happened. The second, about what is currently happening. The last, about what I hope will happen, not only in the UK, but in other countries too.

1. Now, then, what has happened? Very simple.

In Italy, the need to regulate the ‘Psy’ knowledge and practices comes to the fore in the mid-eighties.

The push to regulation comes from several directions: from the mass of graduates in psychology, who wish to secure a work-place; from the trade-unions of the few psychologists who work within the public health service and wish to look a little like doctors, etcetera.

But I only have time to fully consider one of these pushes, the one that comes from... no less than psychoanalysts! – psychoanalysts think that the time has come to ‘put there house in order’!

That is, to distinguish ‘serious and good’ analysts from ‘fake and dishonest’ ones.

But when the time comes to offer the legislator those criteria that may allow it to distinguish a serious psychoanalyst from one who is not, psychoanalysts no longer know what to say.

Indeed, we know that it is inpossible to foresee – a priori – some general rules for formation in that, if we were to do so, these would be guaranteed by an external authority and, therefore, falsified – equally a priori.

This is what happens whenever one subordinates the practice of psychoanalysis to the kind of teaching one finds in universities.

I mean: today, too, psychoanalysis is taught in the Universities, and sometimes even very well. But the teaching of psychoanalysis at University is always preliminary.

In other words insufficient, as Freud clearly illustrates in his writings: ‘Analysis – Freud says – cannot be learned from books, but only on one’s own skin.’

What does it mean that analysis is learned on one’s own skin? To understand this one needs to undertake an analysis...

But I believe that this answer cannot be enough for the Legislator. Or can it, should it be? This is the crucial point.

In any case, at some point, psychoanalysts withdraw from the debate that occurs in preparation of the law.

And so we arrive to the sadly famous Law 56. In fact, someone has a truly ‘genial’ idea (of course, I am using the term with irony). The idea is to eliminate from the text of the law any reference whatsoever to psychoanalysis.

That is, there is a pretence that the problem – the problem on which today we are reflecting – does not exist.

There is a pretence that there is no relationship whatsoever between psychotherapy (which everyone wants subjected to some norms) and psychoanalysis.

The decision is taken that, in order to practice psychotherapy, one must first obtain a degree in psychology or medicine, and, then, attend a specialising school for a further four years.

Obviously, this setting out should have been totally rejected, in that it is anti-analytical.

Instead, with very few exceptions, the great majority of analysts remain silent. Because they think that they can turn a burning defeat into a victory.

Or, at least, they think that the State regulation of psychotherapy will not cause any damage. Indeed, they think that it will allow them to continue to do as they please. They think, even, that they may be able to utilise the signifier ‘psychotherapy’ for analytic ends.

In other words, they know perfectly well that the relationship psychotherapy- psychoanalysis is an antinomy (in Kantian terms).

But since it is a difficult antinomy – and in some ways an embarrassing one, given that they too had wanted regulation – they think of exploiting it, of obtaining some gain from it.

And, so, the antinomy transforms itself into ambiguity.

After all, it cannot be such a bad thing if trainees study for a while at the faculties of psychology or medicine...

From this moment on, all the schools – large and small – say ‘yes, it is good’. Thus begins the Italian ‘two-timing’.

2. And now let us look at the current situation.

In some ways, today, the formation of a trainee occurs according to the same modalities of thirty years ago. On the surface, very little seems to have changed. Each school trains applying its own criteria. There are very structured schools that entail passing a series of tests or preparatory stages.

Other schools seek to model themselves as far as possible on renaissance workshops, ‘workshops of the soul’; for sure, this modality of training is closer to the Freudian spirit; but I will return to it later.

What has changed, nevertheless, is that a trainee must have a degree in psychology or medicine. And, as I have already said, that all schools – large and small (the workshops) – must train in accordance with a series of rules established by the State.

In other words, these need to be specialising schools that operate within the terms imposed by the law: so they have to teach human anatomy, statistics, testing techniques and other disciplines that are... very interesting... but of very little use for the work of a psychoanalyst.

This we already knew: it has been agreed that each trainee can thus be licenced – that is to say, authorised to exercise the profession – by way of non-analytic criteria... so that, afterwards, he can really be taught ‘how to drive’ – how to become a psychoanalyst – through an ‘other’ kind of training – of the real kind, the analytic kind.

So, afterwards: personal analysis, didactic analysis, and so on. This is how they have sought to exploit the situation.

But do you know what happens in Italy today? Analytical schools no longer have trainees! And when they do, these are only ‘future psychotherapists’, not ‘future analysts’!

In fact, having obtained a driving licence, having been authorised by the State, these trainees turn the corner and practice... as... as psychoanalysts… also!

And so, here we have the paralogism to which I referred at the beginning of my talk. There has been a search for a solution that could guarantee the survival of psychoanalysis, within a cultural context that wanted State regulation.

But the outcome, the effect of this choice, has been that of having authorised the agony of psychoanalysis; a slow agony perhaps, but certain, inexorable.

The most evident proof of all this is that today, in Italy, anyone can declare himself an analyst, not only WITHOUT possessing the requirements established by the law for psychotherapies (which incidentally is absolutely right, since psychoanalysis is lay, as Freud has told us), but, also, without having undertaken any psychoanalytic training whatsoever.

In our country, there have been four court cases related to the ‘abusive exercise of the profession’. How did they end? In dismissals. Four judicial outcomes concluded that the practice of psychoanalysis is free, which means, its practice does not require compliance with the State law’s requirements.

Even if marginally, I too have contributed to these outcomes. Much more than I, however, have Ettore Perrella (director of the Platonic Academy of the Arts)), Rolando Ciofi (president of the Independent Psychologists Movement), Pier Francesco Galli (director of ‘Psychotherapy and Human Science’) and Moreno Blaskovich.

They went to court to defend people they did not know personally; they went in order to defend a principle, that of the freedom to analyse –which, I remind you, is nothing but the freedom of speech.

But I am telling you – and it is my opinion – that one cannot be too happy with this outcome either. Defending colleagues who have not wanted to conform to the law that regulates psychotherapy is absolutely right.

I also think – and that is why I am here – that lay psychoanalysis, in other words, psychoanalysis that is free from all rules of accreditation, is nothing but the reverse of the coin of regulation, which occurs independently from the spirit, the tradition, the epistemology of psychoanalysis.

Today we have trainees already authorised by the State, who have nothing really serious to ask, no opportunity to formulate a question for analysis.

But a personal trainer, ‘an expert in public relations’... or someone who practices some other ‘noble’ and ancient profession, could also declare himself a psychoanalyst, not only without having undertaken an analysis, but even without knowing who Sigmund Freud is!

I myself was formed within a Lacanian orientation. Jacques Lacan used to say that ‘the analysts authorises himself’ but does not ‘recognise himself’. This formulation seems very clear to me.

3. Let us now go to the third and final point.

So, what should be done for the future of psychoanalysis?

In my view, we must take very seriously the historical contingency, as a result of which there is a sense of necessity to regulate psychotherapy; perhaps this is a symptom of cultural regression; but it also hinges on the fact that there are some psychologies and some psychotherapies that may be taught according to university criteria, in other words, transmittable in a general way, with no regard whatsoever to the subject.

Perhaps we dislike this, but the facts are such.

But – and this is the most important point that I wish to make – we must be aware that the problem of regulation is a problem also for psychoanalysis.

Perhaps neither Freud (see the so called ‘committee of the seven rings’), nor all the others after him really managed to work on this theme.

Although he has written admirable pages on this matter, Freud himself did not go much further than the observation that regulation would emerge – as if by miracle – simply by referring to his theory. A position that, for us, today, is highly insufficient.

Admitting to this perhaps could raise a scandal. Still, Freud spent his life fighting the scandal!

But, today, it is not Oedipus that has a ‘subversive’ character, but the theme of formation, a formation that in psychoanalysis occurs in a way that is altogether ‘subversive’ by comparison to other cultural presuppositions, which seem obvious and reassuring.

Except for the fact that this subversive character has never been explicitly declared, has never been ‘written’.

But, if so, what solution could we suggest?

Only we can agree on a ‘correct’ solution, which is ‘respectful’ of the tradition that forms our point of reference.

A solution that may be valid as a formula – such as the famous ‘Trimethylamine’ – and obviously that may avoid the ‘final solution’.

Nevertheless, in my view, this is a point we must mourn. That is, the renunciation of an ‘easy solution’, on which many of us lean all-too comfortably.

This ‘easy solution’ consists in believing that the demand for recognition should ALWAYS be returned to the sender.

How does one become an analyst? How may an analyst be recognised? The easy answer is: one becomes a psychoanalyst by becoming it!... personal analysis, didactic analysis, supervision, etcetera.

In some ways, this is absolutely correct: as with a traveller who asks how far is the destination, the reply is the ‘keep going’ that Freud has taught us.

An admirable interpretation that was effective a century ago. But today it is not enough!

At a concrete level, in each school teaching occurs through a number of procedures, trainings, tests that go from the simple reading of texts to the participation in study groups on particular topics; from listening to seminars to theoretical presentations by trainees; from research on specific topics to participation in group discussions, Balint groups, psychodrama, etc.

To be effective vehicles of formation, all these activities need to be undertaken in a manner that is sufficiently ‘free’, in other words, they need to occur according to modalities and a timing that respect the individuality of each trainee.

This, however, does not mean that these are not also very structured, in other words, that the various formative activities are not ‘exercises’ that need to be carried out according to some rules.

Precisely as it is in analysis. The “Grundregel”, the ‘rule of free association’, is a sort of oxymoron. The analysand is invited to freely expose his thoughts only in order to discover their determined character, the automatism to which they are subjected. And the analysand’s word resonates only within the setting.

That is to say, the essential, structuring value of the parental ties is discovered only through incest.

But whilst we have at our disposal entire libraries on Oedipus and the setting, when it comes to the theme of this conference, this is not so.

In reality, psychoanalysis has developed more in the clinical, therapeutic dimension. Freud, on the other hand, always said that the therapeutic dimension was only one of the possible applications of psychoanalysis, beside many others, for example, the pedagogical dimension.

I think that in our way of thinking of formation – and, therefore, recognition – we feel the effects of the delay – sensationally accumulated over the last thirty years – and are, instead, satisfied to lean from tradition.

If I may give you an example, it is as if Freud had limited himself to formulate the Oedipus complex without offering a tangible proof of it by writing ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, taking upon himself, in the first instance, all the responsibilities and honours of his great discovery!

The various groups – Societies, Institutions, Associations – hold a huge richness within them, a richness they could begin to communicate and exploit (this time, rightly so), and, so, passing from a strategy of mere survival to a project of expansion and a true re-launching of psychoanalysis.

To became what after all they have always been: agents engaged in researching the most precious good (for which the West has a huge hunger): subjectivity.

Agents that may be able to function as “agencies” of accreditation, to dialogue with the State as well, and to also provide useful directives for other professions.

As I like to say, in somewhat provocative fashion, after all, the profession of psychoanalysis is a profession like any other, of course, as long as we can remember the impossible dimension that is proper to all professions: ‘profession’ derives from the Latin ‘professio’, which means ‘to declare one’s own rule’, ‘to declare one’s own faith’, and, therefore, ‘to promise’.

As I said, in my view, to clarify, to articulate the rules of formation, rather than keeping them a ‘secret’ – which sometimes is even comical –could denote a truly revolutionary character.

And I think that this time it would re-launch the theoretical work too, which at times stagnates on the usual topics.

Free association’ was the slogan of corageous pioneers; today we have the opportunity to reaffirm this slogan, as long as we understand that this is as valid for thoughts that circulate in our mind, as for analysands who may decide to practice our profession.

In other words, to have faith in free association, today, means to believe in the ‘Free Association’ of analysts.

Obviously, all this could happen only on one condition: that, finally, all the various psychoanalytic orientations begin to collaborate so as to achieve a common end.

If indeed the problem of formation constitutes today’s resistance – as sexuality did at one point – we must value it as such.

Whilst today every psychoanalyst admits with no reservations to the sexual determination of symptoms, even his own –which means, his capacity to cure through what has been his own suffering – this is not quite so when it comes to one’s own professional qualification.

In reality, every analyst knows that every day he takes care of people who come to his office not because of his professional title; not because he is a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a psychotherapist; and not even because he has been granted his title of psychoanalyst by some great Association.

Are we able to admit this with sincerity? To admit that what ‘makes’ a psychoanalyst is a decision taken on a daily basis: and that each one of us has come to occupy this position by following the contorted paths of our own lives, which have nothing to do with rigidly pre-determined paths?

And that some of us have come to psychoanalysis from medicine or psychiatry, whilst others from mathematics, philosophy, anthropology, or other humanistic disciplines!

And that the diverse formative paths of the various schools are a great resource, rather than a limitation?

The fratricidal war to win the primacy of the profession, will only lead to our extinction.

We Italians have not dared, have not tried to re-launch psychoanalysis, to ‘re-establish it’, even though we had an excellent opportunity to do so: the State regulation of psychotherapy.

I place my hope in you English analysts. Starting from your reflections, I hope that psychoanalysis will begin to free itself from the ‘recognition complex’!

A sincere thanks for giving me the opportunity to remind you of this, and most of all, to remind myself.

Ipnosis is edited, maintained and © Denis Postle 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
August 11 2006
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