Clinical psychoanalysis remains the primary professional identity of the majority of our members. But we undervalue what psychoanalytic thinking has to offer the world. Freud notably wrote in “The question of lay analysis”: “The use of analysis for the treatment of the neuroses is only one of its applications; the future will perhaps show that it is not the most important one.”
Adriana Prengler and I ran for election on a platform that featured IPA in the World. In the context of a perfect storm of environmental, socioeconomic, political, physical and psychological threat, we feel psychoanalysis has never been more needed outside the consulting room in addition to its traditional role treating individual patients. We share a commitment to exploring and implementing the ways in which IPA analysts can help our troubled world. I hasten to add that consulting to leaders of local, national and international groups; to professional associations; to politicians; to any category of citizens who realize they could use help understanding and addressing the challenges they face, requires a deeply internalized sense of clinical analysis. Two of the most important components of the analytic attitude, in my view, are the ability to contain intense affects and the ability to tolerate uncertainty. Both capacities sustain a space for listening, one that permits sensitivity to conscious and unconscious meanings while exercising empathic understanding. The two components of containing intense affects and tolerating uncertainty support relationship building and therefore dialogue in the context of differences of opinion.
I have met monthly for the last two years, since becoming President-elect at the London Congress, with a group of colleagues who use psychoanalytic thinking to address societal problems. I formed the group of 14 together with John Alderdice, a psychoanalytic psychiatrist who received the IPA Extraordinarily Meritorious Service to Psychoanalysis Award in 2005. I sought him out because I learned that psychoanalytic thinking had helped him further the peace process in Ireland that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. I wanted to consult with him about how the expertise of IPA members could help our troubled world. This was at the front of my mind after attending the 2018 EPF meeting in Warsaw. The meeting occurred shortly after a law was passed in Poland that made it illegal to speak about Poland’s having had an involvement in the Holocaust. For me this situation had the force of an alarm: false fact could become law, and in the U.S. false facts were becoming a political modus operandi. Fascist governments demanding a departure from truth-seeking were on the rise. Analysts at the meeting wondered: what can psychoanalysts possibly do?
John and I assembled a group of people, analysts and non-analysts, all of whom have had experience thinking psychoanalytically about intractable conflict. This exploratory think tank has become an invaluable advisory group to the IPA. Adriana, Henk Jan, and I have all participated in the group and have benefited from its realism, creativity, and deep psychoanalytic thinking about resolution of intractable conflict. I look forward to bringing insights and concrete plans to you during our administration.