Ad Hoc Committee of the World Association of Psychoanalysis for the United States
On February 1, 2009, a group of six Members and close associates of the World Association of Psychoanalysis met in the United States for the first VIDEO-SEMINAR of the Ad Hoc Committee of the World Association of Psychoanalysis for the United States.
The geographical unit of psychoanalysis is really the city, a place that allows analysands to see analysts for sessions on a regular basis and allows analysts to convene for Cartels and Study Days and other activities of the Schools and other groups in which they work. In the United States, we have Members scattered in many states all over the United States, with distnaces so great that it might be easier for an analyst on the East Coast to travel to Europe than it would be to travel for a meeting on the West Coast. We have achieved some success in gathering together for our Clinical Study Days, which rotates among different cities, but we have long desired to find ways of gathering together for discussion more often, something to add to our face-to-face gatherings.
The new technologies available now provide one means to address this need. Using the Wimba videoconferencing program provided by the Division of Psychoanalysis of the Creighton University Department of Psychiatry, we have found just a way to meet, gathering virtually for conversation, each one of us in our own offices at our computers, but able to see and hear one another for the Seminar.
We chose for this first trial meeting to discuss a Session of the Seminar of Jacques-Alain Miller from March 19, 2008, which has been published under the English title "The Interpretation of Psychoanalysis," in a translation by Thelma Sowley, available online on the site of Lacanian Compass, at http://www.wapol.org/publicaciones/lacanian_compass/LacanianCompass-013.pdf. We chose this text, as it is a theme to be addressed by the New Lacanian School in its next Congress this May in Paris, and also links to the theme of the next Congress of the WAP, next spring also in Paris.
The choice of text was fortuitous, for the discussion quickly took on as its focus some comments by Jacques-Alain Miller on the responsibility of the psychoanalyst in teaching psychoanalysis. In his Seminar, Miller noted a shift in the way in which people develop interest in psychoanalysis. In the days in which he first approached psychoanalysis, those studying psychoanalysis were interested in what JAM referred to as the foundation, or truth value, or merit of psychoanalysis. Today, the interest is at the level of "how to do" psychoanalysis. This observation of Miller's reverberated with the experience we all have felt in teaching psychoanalysis in different cities and different settings in the United States. In most cases, people develop an interest in psychoanalysis accidently, it might be said, not because they were interested in the theory of psychoanalysis or what might be termed its philosophical value. Rather, people develop an interest in psychoanalysis, often without knowing even that what they are interested in is psychoanalysis. A person might go to seek help, be referred to a psychoanalyst, not clear that he or see is seeking a psychoanalysis, but only initially with a therapeutic demand, which may get modified in the treatment into a demand for psychoanalysis. Or, in clinical discussions among colleagues in a clinic or mental health setting or university, clinicians might get interested in psychoanalysis because they have a case, a case that they don't know what to do with, or how to handle. They might turn to a psychoanalyst colleague for help in thinking through the case, for informal or formal supervision. Or, in a clinic, they may hear the work of a psychoanalyst presented, and develop an interest in practicing in that way. And, as Miller has noted, the demand to the psychoanalyst becomes a demand to learn "how to do" psychoanalysis.
In discussing this, a participant asked "what then of the edifice of psychoanalysis?"--all the knowledge distilled out of the practice of all the psychoanalysts who have gone before us. Certainly, as Miller phrases it, we must be ignorant, we must "play dumb" in some ways in sessions. Certainly, though, that does not mean that the so-called knowledge or texts, shall we say, of the psychoanalysts of the past are to be discarded. Another participant in the discussion commented on how the demand to learn "how to do" psychoanalysis can, in some cases, get transformed into a desire, a desire to learn about psychoanalysis. This might occur first and foremost in a desire for the experience of psychoanalysis itself, but also through supervision, and training, and the study of the texts of psychoanalysis. As one participant commented, the key is not to answer the demand "how to," but to transform it into something else.
This is a kind of shift that occurs in some people as they approach psychoanalysis, which we might even think of in terms of the installation of a transference--a transference not only to an analyst, but also to a School, and perhaps we might say even to psychoanalysis itself.
Our obligation, as psychoanalysts and especially as teachers of psychoanalysis is to know how to handle these demands and this transference. In this regard, we can certainly say that any resistance of those interested in psychoanalysis to pursuing the experience should not be identified as on the part of those approaching us. It is not that "they are not serious enough in their efforts" or "they don't want to make the commitment necessary to becoming an analyst" or "they don't understand, for example, that it's not a technique that can be taught" or anything like that. We cannot look to a different time or place that was the time or place of psychoanalysis, to Paris or Buenos Aires or to Lacan's Seminar, with a nostalgia for a day when people really wanted psychoanalysis. Any resistance to psychoanalysis among those interested is only our failure to know how to handle their demands and their interest in psychoanalysis. We must find ways to reply to those who are interested in what we do.
There is no reason that an accidental encounter--in a consultation room or in a clinic--a demand for therapeutic help or for some clinical supervision might not lead to a desire to experience in a singular way that which the psychoanalytic experience might, if taken to its logical conclusion, lead to--namely the creation of a new psychoanalyst. Indeed, there is no reason why the path to pure psychoanalysis might not be arrived at from many different directions. It is our role as psychoanalysts and psychoanalyst-teachers to make such an experience possible for those who desire it.
To this end, we have made a commitment to two new activities in the United States.
The first is a VIDEO-SEMINAR that will be open to all the Members of the World Association of Psychoanalysis in the United States, for us to work together in preparation for our Study Days and our engagements with our Schools in the WAP. We will seek to have a Plus-One join us for each of these meetings, an analyst from outside of the United States, from all the different Schools of the WAP, so that we might articulate our work with colleagues throughout the world.
The second will be a series of VIDEO-COURSES that we will offer to people everywhere in the United States interested in psychoanalysis, so that we might bring psychoanalysis to all those people scattered throughout our massive country, those in our cities where we have Members, and those in cities far away. We want to make the study of psychoanalysis available to everyone in this country who demands it.