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Balfour, A. (2018). Thoughts About Our Relationship to the past and the Challenge of Developing Our Field. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 8(1):xii-xvi.

(2018). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 8(1):xii-xvi

Personal View

Thoughts About Our Relationship to the past and the Challenge of Developing Our Field

Andrew Balfour

“Perhaps more than any other branch of human knowledge psychoanalysis has been uniquely the singular product of the creative genius of one man, Sigmund Freud.”

Wallerstein, 1997, p. xvii

This piece is a development of an introduction I gave to a conference held at Tavistock Relationships in November 2017 on “Winnicott and the Couple”. In preparing for this, I found myself wondering about the Winnicott I had in my mind. I realised that I had lots of thoughts and ideas about him, mixed in with memories of particular times in my life when I had encountered his thinking. Perhaps we all have different pictures in our minds of key figures—with whom we have some kind of imaginal relationship, however unformed this might be.

While it may be true in many fields, it seems to me to be particularly true in ours, that theories, ideas, and punctuation points in the evolution of the body of knowledge that constitutes psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are “peopled”; ideas closely identified with those who originally developed and articulated them. And this led to another thought: that if we tend to personify ideas—to link them to people in this way—then, if that person becomes less in vogue for whatever reason, so too their ideas might become lost from view. If one thinks about it, how often does one come across books or papers purporting to criticise psychoanalysis, or psychoanalytic thinking that are essentially criticisms or attacks on Freud the person, rather than a proper critique of the body of theory that is psychoanalysis.

Perhaps some of this tendency towards personification of the ideas comprising our field comes from the nature of our training—our psychoanalytic “apprenticeship model”—that has at its heart personal analysis and transference relationships that encompass our analyst, our training organisation, and beyond (Spurling, 2003).

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