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Stelzer, J. (1986). The formation and deformation of identity during psychoanalytic training. Free Associations, 1(7):59-74.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(7):59-74

The formation and deformation of identity during psychoanalytic training

J. Stelzer

This article is an elaboration of material I have written over the last three years about the discomfort that many students in psychoanalytic institutes feel during their training. This discomfort, though obvious, is very difficult to face. In April 1983 in an attempt to sum up a students' meeting that I helped to coordinate at the Jerusalem meeting of the European Psychoanalytic Federation, a subject related to this discomfort was suggested for discussion. One could observe how difficult it was, not even to do something to change this situation, but simply to speak about it. Something quite significant seemed to lie under our difficulty in dealing with the problem (Stelzer, 1983, p. 17).

I continued trying to understand the phenomenon and my own discomfort as a candidate, and the result was the paper I presented in July 1985 in Hamburg to the students' meeting at an International Psychoanalytic Congress whose main topic was the process of identification. At that time I speculated on the nature of this discomfort and the process of the candidates' identifying themselves with psychoanalysis. The present article is mainly a development of that one, with the added perspective of what one year of life (and experience) can add to every one of us. Writing the Hamburg 1985 article allowed me an emotional catharsis of my very intense discomfort, and also moved me to put into conceptual order my ideas about training as I lived it in the Institute, and about the comments and reports of students all over the world.

I was the first to be convinced that the training process could be described as a kind of narcissistic illness, both of the candidates and of the institution, and as a result of this conviction, I left the Institute. One year later, the reader will find many paragraphs that are intensely emotional, the result of my struggle with the Institute.

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