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Widlöcher, D. (2002). Presidential Address. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83(1):205-210.
(2002). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 83(1):205-210
A person who was a complete stranger to psychoanalysis (not a frequent case) was invited to our Congress. He was astonished by everything he heard.
‘How can so much be said in such a short time? And how can there be so many new ideas just two years after the last Congress?’
One of our female colleagues, rich in experience, was not slow to reply:
‘That's nothing. Bear in mind that in the meantime all the people you have heard have taken part in numerous colloquia and that they meet colleagues and trainees in their Societies every week for seminars, workshops and lectures.’
‘All that is, no doubt, what has been talked about during these last few days. They have been able to submit their work to the judgement of their foreign colleagues, and find out about the work of those colleagues.’
‘I am afraid that in many cases their main concern has been to be listened to rather than to listen to others.’
That is hardly a misrepresentation. For example, we devoted the Congress at Santiago in 1999 to the question of affect. Reports, presentations and summaries of the ‘panels’ were published. If our naive visitor had asked us how much that was new had been said on such an essential question we should have had some difficulty in giving a clear reply. Yet that would not have done us justice, as the Congress did give rise to very rich and topical reflections. The question I would like to ask is therefore the following: how and why do psychoanalysts have so much difficulty in debating among themselves, in clearly expressing their different points of view, the reasons for these differences and the conclusions we might draw for our practice?
In an article titled ‘Towards an international dialogue: North American reflections on the Santiago Congress’ Henry Smith, who was one of the co-presidents of the Programme Committee, records his surprise when, expecting to share a common language with the other participants, he discovered their language to be ‘an endless succession of tribal dialects’ (Smith, 2000, p.
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