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Fox, R.P. (2003). Thoughts on authority and leadership. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51S(Supplement):57-72.

(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51S(Supplement):57-72

Thoughts on authority and leadership

Richard P. Fox

Richard P. Fox

Over the years, I have served in various roles in the American Psychoanalytic Association and so have experience with its many internal conflicts. I would like to review this experience and to explore some of the complexities of authority relationships and their impact on the governance of the association. The history of APsaA over the past half-century provides an interesting case study through which we can explore the dynamics of authority and leadership and examine how these forces have shaped that history. Almost since its reorganization some fifty years ago, APsaA has been the scene of almost continuous debates about the distribution of authority within it. These controversies have taken the form of disputes about certification and training analyst status and ostensibly polarize the group as “liberals” and “conservatives,” or training analysts and non–training analysts.

Psychoanalysts have extensive experience working in relationships in which process, communication, and the building of an alliance are essential. They cultivate their capacities for empathy and for maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude. Yet, in the internal workings of analytic organizations, these talents and capabilities are seldom apparent. It is striking that although authority and leadership involve individual and group dynamics played out in arenas with significant social and personal impact, they remain relatively ignored subjects in the psychoanalytic literature.

In my pursuit of this inquiry, theory followed practice, and I had to familiarize myself with concepts not native to psychoanalytic thinking. I will ask your indulgence as I present some analytically unfamiliar concepts in order to lend perspective to the more compelling “clinical facts” of APsaA's political history.

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