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Nathans, S. (2014). In Memory of James Fisher. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 4(1):3.
(2014). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 4(1):3
In Memory of James Fisher
Shelley Nathans, Ph.D.
In the 1990s, when the internet was in its infancy, and before one could instantly Google anybody or anything, time moved at glacial speed, and geographical distance was an actual divide that needed to be traversed in order to establish communication or obtain information. Here in San Francisco, 5000 miles and eight hours away from London, some of us had vaguely heard that there was a psychoanalytic model for doing couple psychotherapy in the UK, and while we really did not know much about it, we were eager to begin a training with the Tavistock Marital Studies Institute (as it was then called). I can vividly remember my first encounters with James Fisher's published work and the exciting promise it conveyed: it could be possible to think about couples with depth and rigour and these ideas could be firmly grounded in psychoanalytic theory. Later, when I was fortunate to meet with him for consultation in London, I was pleased to discover that the clarity of his thinking extended to clinical practice and that he was a kind and patient teacher.
Over the intervening years, our Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group (PCPG), continued to rely on James as an important teacher and influential thinker. Moreover, he had a seminal influence on our own educational and study programmes and many of his papers are required reading in our curriculum. When we began our Annual Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Lecture in San Francisco, in 2008, we invited him to be our first visiting scholar. He gave an elegant paper entitled, “The Macbeths in the consulting room,” in which he carefully laid out a theoretical conceptualisation, using both Freud and Bion, to understand the troubled couple relationship that is featured in Shakespeare's play. The paper beautifully illustrates James's own theoretical contributions, his dedication to Bion's ideas, and his facility with integrating literary material into the psychoanalytic literature.
When I remember James Fisher, I think of a man with an all too rare combination of intellectual curiosity, theoretical rigour, and humanity. I believe that it was these fine qualities that spoke so clearly to me, many years ago, and that invited us all into a new way of thinking. For this I will always be enormously grateful.
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