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Levine, H.B. (2015). The Transformational Vision of Antonino Ferro. Psychoanal. Inq., 35(5):451-464.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 35(5):451-464

Original Articles

The Transformational Vision of Antonino Ferro

Howard B. Levine, M.D.

I like to think of the analyst … as a great storyteller, who knows how to bring to life narremes and stories of the patient and of the field, and is free to detach himself from his psychoanalytic knowledge in order to sail beyond the Pillars of Hercules, beyond the psychoanalytically known, towards new worlds of unthought thinkability and the thoughts in search of a thinker that await us in the Americas of the mind. [Ferro, 2006, p. 6]

In 1979, at the conclusion of his Italian Seminars, Bion (2005) left his audience with an evocative image of uncertainty and poetic beauty, when he compared his contribution to the seminars to a leaf falling from a tree: “One never knows which side up it will land” (p. 104). He then challenged his listeners by asking, “What is this group likely to give birth to? What thought or idea or action? And what relationship is likely to occur between it and some other group? Love or hate? Fight or flight? Dependence or freedom?” (p. 104).

At the 2009 IPA Congress in Chicago, Parisi (2009) looked back over the ensuing 30 years and suggested that Bion’s influence on Italian psychoanalysis has been both widespread and profound. In her view, in contrast to the then more established European analytic societies, Bion’s ideas, especially the more innovative thought of his later years, gained widespread acceptance “perhaps because [they] arrived at the right time to give space to call for authenticity in a group who had just recently formed, and who clearly needed to start feeling themselves freer from rigid elements of theory” (Parisi, 2009, p. 1).

Nowhere are the fruits of this influence and encouragement of freedom of thought more evident than in the work of Antonino Ferro. Although not present at Bion’s seminars in Rome, Ferro has proven to be among the most fertile, productive, and creative of his descendents, the embodiment of Bion’s concept of

an analyst who was not the repository of the truth, but rather had the capacity to listen, to dwell on doubts, to utilize his own capacity for reverie to get in touch with his own unconscious [and that of the patient] and therefore transform the unthinkable aspects of the patient’s experience (Parisi, 2009, p. 1)

into articulatable mental elements: i.e., pictorial images, thoughts and dreams.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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