Letter From Dr. Paola Mieli to Her Colleagues in the USA (1)

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Strikingly, the Consortium’s idea of “suitability for psychoanalytic education and training”, is, among other things, paradoxical, insofar as it expresses a mistrust in the process of psychoanalysis: if we believe in the effectiveness of analysis, why should a person not become “suitable” as a result of his/her own analytic experience? Is analysis not the prime instrument for effecting a subjective ethical change, a “subversion,” which may lead to a new relation to life, to vocation, to creation? To assuming responsibility, as Freud teaches us, for the very causes of which we are the effect? Isn’t this experience itself what grounds the coming-into-being of the analyst’s position, of his/her capability to handle the transference, to direct a cure and to transmit the analytic discourse?

The notion of “suitability” proposed by the Consortium necessarily implies an idea of normativity and, with it, a preventive pedagogy: not only can someone deemed “unsuitable” be excluded, but it will also be possible, for instance, to “fix” certain symptoms or character traits and make a candidate fit the standards of the institute. This reflects the belief in a deterministic philosophy that presupposes a pre-established, wholly transparent knowledge — precisely what the process of psychoanalysis refutes (5). This determinism implies operating according to a fixed model, a norm that excludes differences, chances, revelations, unknown and unexpected transformations.

It is apparent that the Consortium’s notion of “psychoanalysis” has little to do with Freud’s idea of psychoanalysis. To begin with, Freud is fundamentally opposed to determinism and deterministic pedagogy, since they contradict the very discovery of the unconscious, the discovery of the contingent and over-determined factors at work in the unfolding of psychic causality. These factors, which define the specificity of each individual history, can only be analyzed in the aftermath. The idea of a fixed model for understanding is in stark contrast with Freud’s own notion of science, which is built upon theoretical models as temporary working models subject to being refuted.


Let us now turn to the Consortium’s definition of psychoanalysis:

“Psychoanalysis is a specific form of individual psychotherapy that aims to bring unconscious mental elements and processes into awareness in order to expand an individual’s self-understanding, enhance adaptation in multiple spheres of functioning, alleviate symptoms of mental disorders, and facilitate character change and emotional growth”. (p. 8)