Today, I remember almost with benevolence the indecorous show that I witnessed, because, now that I have my own elegant office and I am no longer so young, I have learnt that psychoanalysis exists, and will continue to exist, despite psychoanalysts. It exists in France, notwithstanding the recent compromise – but I would rather have the symptom than the inhibition! And it exists in the UK, as the interesting current debate demonstrates, three years ahead of the countdown set for 2008. What has happened for a long time in the USA and in Germany shows that the problem of regulation could be a great opportunity. But this could only be so if, from the very beginning, we had the courage not to defend ourselves behind futile ‘passwords’, and, instead, began to think about what the profession entails in real terms. I think that the profession of a psychoanalyst is like any other profession. And I think that, precisely by considering it in these terms, we may be more able to evaluate it in a fruitful manner for all the new and old professionalism of the third millennium.
‘Profession’ comes from the Latin ‘profiteor’, which means ‘I declare my faith, I say what I think’, and by extension, I show the ‘rule’ of my action. Every professional – be it a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, and so on – holds his professional ‘title’ only because he declares the compass of his practice, thus, also, delineating its boundaries. Professional competence is always necessarily implied – or, if one prefers, ‘potential’ – in that it may be assessed only retrospectively, only after it has been defined. Anyone may be dissatisfied with a legal defence, or, unfortunately or fortunately, with the outcome of a surgical operation. Nevertheless, since subjective time is ‘actual’ (and even more so for Freud than for Aristotle), there is no way of getting out of the logic of ‘promise’. Professionals can only promise – that is to say, they can only speak well, and, then, do well by keeping their promise. And who else is the psychoanalyst, if not the expert of this temporal curve that catches and holds us? What is psychoanalysis, if not the science that undertakes to discover its predictive formulas, starting from, and in spite of, language?
The sheer difference between manual work and intellectual work has been explained ad nauseam first by Marx and then by Weber – hence, the relationship between the professional and the religious worlds, a relationship that most people consider annoying and improper, when, in fact, it is totally crucial for understanding this matter (is a ‘profession’ not, by definition, free or lay?)
At the moment, it is in no way possible to predict what will happen in the UK, what law will end up regulating psychotherapy. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that, whatever the outcome, this will have some repercussions on the ‘passion’ we have inherited from Freud – as Ian Parker wrote in his introduction to the conference of the College of Psychoanalysis, scheduled for 2006. Therefore, English psychoanalysts are right to want to contribute to the current debate – of course, bearing also in mind that there are a number of already established forms of psychotherapy, which are perfectly transmissible as techniques – by asserting the strength of the Freudian message (as well as the Kleinian, Lacanian and… Kohuttian). Because this means helping (rather than blocking!) the Legislator – that is, all of us – to issue fertile and operative rules. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Italy, as a result of which the State had no other option but to come up with a simple mulching (I hope that my learned colleagues will forgive me for using a term derived from horticultural science), which, obtorto collo, today I consider even well deserved.