Wednesday, July 9, 2008


By Arnold Z. Schneider, Ph.D., ABPP

JULY 9, 2008. Today marks the 6 month anniversary since a group of psychoanalysts and psychotherapists from TBIPS announced via an internet message that they were resigning from the parent group and initiating a new psychoanalytic-psychotherapy training program. There had been absolutely no discussion or warning of this thought or decision in the group as a whole of this forthcoming event despite the fact that it must have been the focus of many secretive meetings long before the event occurred. To my knowledge there has been no discussion between the two groups since the event occurred.

While I assume my share of the responsibility for what led up to this split - and it is most likely a major share - I do not believe it merited the abrupt decision, the non-discussion attitude, of the resigning group. Certainly, we all had a part in the split. I believe that a major reason for the split was the absence of our ability (willingness) to speak openly and directly about our feelings, about the process taking place in the group in which we all participated, and of our being unable (unwilling) to take responsibility for them. In this regard, I believe that most of us were following the dictates of our early training experiences and identifications which dictated that we remain opaque.

It is very interesting that our then President had handed out an article by Kenneth Eisold (1994) (someone I had urged us to invite as a consultant to (for) the group and had spoken with) shortly before the split took place. The following is a brief and incomplete review of his paper, The Intolerance of Diversity in Psychoanalytic Institutes. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 75, 785-800. I believe it helps explain some of the reasons this unfortunate schism happened.

Splits (schisms, defections) within psychoanalytic communities have been common phenomena since the origin of psychoanalysis. Beginning with Freud and his splits from Jung, Adler, Forenczi, and others, the tradition has continued to include the five splits in this country (Washington/Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, and Los Angeles), and internationally in France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Columbia, and Australia (not to mention the struggles in England between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein). Also, there have been intense rivalries between the American Psychoanalytic Association and the International Psychoanalytic Association (eg., over the question of Lay Analysis) and within the Division of Psychoanalysis between Section 1 and Section 5.

There have been many attempts to understand and explain the origin and development of these painful splits, primarily focusing on the historical tradition, group functioning, social systems, organizations involved, individual (personality) factors, etc.. Narcissistic, superego, and “pathological” identification characteristics of the leaders are often cited as key elements in the dissolution of groups. While all of the rancorous aspects on both sides of the schism are part and parcel of these splits, in a paper published in 1994, Kenneth Eisold points to the dynamics of “social defence” --loneliness and intolerance-- as important aspects in the nature of analytic work of the analyst.

First, he points to the “nature of the work” (the isolation, loneliness, demands) which leave the analyst vulnerable to seek out a sense of certainty on his/her strict reliance on psychoanalytic theory (“loyalty”) , often connected to early training experiences, leaving out (defending against, rejecting, splitting off, dissociating) alternative theories.

A second factor, “The nature of membership” refers to the analyst’s need for acceptance by the group which plays itself out in such important issues as self-esteem, acceptance, referrals, etc.. The importance of belonging in each one of us -- for varied reasons -- is an incredibly important motivation. Belonging becomes interpreted (experienced) as a privilege and is reinforced by being the one who or a member of the group which rejects others (institute groups, theories, individuals). Eisold refers to the basis of this dynamic to be in the “pairing that goes on between patient and analyst (along generational lines) which leaves the organization experienced ambivalently “(Eisold adds “resented”). At the very same time, the need for a home often results in the diverting (displacement) of those negative feelings onto another group, theory, or analyst.

The third set of factors Eisold points to relates to the “psychoanalytic culture”. The analytic culture has been opposed to all other cultures (“I know what is best”) and, as a result, acts in an authoritarian (closed, one-person) way. Not only do they reject other theories, groups, etc., but they feel attacked (violated) by other ways of thinking. Consider the reaction of most early classical analysts toward the use of medication and contemporary models of psychoanalysis. Eisold labels this phenomenon “privileged apartness” .

I believe that all three of these factors were involved in this split. The need for certainty, the importance of belonging, and our culture were clearly factors which entered the group. There was little discussion of these factors among ourselves and, perhaps, little thought about how they were playing themselves out.

Eisold’s paper contains many more ideas and subtleties than I have expressed in this brief summary. I urge all to read it. Of course, each side of the schism contributes, and as he points out, the “bystander “ contributes as much as the victim or perpetrator. Where or when does the schism end? Never? How might it end? Certainly we analysts believe in the “talking cure”, but the “talking cure” is an intensely complicated process. The built in defensive, narcissistic, subjective, identificatory models are certainly important unconscious mechanisms which keep us all apart. ALL of us participate. I believe we must accept that these battles will continue through the life of psychoanalysis. There is no permanent repair or fix, but only for analysts of all persuasions to come to accept the ongoing cacophony of differing ideas, experiences, and perceptions and then use them in a dialogue with one another -- to be open to different understandings of the nature of the content and process. Psychoanalysis is clearly a science, an art and a philosophy and we must WORK TOWARD integrating these functions, knowing we will never get there. But we must all agree to work in that direction, not splitting off.

Certainly a “third” -- a consultant -- would have been quite a help; an analyst for the group and someone who could listen (in a relatively unbiased way) and therefore hear, see, experience, and shed light on that process. Certainly the consultant has to be expected to have his/her biases also, but perhaps the consultant could offer a “safe” place --a transitional space-- for all to enter and to work together (in the hailstorm of ideas). Differences will always remain, but perhaps with agreement --no, commitment-- by all to accept differences AND to continue to work together within the expected chaos, to look inside as to which role(s) one is acting out, to both openly verbalize and listen to what is being expressed and felt (as we expect of ourselves and our patients within a treatment process) we might not only survive, but excel!!! I believe the poignant aspect of Eisold’s paper --the simple humanity of the analyst-- must be recognized, accepted and appreciated. Each and every one of us has a past; each and every one of us exists with wounds, with loneliness, with defenses, with defects, with compromises. We expect our patients to talk about them. Why not us?

Emmanuel Berman (2004), a training analyst in the Israeli Psychoanalytic Institute, in his book, IMPOSSIBLE TRAINING; A RELATIONAL VIEW OF PSYCHOANALYTIC TRAINING, views the strength of an institute as being related to its openness to allow change and, therefore, allow growth. He points out that growth occurs through dialogue, disagreements, expression of varying ideas, and, importantly, an increasingly clear idea of what should and needs to be discussed. There have been many analysts who have been thinking and writing about this way of approaching such problems that we face.

Let me conclude these comments by quoting Eisold:

The social defence of intolerance--which ultimately leads to splitting--is, in effect, the final common pathway in which defences against the contradictions of the analyst’s identity, the internal tensions of analytic institutions and marginality of psychoanalytic culture in relation to the world join together to proffer an illusory security of sectarian life. …It is, on the other hand, constantly threatened by the danger of closed boundaries under the pressures I have attempted to point out; in that sense, it is threatened--and, I think, knows itself to be threatened--by the dangers of becoming a collection of cults (p. 796).