The symptom of the psychoanalytic group and the transmission of psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud wrote in 1914 that for the first years in his practice of psychoanalysis and the transmission of its teaching, he was alone. Ever since the first group formed around Freud the transmission of psychoanalysis has been a matter for the group. It has been a difficult history.

In 1964 Lacan launched his ‘Founding Act’ describing himself ‘as alone as I have always been in my relation to the psychoanalytic cause …’ How can practitioners in a field which privileges the singularity of the subject on the one hand, and the subject’s relation to psychoanalysis on the other, act as a collective to transmit the work of that field without succumbing to counter-productive group effects? Can we identify a symptom of the psychoanalytic group given that any such group comprises psychoanalytic workers each with a singular symptom, the outward representation of which may be to nominate himself or herself as a psychoanalyst? What is the part of the psychoanalytic group in this act?

Freud learned that resistance accompanies the work of analysis ‘step by step’ [1912]. Psychoanalysts are never off the hook regarding resistance. Repeating ‘I don’t want to know anything about it’ Lacan began his Seminar Encore [1972 – 1973]. Do psychoanalytic groups form around collective resistance to the psychoanalytic field, to what Freud opened up?  Can we know this given that such resistance will operate unconsciously and be covered over with the title psychoanalyst, with sophisticated vocabulary, with mechanisms for accreditation and status. With these structures and forms do we in fact distance the work of the group from the disorientation of Freud’s Copernican revolution? Lacan wrote in ‘The direction of the treatment and the principles of its power’: ‘I hope to show how the inability to sustain a praxis in an authentic manner, falls back, as is usually the case in man’s history, on the exercise of power.’ We can be resolute workers, resolutely deadening the Freudian experience.

Can there be psychoanalytic effects from the symptom of the practitioner? Can a group support a symptom in so far as it produces these psychoanalytic effects?

The School of Psychotherapy at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and UCD School of Medicine will hold a two-day conference on 30th November – 1st December 2018 in UCD Belfield, Dublin, addressing these questions and crucial problems for psychoanalysis.

The conference is a tribute to the work of Cormac Gallagher which launched and has grown Lacanian psychoanalysis in Ireland through his practice, his teaching, his setting up, with colleagues, the School of Psychotherapy and his internationally valued translations of Lacan’s work.

Speakers will be invited to address the question of the symptom and of the psychoanalytic group and their bearing on the task of transmission of psychoanalysis.