What it means to be a psychoanalyst

A Discussion at the headquarters of the British Psychoanalytic Association:
What it means to be a psychoanalyst

Vassilis Maoutsos

  1. At first to be a psychoanalyst means to be ‘human’. This is a very important feature for any psychoanalyst and it is by no means self-evident. For example since the word ‘counter-transference’ came into the front in the field of psychoanalysis hundreds, if not thousands, of papers had to be written ( and still are in the writing) about it in order to express the view that the psychoanalyst has feelings because he is human and he cannot be neutral as Freud wanted him to be. I consider this view to be awkward or simply misconceived. Freud wanted the analyst to be neutral in the sense of not acting-out his feelings that ought to be desexualized during his practice. Freud, as we know from his clinical cases, was very emotionally involved with his patients and this made him very human. However, he always used his feelings for the benefit of the analysis.
  2. I think that to be psychoanalyst means to be pretty well analyzed. Being a ‘human’ analyst but badly analyzed is like a Rolls Royce driven by a scared driver. The psychoanalytic organizations should give special attention to the analyses of their candidates.
  3. Being psychoanalyst today means to be well-read primarily in Freud. Many analysts who are so good in Bion, Melanie Klein, Rosenfeld and practising with very limited knowledge of the Standard Edition. For example, Freud as early as 1905 talked about ‘the mother’s breast’, ‘the total’ of the object , ‘the finding of the object’ and so on. I have met analysts talking about these concepts but ignoring their origin and their connections with basic psychopathology.
  4. A psychoanalyst must constantly invest upon his psychoanalytical identity. In doing so he/she has to differentiate himself/herself from any other identity (e.g social worker’s, psychiatric, psychologist) that he used to have in the past. This is to be proved helpful in his/her clinical work and in the handling of the transference in view of the fact that a patient always finds more trustworthy an interpretation coming from an analyst who has a purely psychoanalytical identity than from someone who has a mixed identity.
  5. A good psychoanalyst does not need to be a wise, pantognostic man. In this way, among other things, he could also benefit from the good use that he could make of the setting. The protection of the setting in psychoanalysis is of enormous value and in my opinion does a good proportion of the psychoanalytical work by itself. I think that psychoanalysts who do not protect the setting need to work much harder to reach the same results that someone else achieves without much effort.