Gaddini, Eugenio (1916-1985)

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

GADDINI, EUGENIO (1916-1985)

Eugenio Gaddini, president of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society from 1978 to 1982, was born in Cerignola, Foggia, Italy, on January 18, 1916, and died in Rome on September 27, 1985. A brilliant student, he developed a precocious interest in literature and philosophy. In 1942 he received his medical diploma. In 1956 he gave up his position as chief physician in a hospital in Rome to devote himself to psychoanalysis.

After completing an analysis with Emilio Servadio, he was admitted in 1953 to the Società Psicoanalitica Italiana (Italian Psychoanalytic Society), in which he served as secretary (1957), vice president (1967-1969), and president (1978-1982). During his tenure as president, he worked hard to expand the society, primarily by revitalizing the Rivista de psicoanalisi (Review of psychoanalysis), of which he was editor for several years. After 1970 he worked as a teacher at the Centro Psicoanalitico Romano (Rome Psychoanalytic Center) and the Centro di Firenze (Florence Center), which he founded, surrounding himself with a circle of students who were receptive to his original ideas. Gaddini was highly esteemed within the International Psychoanalytical Association, where he assumed several high-level positions, and was known for his original contributions in the fields of metapsychology and clinical therapy.

Combining Freudian psychoanalysis with the techniques of Donald Winnicott, he formulated an innovative theory of early mental states, postulating the existence of a "fundamental mental organization," which serves as the basis for the formation of the self. According to Gaddini, "nonintegration anxiety" occurs during the transition from the "psychosensory zone," characterized by a preponderance of physical sensations, to the "psycho-oral zone" (1987). During this process, when the basic outlines of mental structure are laid down, the mechanism of imitation plays an important role (Gaddini, 1969). Gaddini distinguished imitation from introjection and identification, which he associated with the psycho-oral zone, where the tension to "attain the object" was a sign of distinctness and separation. Imitation he associated with the psychosensory zone and "correlative bodily fantasies." In other words, fantasies of fusion respond to bodily changes associated with becoming "the object." During the course of analysis (1981), disturbances of the psychosensory zone become manifest in transference through the patient's use of mechanisms of imitation to reestablish fusion, as if by magic, and avoid recognition of the object as an other distinct from the self.

In his writing, Gaddini suggested reconsidering the function of the father in the oedipal triangle (1989) and in aggression. Adopting the fusion theory of instincts, he hypothesized that aggression shifted the libido from its initial narcissistic position to objects (1972). His essay "Transitional objects and the process of individuation," published in 1970 with his wife Renata, continued the work of Donald Winnicott. Gaddini's writings have been collected in Scritti, published posthumously in 1989 and translated into English in 1992.

Anna Maria Accerboni

See also: Italy


Gaddini, Eugenio. (1969). On imitation. International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 50, 475-484.

. (1972). Agression and the pleasure principle: Towards a psychoanalytic theory of aggression. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 53 (2). 191-198.

. (1987). Notes on the mind-body question. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 68 (3), 315-330.

. (1989). Scritti. Milan, Italy: Raffaello Cortina.

. (1992). A psychoanalytic theory of infantile experience: Conceptual and clinical reflections (Adam Limentani, Ed.). London: Tavistock Publications.

Limentani, Adam. (1986). Eugenio Gaddini (1916-1985). International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 67, 373-374.