Psychoanalytic Filiations

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In addition to intellectual, theoretical, and professional reasons, more personal ones usually play a part in the decision to take up an interest in psychoanalysis. Inextricably bound up with the former, but usually not as readily acknowledged or clearly understood as an influence on an individual's choice of intellectual orientation, such psychoanalytic filiations run like a perpetual current through the life and work of the individual concerned, for which reason questions about who analyzed him or her, when, how, why, and with what effect will continue to attract much attention both inside and outside the psychoanalytic community.

If collected and used properly, information about psychoanalytic filiations can help illustrate aspects of individual development, as may also be true when that individual does not subsequently engage with psychoanalysis professionally. However, where professional work follows, the psychoanalytic filiations between analyst and trainee acquire an additional significance, for in addition to involving conscious and unconscious processes at highly charged transferential and counter-transferential levels, they will themselves be an object of study during and after training, and their outcome, whether in the form of a resolution or not, will have an influence on the current and future work of both analyst and analysand.

Akin to and as powerful asindeed repeatingcharacteristics of family life, such filiations have held the psychoanalytic community together as often as, when excessively active, they have threatened to tear it apart. Consequently, knowledge of the extent, nature and resolution of such psychoanalytic filiations is important for an understanding of individual psychoanalysts as well as of the movement as a whole.

Historically, psychoanalytic filiations preceded other forms of preparation for and involvement in psychoanalytic work (study of theory and work under supervision), and their explosive nature, particularly when not attended to psychoanalytically, showed in early dissensions and breakaways, as well as in expressions of excessive loyalty. But though seen by Freud and some early analysts as potentially too powerful, they did not lead to the adoption of a personal analysis as an obligatory part of training, but instead to the foundation in 1910 of international media (the International Psychoanalytical Association [IPA], the Zeitschrift, and congresses) to coordinate and assist local groups and coordinate the defense of psychoanalysis against outside critics. In fact, by the time the Secret Committee was formed (1912), only two of its members (Sandor Ferenczi and Ernest Jones) had had themselves been analyzed (and Ferenczi's plan that all should be analyzed by Freud was not realized). An analysis was not made an obligatory part of training until 1922. However, once accepted, it was clearly perceived both as a valuable support for trainees and as a potential threat to their independence, for which reason the Berlin training model, which the IPA was then (Homburg Congress 1925) accepting as its benchmark, stressed "the same analyst should not conduct the instructional analysis of the candidate and later supervise him in the practical part of his training."

As subsequent dissensions have shown, neither the Homburg nor any other principles have been able to prevent periodic recurrences of destruction or adulation within the psychoanalytic family. On the contrary, whether or not in the grip of unresolved problems, some training analysts have continued to create proselytes, and some trainees continue to use their psychoanalytic genealogy as legitimization of their own position and work, or as a weapon against others. On the other hand, since the institution of a personal analysis as an obligatory part of training, members of various groups have increasingly been able to explore disagreements, tolerate differences, and establish working alliances across divisions, both at local level, through the IPA, and by measures such as exchange lectures, transfer of analysts, international conferences, and discussions at many levels about matters at times highly controversial.

However, openness at the level of psychoanalytic filiations remains a problem, not least because of a tendency in some analysts as well as some archivists, editors, and historians to withhold or misrepresent such highly personal information either in part or as a whole, typically with references to propriety or confidentiality. As a result, a crucial area of knowledge has not only been left open to speculation, but has been used by supporters and opponents of psychoanalysis alike to idealize or demonize institutions or individuals, to drive psychoanalytic thinking in the direction of dogma and petrifaction, and turn the writing of its history into an ideological act.

The problem of how, if at all, to use such information as can be obtained, remains. Clearly, simply refusing to consider it, either because it is incomplete or too difficult, is not an option for psychoanalysts who, by the same token, would indeed brand their profession as an impossible one. On the other hand, any decision on the part of psychoanalytic institutions to bring about change would be controversial, as it would involve the suspension of strict adherence to the principle of confidentiality where analysts and their trainees are concerned.

Obviously, disclosure of details about past and present psychoanalytic filiations, perhaps even by putting the information into a database for psychoanalytic practitioners and historians to use, would greatly assist understanding and research, and it is encouraging that several present-day scholars seem interested in such a project. Naturally, only whenin each casethe effects of a person's psychoanalytic filiations have been validated, can they be truly useful to serious historians of psychoanalysis. The inevitable consequencethat there will also be richer pickings for the prurientneed deter no one, as experience shows that nothing inhibits speculation more than disclosure of facts, and that in cases where that does not work, nothing short of a thorough personal analysis will.

Paul Ries

See also: History and psychoanalysis; Training of psychoanalysts; Transference.


Falzeder, Ernst (1994). The threads of psycho-analytic filiations, or, psycho-analysis taking effect. In 100 years of psycho-analysis. Contributions to the history of psychoanalysis (André Haynal and Ernst Falzeder, Eds.; pp. 169-194). Karnac: London.

Ferenczi, Sándor (1911). On the organisation of the psychoanalytic movement. In Final contributions to the problems and methods of psycho-analysis (Michael Balint, Ed.; pp. 299-307). New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Freud, Sigmund (1914d). On the history of the psychoanalytical movement. SE, 14: 7-66.

Granoff, Wladimir (1975). Filiations. L'avenir du complexe d'Oedipe. Paris: LesÉditions de Minuit.

Mijolla Alain de (1992). France 1893-1965. In Psychoanalysis international. A guide to psycho-analysis throughout the world. Volume 1: Europe (Peter Kutter, Ed.; pp. 66-113). Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzbog.