Alexandra Billinghurst's Opening Speech at the Boston Congress 2015
It is quite a feeling to be here with all of you in Boston.
Stefano and I have now been in office two years and it has been such an experience. I can say that it has been as rewarding and productive as it has been hectic.
Getting to work with and meet psychoanalysts and candidates from so many areas of the world is such a treat.
The role of IPA is to spread knowledge about psychoanalysis, support and promote psychoanalysis as a science —both for us as individuals and for the field as a whole and to promote the birth of new psychoanalysts. This is really what I have personally been immersed in most concretely these last two years specifically in the preparations for this congress, working with our communications and with the important mission of International New Groups.
So the congress is finally here! Stefano and I had a vision of a congress that would not be too expensive and that would give ample chances to meet and exchange thoughts in a relaxed and inspiring venue. A sort of campus setting. When it comes to the first part, keeping down the costs, it may seem that we fell short, and yes, it is much more expensive than we had wished. But this is the reality we face in arranging such a large congress in the United States. But believe me when I say we have done all we can to keep the costs down and the registration fee has actually been partly subsidized.
But to the second point, I really feel that we’ve succeeded in creating the atmosphere we wanted to see here in a very welcoming Boston and this beautiful venue. Our heartfelt thanks to the fantastic work of the programme committee, the Broomhills staff, Geber and Reusch and the Local arrangements committee.
And of course it is also now up to all of us to take that chance to meet, share with, learn from, and inspire one another.
I’ve been speaking a lot about the Boston Groups during this last year and the few months leading up to the congress. Mentioning it now feels almost like dangling candy in front of children who can’t have any, because if you didn’t sign up for the Boston groups you can’t be part of it now. But of course I want to tell you that we do have 20 Boston groups, which have been communicating online before the congress and will now meet after each Keynote slot. Each group seems to have acquired a personality of its own.Now they’ll have the chance to talk in an intimate setting with their own room here at the congress for three days. The Boston Groups are a new idea for the IPA Congress, and I’m so curious to see how it works out.
These last two years I’ve had the pleasure to work with a fantastic team in the Boston Program Committee chaired by Sergio Nick and with Dieter Burgin representing Europe, Claudia Borenstein representing Latin America, Harriet Bassechets representing North America and Marco Posadas representing IPSO. They are not only very hard working, smart and creative, but also warm and full of humor. We’ve had a good time both face-to-face and online.
Our last meeting here in Boston turned into quite an adventure, as part of the team had to leave early due to a gigantic snow storm, kind of hard to imagine today. I’ll miss working with you! Looking at the program before of us, I think the outcome of this work is fantastic. I know Sergio will tell you more about the program.
One of the principal aims Stefano and I have for our term is to bring IPA closer to the members. As you may have noticed, we have avoided scheduling anything in the same slot as the business meeting as we really hope to see all of the members there. The business meeting might sound dry, but in fact it is a unique opportunity to meet and hear more of what is happening in the organization and share thoughts and ideas about our community
This year we are starting a new tradition and will welcome all those who have joined IPA since the Prague Congress in 2013. Also new is that the presentation of the Video Award will take place there. We also have a tribute to Robert Wallerstein. These two items are open to everyone and will be held at the beginning of the business meeting. So please do join us there!
The theme of the congress is Changing World.
The fact that we are living in a changing world also has an effect on our congresses. I think for many of us, going to the international congresses has meant that we could speak about clinical matters in a way that is not possible at home. But with our changing world we are all suddenly connected, with audio and video recorders on every cell phone and with social media seducing us into sacrificing privacy. In that way, the congress is not as safe a place as it once was.
Confidentiality is at the core of our profession. It is the knowledge that what is said in the consulting room remains there that makes psychoanalysis the powerful tool that it is. Gaining the trust of our patients and creating that room with four walls that do not leak.
At the same time we live with the paradox that it is the exchange of clinical thinking paired with the theoretical that brings our science forward. I would say that it is clinical material that gets most of us going and that develops our thinking further. Recording during the congress is of course strictly forbidden. To protect confidentiality at the last congress, some sessions were only open to members. We have chosen not to close sessions this time. Instead, for the clinical sessions we will have confidentiality forms to be signed in each room.
But I think the matter of confidentiality really deserves some underlining in general. In a way I think we take it for granted but it is a matter that has to be kept constantly in mind and refreshed - as is ethics. And confidentiality is challenged in ways that we might not think of in our changing world with its new technology and communication tools. As for example the use of email. It is so easy to send off an email, Many patients write to us without thinking how wide open to others an email can be.
But I think the value, and actually the right of having a secret room is something we should also transmit to our patients and to others.
As I said, one role of IPA is to spread knowledge about psychoanalysis. One way of doing this is through the website and I want to mention here the fantastic remake of our website that has been done by the Website committee chaired by Romolo Petrini. The website speaks for itself so I just invite you all to go there and look for yourself if you haven’t already done so.
I would also like to mention the work of the Member Communication Services Committee chaired by Prudy Gourgechon. I am very excited about the IPA Resource Library for Outreach and Public Information that will be launched soon. The committee has also arranged three workshops at this congress that I would like to put to your attention:
Finding a Voice: Websites and Blogs
Psychoanalysts as Public Intellectuals/Twitter
In the rearrangement of the communication area we created what we call the Image Task Force, Chaired by Angela Mauss Hanke,
to give us a chance to reflect on how psychoanalysis is viewed by others and what we do ourselves when it comes to producing an image of psychoanalysis. The work of the task force is very interesting and you have a chance to learn more about their work in the panel IMAGES OF PSYCHOANALYSIS
We have also created a new Public Information Committee, chaired by David Szydlo. It is very early in its life, but it has already started to get to grips with what the IPA can do to help make psychoanalysis more accessible to the public - the people who will be our future patients and the next generation of psychoanalysts. While we will try not to do things which could be done so much more effectively by societies (in their own languages and sensitive to their own cultures), we will try to provide resources and opportunities to promote psychoanalysis more effectively.
That same purpose underlies the work of the Social Media Task Force, chaired by Alejandro Nagy. Social media - things like Facebook and Twitter - are much more embedded in some cultures than others, but we would be foolish to ignore the opportunities for mass communication offered by these new tools. Our Task Force has therefore been experimenting with different social media, and exploring what works best in that world that can seem so alien to many of us, but which to our children and grandchildren seems like an extension of their personal social worlds. And that topic is, of course, one that is very relevant to this Congress in Boston, a practical example of the changing worlds in which we are living.
Another area and committee I have had the pleasure of working closely with is International New Groups chaired by Maria Teresa Hook.
As I said the aim of IPA is to support the birth of new psychoanalysts. There has been a lot of talk about psychoanalysis being out of fashion and it might be true in some areas that other therapeutic forms have come into fashion but really the interest of psychoanalysis is strong and especially in new areas like the Eastern European countries, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. I think there might be a misunderstanding by some that the IPA goes on a mission to new areas but actually it is the other way around. It is in the rules that when a group wishes to form a new psychoanalytic society the ING has to consider it. So really what is happening is that we are being called upon. There is a hunger for psychoanalysis and enthusiasm that brings IPA to new areas
The work of those who are assigned the role of sponsors to new study groups is a big responsibility, extremely important and very complex.
It is not only a question of teaching psychoanalysis,
transmitting psychoanalytic thinking and helping build a psychoanalytic identity. You have also to help the study group form a society with it’s different components, forming a board, a teaching committee, ethics committee, scientific committee and so on. Creating by laws and rules and do it in such a way that you build a democratic structure in its true sense.
This is complex in itself. Then you also have to understand the local culture and how that local culture, its history and regime, that is the local external reality, influences the internal reality, the dynamics of the group.
At the same time the sponsoring committee has to maintain a position where it is possible to reflect on the dynamics in the group and in the sponsoring committee itself.
That is maintaining the position of the third in the middle of the strong emotional pressure and transference from the members of the study group.
As a sponsor you also have to remember that you are not representing yourself but the IPA and to transmit to the new group the IPA culture.
I think you can hear how this focus of group and organization dynamics that Stefano and I have put emphasis on is also very relevant in this work and something that the ING Committee is taking seriously and working actively with. Transmitting to the sponsors and on to the members of the study group the understanding of how group dynamics influence the work in the study group.
The complexity in the role of sponsoring the support and knowledge transmittance from the ING Committee is very important. The ING has started meeting with all the sponsors personally to hear about their experiences and get a feeling for each study group as well as connecting the sponsors to share their experiences together.
The ING Committee is doing a fantastic job and I want to thank all on the committee and all the individual sponsors who gives so much of their own time to this important work.
We can see the result of all this work at this congress as we have:
The Taiwan Centre for the Development of Psychoanalysis is now the Taiwan Study Group.
The Study Group of Turkey is now Psike Provisional Society.
The Minas Gerais Psychoanalytic Study Group (Belo Horizonte, Brazil ) is now a Provisional Society.
The Psychoanalytic Society for Research and Psychoanalytic Training SPRF (Paris) is now a Component Society.
The Moscow Psychoanalytical Society is now a Component Society.
The Psychoanalytic Society of Serbia is now Interim Provisional Psychoanalytic Society of Serbia.
I have had the pleasure of travelling to Japan, China and India to learn more about the state of psychoanalysis there in this last year. Asia contains both old and new societies and societies in the making and it was so nice to get to see the psychoanalytic work there and get to know the colleagues in Asia.
If you are interested in hearing more of the development in new areas there are three panels that would be of interest.
The Opening of Psychoanalysis to New Countries and New Cultures: A Perspective from Eastern Europe, Latin America and China. (Douglass Room - Westin)
Living in a Changing world: Reflections on the Use of Skype in Psychoanalysis. (Lighthouse 1 Room – Seaport)
Development of Psychoanalysis in the Asian Context. (Lighthouse 2 Room – Seaport)
As I said before it is now up to all of us to take that chance to meet, share with, learn from, and inspire one another.
Before I left Stockholm I talked to a young student who was so full of enthusiasm as she had started to really understand the subject of transference counter transference. Her happy enthusiasm reminded me of my own curiosity and enthusiasm when I entered this field and I now hope we will all find that sense of enthusiasm and wonder as we spend these coming days together.