Inaugural speech by President Stefano Bolognini and Vice-President Alexandra Billinghurst

This speech was presented at the IPA Congress in Prague August 2013


     Dear Colleagues,

I imagine there is a certain curiosity about who we are, we the new administration, and what our plans are for the future of the IPA. We are here today to tell you.

First, however, allow me to express our thanks to our Czech colleagues, who have welcomed us to this beautiful “mitteleuropaeische” city, so miraculously preserved in spite of wars and dictatorships (much the same as psychoanalysis! ...) allowing us to rediscover the atmosphere of the origins.

It was near here, in Pribor, that Freud was born, and it is from here, 157 years later, that we set out once more towards our future.

Even though this speech is part of traditional protocol on these occasions, on a more informal note, I wish to openly express to you all how deeply moved and honoured I feel to be taking on these institutional functions, together with the Vice-President Alexandra Billinghurst, the Treasurer Juan Carlos Weissmann and the Representatives of the IPA Board.

I express our shared gratitude for the trust you have placed in us, and our desire to work with the utmost commitment to develop psychoanalysis and the IPA, this great association that has united us for over a century from so many points of view: historical, scientific, educational, professional, organizational and identitary.

We feel a sense of continuity with the values of those generations of officers who have preceded us, and we will combine our analytic passion and our love for this "shared home" of ours with the sense of responsibility that is needed to manage such a large, well-structured and prestigious institution.

Since the time available to us - here today - is limited and this is an immensely valuable opportunity to convey to you all, in person, our overall vision, inspirational principles and at least some details of our plans for the future, I will come straight to the point in addressing some fundamental issues.


We live in an era that is profoundly different from the ones that came before, characterized by a speed of information and communication that has completely transformed the way we relate to one another.

In a few short years, there have been radical changes in political and educational systems, in the pace of everyday life, in sexual habits, in agreements for the cohabitation and separation of couples, families and work groups, in the core values shared by different communities, in the new social characterizations and multi-stratifications, as well as the increasingly diversified and dynamically interactive cultural and ethnic identities.

It is by no means a coincidence that we have decided to entitle the next IPA congress in Boston 2015: "Changing world. The shape and the use of psychoanalytic tools today".

While our era offers extraordinary, positive opportunities, it also exposes us to undeniable risks in terms of identitary confusion, loss of contact with reality and consequent imbalances or reactive defensive entrenchment. It is an era with fewer wars in the developed world, but with rampant, far-reaching destructiveness that is now chronic, tied to drugs, terrorism and legalized, commercialized perversions.
The attack on thought has taken on new forms, more sophisticated than the generically repressive ones that prevailed in the past.

The balance of power between the Super-Ego and the other agencies, on both a social and intrapsychic level, appears to encounter new imbalances, different to those explored at the beginning of psychoanalysis. New pathologies present themselves in our consultation rooms, requiring a level of understanding and continuous theoretical and technical adaptation that is not always easy for the analyst.

The acceptance of physiological dependence, in analysis as in life in general, has diminished, perhaps as a result of defenses and the different investments and narcissistic organizations in a world in which the basic objects are missing or disappear, mainly for reasons of work, much earlier than in the past, with respect to the primary physiological fusionality and the continuity of relations necessary to babies.

The duration and rhythms of treatment today are jeopardized by these new defenses and it is not uncommon that, in many cases, analysts have to begin treatment with a reduced frequency, to then lead the patient progressively towards a regular analytic regime suited to their needs and to the method.

The experiences of omnipotence fostered by the virtual sphere and the ease of remote communications open up new possibilities, but they also raise new methodological interrogatives for psychoanalysts, who are faced with requests for treatment over the phone or Skype, the credibility and limitations of which are now the subject of heated theoretical-clinical debate.

Recognition of the validity of psychoanalysis is challenged in the ministerial decisions of many countries. Universities seem to dedicate an overwhelming number of teaching posts to behaviourist schools, and competition from professional psychotherapeutic associations, with much lower training and professional standards than those of the IPA, is ubiquitous and pervasive.

Despite all this, the positive resources that are available to psychoanalysis and the IPA are such as to allow us a feeling of well-founded regard for ourselves, our method and our future.

We are sustained by the strength of the psychoanalytic idea: by the evidence of the existence of the unconscious, of transference, of defenses, of the process and the transformations that are set in motion when two people meet regularly and learn to work together to develop thoughts, affects and shared exchanges, within a regime of cognitive and relational honesty.

We are sustained by the strength of experience, which for each one of us has its roots in a personal analytic story that, more often than not, has changed our lives.

Yes, psychoanalysis has changed our lives as human beings, and this is something far too intense to be forgotten or denied or lost: like a new complex instinct, this experience naturally leads us to provide listening, attunement, resonance, understanding, shared work and interpretative formulation, from generation to generation.

Much like parents who, having been cared for and nurtured as children, love to care for and nurture their newborns.

We are sustained by a tremendous wealth of research and theoretical and clinical knowledge, passed down for over a century now.
Some oft-repeated citations in our papers, which refer to the thinking of a certain genius born not far from here in 1856, do not help us to climb the ranks of the “impact factors”, but they reward us with a “compact factor” effect that unites our scientific community: like a single trunk that supports the foliage of a flourishing and many-branched tree, yet one that is sure of its origin and its solid roots.

We are sustained by the international nature of our organization, one that is unique in ensuring extraordinary opportunities in terms of contacts, debate and continuous collaboration for analysts across all the continents.

In this part of the speech, Stefano Bolognini handed over to Vice-President Alexandra Billinghurst to present her speech:

   I would like to start by sharing with you something that happened to me at the Joseph Sandler conference in March.

I was listening to Bernard Reith, who was in a most magnificent way discussing two very good and very, very different papers, by Alessandra Lemma and by Johannes Lehtonen. He had just, with his body conveyed to us what it felt like to try to do that, like doing the splits. He then referred back to a presentation the evening before by Mark Solms and was saying ”I was happy to hear Mark Solms refer to das ding”.  At that very moment I hear myself translating the beginning of that sentence to Spanish. “Fue contento escuche Mark Solms..”. I wondered to myself why on earth I suddenly jumped into Spanish. Here I have to let you know that since I visited Buenos Aires and Montevideo in October last year I have been studying Spanish, in fact it has been a passion of mine that has given me much pleasure. I had indeed been doing a lot of translating in my mind at that point but this was the first time Spanish had entered my mind during the conference. So I wondered why it did just then. I thought of what Bernard had just said and was doing, he was trying to encompass two very different papers, and to help us do the same. The moment he, in doing so, brings in a third, from the evening before, my mind decides to translate. He showed us spatially what it felt like to him and then brought in time, in referring to a third, a third who had himself been bridging theory and neuroscience, bridging 1923 and 2013. So at that moment my mind decides to convey to me one reason for why learning Spanish had become my passion at the moment it did. I realized my passion for learning Spanish is a very concrete way of, in myself, preparing to bridge all the different ways of being and of seeing psychoanalysis in IPA.

Me bathing in Spanish was preparing me for sitting here, next to Stefano with you today. And for, together with Stefano, sit at the head of the table with the new board here in Prague tomorrow.

IPA is in itself a very complicated organization. It houses 12000 members in 63 countries divided into three regions. The geography of IPA could be worth a comment in itself but I won’t go there now. It has 70 component societies, 6 provisional societies and 19 study groups, three models of training, many many ways of viewing what psychoanalysis is, many different cultures and 4 official languages. This itself indicates that working in IPA is a constant work of translation and of building bridges.


As we study to become psychoanalysts each and every one of us has to make the theories our own. Once we have done so we can start defining and refining our thoughts in dialogue with another. We are hopefully given the space to do so in an environment with a high ceiling in the society that gave us our education.
We are molded by our mother societies and start out viewing psychoanalysis from our local perspective. If and when we go to international congresses we get a chance to discover how psychoanalytic practice, it’s reality in society and it’s theoretical differences can vary in different areas and to discover what unites psychoanalysis over and between different countries.

That is what is so unique about IPA. It can be a true meeting place, not only a place to learn from the experts among us but for each and everyone to meet and exchange ideas. At the same time the mere size of our organization and of our congresses can be overwhelming and work against us getting to know others.

But a true meeting place is a picture of how both Stefano and I would like to see IPA as you will soon hear when Stefano presents our plans.

When Stefano asked me if I would run with him we did not know each other very well at all. We had seen each other in action at the EPF Council where we both sat as presidents of our societies.

It was the way he described to me the kind of leadership he envisioned and the visions he had for IPA that made me accept his invitation to run with him. So the two years leading up to this day has been a period of getting to know him. And the more I interact with him the more impressed I have become with his very humble stance, his mild force and his wisdom.

We live in a time when psychoanalysis is viewed as being under attack. It has also been termed the crisis of psychoanalysis. And yes, psychoanalysis is questioned in many a place. But I think we have to make ourselves aware and be careful in what words and metaphor’s we use when we talk about this situation. If, for example we use the word defend as in “defending psychoanalysis”, what does that imply and what does it do to ourselves in the communication with the other? To me in using the word defend it implies defending something static. If I instead say “stand up for” it gives a different image in my mind.

I would like to point out, and as others have said, the mere fact that psychoanalysis is being questioned implies that psychoanalysis is valued as something to define oneself against. The questioning of psychoanalysis actually also gives us the chance to further define and refine our own theories. One challenge we have is to translate our psychoanalytic thinking into a language that can be understood by others, to enable a dialogue. The coming years one of the things we hope to do is to make psychoanalysis have a voice in psychiatry again. Psychiatry needs our perspective and I think that one of the ways of doing that is for us to translate our knowledge to a language that can be understood, that can enable a dialogue anew, with those that question us, those that define themselves by opposing psychoanalysis. I think that if we carefully reflect on how we think and speak, what metaphors we use, if we ourselves are ready to vary our perspective in how we stand up for psychoanalysis, we may have a very good chance of being listened to.

There is a sad trend that many societies are splitting. This is probably an effect of not being able to bridge differences in thinking. It becomes an unbridgeable difference instead of a defining and refining dialogue with another.

It is my hope that IPA can help societies enable integration processes to avoid further splitting. To ensure that societies remain healthy and open to a positive development, rather than staying static, I think requires for the societies to reflect on their own organization. But this requires courage just as it requires courage to enter in to psychoanalysis for our patients. Here I think IPA can play a supportive role.

I have found that IPA for many members is perceived as something distant. Unless you are involved in the organization or come to the congresses IPA is something far away. One of the things that Stefano and I are hoping to do is make IPA feel meaningful and closer for more members.

As I mentioned earlier we envision IPA as a meeting place. One of the ways we hope to do this is how we plan for the next congress that will take place in Boston in 2015. We have found a beautiful venue that architecturally presents a wonderful area for meeting, with meeting rooms with lots of natural light with a feeling of “high ceilings” that promote reflection. We also plan for a new form of small group discussions that we hope will enable meetings between members from different parts of the world.

I would like to end this by sharing a poem with you. In doing so I also share with you a tradition that comes from my mother society and Arne Jemstedt who would always end our annual meetings with a poem when he was president.

The poem is written by John Wipp, it is originally in Swedish.

You will hear it three times, in Swedish, in English and in Spanish. In my mother tongue, in my second language and in the language I am getting to know.  I have done the translation into English and I played with translating it into Spanish after which I had help from my multilingual assistant Andreas Silva who corrected it for me. I have asked for the simultaneous translators to not translate while I read in order to let you hear the sound of Swedish but I will pause to let them translate in the end before giving the word back to Stefano

Låt mörkret inom mig,
för mig
bli synligt

Som dammens botten    
när jag med handen
skymmer himlaljuset    

för att inte ytan     
skall spegla

som ljusa      
spegelbilden döljer     

lever. Förvandlas     
under blanka hinnor    
som jag måste se igenom    


Let the darkness
within me, for me
be visible

Like the bottom of the pond
as I with my hand
screen the light from above

so as not the surface
shall mirror
the deapth of the sky

The deapth
which the light
reflection conceal

lives. Transforms
under shiny membranes
which I have to see through

Deje la oscuridad
dentro de mi, para mi
hacerse visible

Como el fondo de la charca
cuando yo con mi mano
tapo la luz del cielo

para que la superficie no
la profundidad del cielo

La profundidad
que la clara
reflexión oculta

vive. Transformándose
debajo de membranas brillantes
que mi vista tiene que atravesar

John Wipp, Blick, 1996


And now I give the word back to Stefano.


   The IPA, established by Freud in 1910, is the shared home of psychoanalysts from all over the world.

The IPA headquarters at Broomhills, with its highly qualified specialist staff, managed by the Executive Director, Paul Crake, gives us all the support we need to deliver a coherent organisation; this enables us to make the most of all the skills and talents of the IPA’s members.

Our Administration, like those that have preceded us, intends to preserve the spirit and the general functions of the IPA, but not in a way that is fossilized.

For this precise reason, we have planned a number of innovative developments and improving changes geared towards keeping the association efficient, representative, and beneficial to its members, the communities it addresses, and those it could potentially address, as well as to the institutions that could work together with the IPA in a fruitful way.

And, precisely, towards strengthening it in a changing world.

These developments and changes are the subject of our presentation today, so that we can share with you the overall vision that characterizes these plans.

Our vision is that of psychoanalysis as a living organism, one that has to relate to the outside world but also to its own inner world. One that keeps the essence of psychoanalytic thought intact, but that is open to the transformations suggested by the progress of scientific knowledge; one that is capable of transforming itself in an intelligent way (so as to enjoy a long life, in both a selective-Darwinian and genetically transformative-Neo-Lamarckian sense).

1) Communication Plan 

We have decided to reorganize the communications system for our psychoanalytic community, both internally and externally to the Association. We are exploring how to present ourselves more effectively to the outside world (one of our leitmotifs is: “If the psychoanalysis-object does not present itself, the subject does not know where to find it”) and how to enhance communications between our Members with regard to all of the activities carried out, to achieve a collective participation that produces not only information but also a sense of community belonging.

Of course, these changes will take into account both the need for information and transparency and the absolute need for legal correctness and respect of the confidentiality rules, which change from year to year.

More specifically, we aim to improve links between the various areas of the organization, for example by connecting together many of the Committees, in a sort of necessary synaptic network that is broader, more efficient and capable of a richly integrated mental life.

2) The website as a mental field for the psychoanalytic community.

The website is not a bulletin board for messages: it is a living expression of the scientific, cultural and interactive life of contemporary psychoanalysis.

Our desire is to stimulate and build curiosity, pleasure and interest in visiting the website: not only among Members, but among all those who are in search of useful elements to give a non-superficial meaning to their personal and cultural experiences, by reading a variety of clear and carefully considered articles.

We think of it - the "public" part that is - as a "complex magazine", which represents psychoanalysis in a non-academic way and encourages further reading and contacts.

Part of it will be interactive, with blogs and discussion forums in constant evolution. We have the people, the technical tools and the ideas to do it, and it would be such a shame not to use these resources and this opportunity.

3) Intersight in Education

Just like an intelligent and complex organism, psychoanalysis must continually reflect on the flow of expertise to the new generations of analysts.

Our aim is to ensure a serious and frank discussion between the various societies with regard to their training, so that IPA membership is not based solely on formal and/or quantitative criteria, and that the experiences and specific characteristics of the various psychoanalytic schools are better known and become the object of shared knowledge.

I personally think that only a true, in-depth debate can mark the difference between a scientific community and a religious community, distinguishing what is recognized as truly essential, on the one hand, from what is experienced as sacred, on the other.

We have to preserve “the real gold” of Psychoanalysis, without falling into the prison of the “castle” that Franz Kafka so effectively depicted in his unforgettable novel.

4) Children and Adolescents

In our view, this area also requires special care and continuous confrontation between the various psychoanalytic societies.
We consider this extremely important, both for the future of psychoanalysis and for the future of the new generations. Aside from the specific treatment of many individuals and despite recurring criticisms and controversies in the media, we know how powerfully psychoanalysis influences contemporary culture, and especially the style of raising children and adolescents, in the majority of advanced societies.

In addition to all the traumatic situations that life offers, we must take note of many new "statistically normal abnormalities", such as the breakdown of families and systematic misuse of TV, cartoons and Playstations for the purposes of entertainment, which has provoked an excess of substitute fantasies in children at the expense of creative and anticipatory imagination.

The collective tragedy of unrecognized or mistreated mental suffering in childhood demands our responsibilization as analysts in support of a more appropriate culture and a more competent practice and presence in helping children and their caregivers.

We do think the IPA has the duty “to be there consistently”, both for scientific and humanitarian reasons, and we will certainly strengthen our investment in this area.

5) Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry

We intend to invest considerable energy in reopening the once-thriving dialogue between psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

This crucial sector has been witness to a paradoxical situation in many countries: many psychiatrists turn to psychoanalysis for help on a personal level, for themselves and for their families, and many psychiatric teams actually use the institutional supervisions provided by psychoanalysts.

However, these partnerships remain a split area from an institutional and educational point of view because, both in terms of university teaching and in public services, the psychoanalytic presence is either ignored or openly opposed.

We have asked Professor Claudio Eizirik to organize and chair a specific Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry Sub-Committee, with the help of distinguished colleagues working in that field, in partnership with the University and Psychoanalysis Committee and with the Research colleagues. We are confident that we can rebuild a bridge between psychoanalysis and the public area that deals with mental illness.

It is absurd that choosing psychoanalytically inspired treatment is a last resort for so many people who could have benefited from it enormously from the outset of their journey as patients, amidst hospital admissions and massive, not always appropriate, doses of psychopharmacological drugs.

Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts can recognize their specific areas of expertise, to work together in the fight against mental illness: a field where there is room for everyone and where there is a need for mutual support.

6) Research: connecting IPA membership and researchers

A complete reorganization of the Research area has been studied with the new Chair Mark Solms: the central idea was to simplify the structure by having a central Research Executive and three sub-areas: Conceptual, Clinical and Extra-Clinical.

The method of working will be much more proactive than now, inviting applications based on a consideration of the research priorities, rather than waiting to receive applications and then assessing them.

Three other key points will be:

1) constant contact between the IPA Board and the Research Executive, also to suggest possible areas of interest or need that require the development of specific research projects;

2) a continuous flow of information to Members about the research activities they are funding, through a specific research area on the IPA website;

3) the possibility of interactive communication, again via the website, between IPA members and researchers.

In essence, since the economic efforts of the IPA in support of Research are substantial (around 20% of the total budget), it seems only right that IPA Members are regularly informed about the activities carried out in this field, and that they also have the opportunity to express their opinions constructively with regard to those activities.

7) The IPA/REGIONS Electronic Journal

Having enjoyed for many years now a most fruitful partnership on equal terms with the PIEE and ILAP training institutes, the Regional Organizations EPF, FEPAL and NAPSAC (supported by APsaA) have decided to partner together for a new publishing enterprise, as part of a similarly equal and co-responsible "joint venture".

The "IPA/REGIONS E-JOURNAL", a supranational scientific body (owned neither by a society nor by private individuals, but by the institutions mentioned earlier), is currently undergoing study by a special Committee made up of institutional representatives and technicians, who will prepare a plan to be implemented in a short time.

This idea has gathered a vast consensus as it did seem paradoxical that, despite an international psychoanalytic institution having existed for over a century now, the community did not have its own journal to represent it fully and impartially.

This new journal will be very different from the already-existing, long-standing journals and will be committed to ensuring the absolute internationality of its editorial management, including policies of editorship rotation and representations of all countries at all levels.

If, as seems certain now, we can succeed in carrying through this complex new initiative, it will be an enterprise our partner organizations can be proud of, culturally and scientifically balanced, open to contributions from the different schools of thought, centrally independent and politically supranational.

8) The IPA Encyclopedic Psychoanalytic Dictionary

Finally, we believe that the time is ripe to embark upon another great scientific endeavour: the preparation of an IPA PSYCHOANALYTIC DICTIONARY.

There are many excellent dictionaries of psychoanalysis, but the IPA (and, in our opinion, only the IPA, at this time) has the human resources, the scientific potential and the cultural articulation to create an extraordinarily complete and advanced one that is truly representative of the various theoretical trends and schools in the psychoanalytic world.

A work of this magnitude requires not only an extensive knowledge of psychoanalysis, past and present, but also considerable editorial and organizational skills: it will not be the work of a few - however valuable - researchers, but of several coordinated work groups.

The goal is to provide all psychoanalysts and all psychotherapists who work psychoanalytically with a truly international and up-to-date tool for consultation and reference, of superior quality and "wide scope", which represents both the "trunk" and the "branches" of the psychoanalytic tree, as it has grown from Freud to the present day.



All of these ideas can become realities if we are able to work together, in partnership with our colleagues from the various Regions.

 Personally, like most of you, I spend a lot of time in clinical work with patients, in contact with both their inner life and my own: clinical work is the true core of analysis; there we find depth, precious, partial timelessness, the immense potential of psychoanalysis, with its “secret passages” that open inner doors and allow recoveries, transformations and integrations that would otherwise be impossible.

However, for a long time now I have also been used to working with colleagues: in my Society, in the Working Parties, in the IPA Board and, like many of you, I have dedicated a substantial part of my energies to our psychoanalytic community.

 As we all know well, each one of us draws inspiration and strength, in a more or less conscious way, from our own personal “urszene”, the scenario of our origins: each one of us has our own Pribor, which we can achieve (if things progress well enough, and if Kafka’s castle doesn’t imprison us) our own Berggasse, our own Gesellschaft and, finally, the International Association.

 My initial world was centered around the large kitchen of an old house in the hills near Bologna, where every evening my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and siblings would gather together under an oak architrave dating back to the fifteenth century.

My world today does not negate these origins, on the contrary it brings them back to life here, in this great scientific and professional community that also works to integrate the old separation experiences and the further developments attained first through school, then through university, specialist hospitals, seminars and conferences.

My oak architrave today is Psychoanalysis: under it our many languages and cultures are an inexhaustible wealth of resources and we will work together to ensure that the IPA really is a home for all psychoanalysts, in the outer reality but especially in the inner one.