IPA 51st Congress, Buenos Aires July 29, 2017
President Virginia Ungar's inaugural speech
Good evening everyone. This is a very special moment for me. I feel deeply moved and immensely grateful for the vote of confidence I was given by the analysts of the three IPA regions, and I am greatly honored to be the first woman to hold this office. An array of memories from different stages in my life come to mind: memories of my family, of myself at 18, starting analysis, of my beginnings as an analyst, and of my teachers, above all, Horacio Etchegoyen, who was the first Latin American president of the IPA and who had confidence in my ability to occupy this position.
I am aware of the great responsibility involved in the task I’m undertaking, especially in view of the quality of the work carried out by those who came before me. Stefano Bolognini and Alexandra Billinghurst did a wonderful job in many ways. Just as an example, the creation of programs such as Psychoanalysis Today, the e-journal, and the Encyclopedic Dictionary. These initiatives promoted close collaboration among the three regions, strengthening their connection through concrete work projects. In addition, Stefano was extremely generous with Sergio and me. He invited us to participate in the everyday management work and consulted us about the decisions to be made, especially in the last year.
Our major goal for our institution is to foster its progress and development. We want to help it grow and to offer a space for reflection and debate, without abandoning the ethical principles of our profession. To fulfill this goal in the times we live in, we must be alert to the economic and sociocultural context of each country where we work. It is no longer possible to consider patients or analysts as isolated individuals who interact in the space of the consulting room. Rather, we are dealing with a dynamic field (described by Willy and Madeleine Baranger) that also interacts with the environment. For this reason, economic, social, and cultural transformations have critical consequences for psychoanalytic technique, clinical practice, and theory.
We were called to take the reins of the IPA at a time of exceptional changes that are happening at a very fast pace. In the second half of the twentieth century, we started experiencing global cultural transformations that have multiplied in quality and speed in the early twenty-first century. New technologies have changed our way of communicating and hence our way of relating. Smartphones have become an extension of our body and are now indispensable.
For many reasons, our relationship with our patients has also changed. The topic of this congress and of the previous one (in Boston) attest to these changes. As I stated in the paper I presented last Thursday, “we need intimacy as a space where to process emotions, where to manufacture dreams and symbols. This is what we can offer our patients, in some cases, so that they can recover the ability to think instead of act; in others, to help them develop their notion of intimacy based on the experience of thinking along with others, an experience they may never have undergone. For some of our patients, the only available space of intimacy is that of their analytic sessions.”
Epochal changes have also affected family models, the role of women, and the social acceptance of other sexualities, and have challenged the binary logic underlying gender classification. Technological progress has reached such levels, that parents are no longer needed to procreate. We could say that the sperm cell and the egg have become autonomous from the body. These transformations cannot but call into question key psychoanalytic concepts such as the Oedipus complex and the paternal function. Parent-children relations have also changed, in particular, the process of entering and leaving adolescence. At the same time, the uncertainty provoked by different global threats (terrorism and extreme climate phenomena, among others), forced migration, job insecurity, and impoverishment have also transformed psychoanalytic practice. We are seeing more and more patients with non-neurotic pathologies that require different devices and technical tools.
For all these reasons, Sergio Nick and I have outlined major areas on which we want to focus during our term. These are 1) the IPA’s connection with and presence in the community; 2) the role of child psychoanalysis in analytic training; 3) the creation of new groups; 4) the role of analysts in training; and 5) communication, both between the IPA and constituent organizations, and between the IPA and the membership. In this sense, we will take very seriously a question that many in our association have asked themselves: What does the IPA do for me and for all its members? Our treasurer, Andrew Brook, has drafted a very good document that provides some answers to this question. It has fourteen items, and I hope you will all help me add more to the list: click to read
I will briefly outline each of the five areas.
IPA Psychoanalysis in the Community
This is one of our main projects. The basic idea is to expand the field of psychoanalysis so that we can make the most of its potential. We all know that our training is focused on private practice. At the same time, the analytic method is a very valuable tool that has been tested and honed, yet sometimes it seems as though we had locked it in a glass dome. This does not mean that private practice has no future. On the contrary, in a culture like ours, we need to up the ante because, as I mentioned earlier, in many cases, our patients can only find an opportunity to develop an intimate space in the analytic session.
Our primary goal is to give IPA psychoanalysis the place it deserves. Our discipline has had a great impact on different spheres of social life: medicine (pediatrics in particular), education, and the legal system, to name a few. To bolster these effects, we must leave our consulting rooms and institutions and go where young professionals are working hard to tackle complex situations that include addiction, family violence, abuse, migration, and eating disorders. I am talking about departments of psychopathology and psychiatry, pediatric wards, community centers, schools, universities, and so on. We have looked into this matter and know that psychoanalysts are carrying out these types of activities around the world with different formats. What we would like to do is to develop this type of work further and increase the IPA’s presence in the society around us. We aren’t talking about Psychoanalysis and Society or Psychoanalysis and Culture, but rather about IPA Psychoanalysis in the Community.
Child Psychoanalysis and Analytic Training
Both Sergio and I are child analysts, and I served on the Committee on Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis (COCAP) since its establishment in 1998 until 2015, occupying different positions. Before COCAP was created, child analysis did not have a space of its own in the IPA structure. At IPA conferences we were only given a slot on Sunday. A few days ago I received a very warm email from Bob Tyson, where he recalled COCAP’s founding period. I’m very grateful to him for inviting me to work in favor of child analysis. The last IPA administrations made a lot of progress in this area, and we will follow their path.
I’m convinced that clinical work with children provides useful tools for psychoanalytic practice with patients of any age. It offers clues that help us work with the most primitive strata of the mind and access the non-verbal dimension of communication and the unrepresented. For this reason, I worked on the implementation of integrated training and will continue to promote it, as I am certain that incorporating child and adolescent psychoanalysis into traditional training is extremely enriching.
Regarding analytic training, we hope that during our term we will be able to delve more deeply into the study of all its aspects, namely, personal analysis, supervision (one of my favorite subjects), and the content of education programs. We want to know what psychoanalysis is being taught in the twenty-first century. While Freud’s teachings will always constitute the foundation of our knowledge, we would like to learn how widely known are all the different ideas that developed in their wake, and the similarities and differences among the training programs offered in different parts of the world. Moreover, we will continue to develop and promote spaces for debate and discussion on education in the various contexts where it occurs, as well as on the different approaches adopted in different latitudes. Technological tools allow us to hold meetings and teach seminars through diverse platforms that make it possible to bring psychoanalysis to places that are far from the big cities where established analysts may be found.
Speaking about education in psychoanalysis allows me to introduce a topic that I consider essential, which is
The Role of Analysts in Training
Candidates are indispensable for our institutions. I am sure that we all want them to receive the best possible training; it is our duty to ensure that they do. In this sense, we believe that it is crucial to nurture the strong relationship developed with IPSO and the regional candidate organizations. Analysts in training are not the future but the present of our institutions. They are pursuing a graduate degree, and we must treat them as graduates. Furthermore, we must give them the place they deserve. The learning process is mutual; we also learn a lot, indeed, from young professionals.
I’d like to give two examples:
Last year, OCAL (Latin American Candidates’ Organization) held a six-hour online meeting on The Body and Violence in three cities, Brasilia, Lima, and Guadalajara, with Buenos Aires as coordinator. Other cities joined later, among them, Matto Grosso do Sul, Asuncion, Mexico City, and Bogota. During the lunch break, participants ate empanadas in Buenos Aires, ceviche in Lima, and sushi in Brazil, and then they continued to discuss very interesting papers. The quality of the meeting was admirable, as was that of IPSO’s Mens Sana in Corpore Sano meetings in the Alps and in Uruguay. The organizers worked so hard that they had four hundred participants.
As I mentioned earlier, present-day transmission of psychoanalysis is a more horizontal process; teachers and students learn together. Young people have taught us that the IPA must be a container for difference and diversity. In this way, a climate of harmony and growth will be created that will foster ongoing debates that respect members’ various customs, traditions, and preferences. It is also important to “taste” what is consumed in other latitudes, which brings us to another item in our work plan:
Sergio and I are very clear about the importance of incorporating new societies into the IPA. Such growth brings new blood to our institution, and with it, new ideas and perspectives. This does not mean in any way that we will embark on an evangelization campaign or that we will let any group become part of our association. The incorporation process is thorough and demanding. Nevertheless, we believe that we can improve this process so that all the groups that want to join will experience it as a learning and enriching opportunity and that both parties will benefit from it. We will follow the example of the previous administration, which devoted much time and effort to this issue. To this end, the New Groups Committee will work closely with ILAP, EPI, and the recently created Asia Pacific Planning Committee.
Communication and Interaction among the Regions
As I mentioned earlier, we will support and strengthen the relationship with regional federations, as did the previous administration. We believe that enhancing communication among the regions is essential because it will increasingly enrich our practice and create a space for production and implementation of new ideas. To this end, we plan to organize interregional meetings. Sergio will talk more about this project.
Before giving him the floor, I would like to return to an issue that I consider critical to our way of thinking about the future of psychoanalysis, and hence about the future of the IPA. I’m basically optimistic, which doesn’t mean negating the reality of a world that promotes the prevalence of images, accelerated change, fleeting relationships, and superficial connections, and that is traversed by violence in all its forms. The enormous inequality of resources and opportunities we are witnessing and the painful question of uprootedness and forced migration are some of the phenomena typical of our times that seem to be here to stay. The news we receive is increasingly horrifying. Furthermore, as the first woman president of the IPA, I feel a strong commitment to the fight against violence against women. Here in Argentina we have a movement called NI UNA MENOS, Not One Woman Less, a collective cry against femicide that emerged on June 3, 2015. The first march in Buenos Aires gathered three hundred thousand people, and the movement spread nationwide and abroad.
Psychoanalysts lack the tools and the power to solve these problems. Nonetheless, I’m convinced that we have a lot to offer and that we can help and work alongside other professionals, forming teams and thinking together about issues as pressing as this one. Here in Latin America we experienced many atrocities during the military dictatorships, and many analysts were forced to leave. They went to Europe, North America, the north of Latin America, and other countries that welcomed them and helped them settle and find work. It’s time for us to reciprocate and join forces to find creative ways of contributing to relieving the pain of those who are forced to uproot themselves and adapt to new places. Child analysts can offer concrete help. I know of different projects that are already being implemented in Europe.
There is something ineffable about our work. We offer our patients our availability to contain different varieties of mental suffering. We help them to find their own desire and to dare to change, and we support them in their chosen path. Besides offering interpretations, we transmit a model, a receptive attitude – an attitude of search and reflection. I think that the most important thing is that this very special meeting that happens between two or more people within four walls in a regular, sustained way for several years is based on the fact that we can continue to be analysts as long as we maintain our passion for a job may bring joy but also pain. Perhaps we learn more from our failures than from our successes.
I hope to deserve the vote of confidence you have given me, and I commit to doing my best so that we can be productive, grow, and learn from others, and turn the IPA into a space that can contain difference and diversity. If we can do that, we will give the best example.
Thank you very much.