9th Delphi International Psychoanalytic Symposium: XENOS

9th Delphi International Psychoanalytic Symposium: XENOS
XENOS?(Argument 9th. Delphi Psychoanalytic Symposium)For full details 

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Theme: 9th. Delphi Psychoanalytic Symposium

The word Xenos in ancient Greek means the outsider, the other, the visitor. The meaning of the term was always ambiguous, depending on the different contexts in which it is used. Thus, it could imply either hostility or threat, or friendship and hospitality towards the visitor or the outsider. 

Concerning the concept of the Xenos in the psychoanalytical bibliography, some examples might suffice to show the multiplicity of its meanings. 

The concept of the Xenos was of fundamental importance in Freud thought from the beginning of his work. When, for example, he talks of the narcissistic injury that psychoanalysis brought upon man he writes “...the ego is not even the master of its own house but must content itself with scanty information of what is going on unconsciously in its mind”. In that way, man remains a Xenos onto himself. 

When he turns again to the concept of Xenos in his paper on the ‘Uncanny’ (das Unheimilich Freud 1919), the uncanny seems to be “frightening precisely because it is not?known and familiar”. But since what is unknown is not necessarily frightening, something must have been added in order to create fear; the return of the repressed? The return of archaic anemistic thoughts? Castration anxiety? Or the fear of envy of others and of the ‘evil eye’? It must be noted that when Freud turns to other languages to approach the meaning of Unheimilich, he relies on T. Reik’s translations where the term among others is translated as Xenos from the Greek. 
One of Freud’s major contributions was the notion that the mentally ill were less foreign in relation to us as the so called normal, but that we share the same mental mechanisms, even though to a different degree. Here, repression exiles the Xenos and the uncanny thoughts to the relm of the unconscious, thus their return represents the return of the Xenos, split off, and an inadequately represented self. 

For Klein, the concept of splitting created a mental content that is subject to exclusion through projection to the outside world and to the other and that would be finally transformed into something Xenos. Later, she would link the concept of envy with the wish of annihilation of the other, which she connects to the breast and the body of the mother. 

Bion would encourage the psychoanalysts to direct themselves towards the still unknown and foreign thought as to approach the absolute “O”, renouncing “memory and desires”, defining in that way the “K link” and the need for knowledge. Britton later talks of a “xenocidal impulse” and the dislike of anything recognized as different, an “allergy” towards the products of “another mind”. 

For Winnicott the infant starts to explore the exterior world and the foreign landscape through the “first non-me object”, discovering simultaneously the world of transitional phenomenon, placing the “other” outside of the area of his omnipotence, from which he can contribute to his psychic development (Winnicott). One must also refer to the classic papers of Spitz and Mahler et al stemming from infant observations concerning “stranger anxiety” at eight in their studies of the separation-individuation phase of children. 

For Lacan, as for Freud in the ‘Uncanny’ (1919) , the other is the ego itself and the basic alienation of man from himself: «car Je est un autre» ( Rimbaud).That is how Lacan explains the third narcissistic blow that was brought about by the discovery of the unconscious and the vain pursuit of man for absolute unity and completeness. Therefore, the wish of self-discovery would always collide with the basic ambivalence of the other inside oneself. 

One could continue sitting such examples, but what is important here is to see that the concept of Xenos is omnipresent in psychoanalysis. What these approaches have in common is that they underline man’s basic ambivalence towards himself, the Xenos within and without and towards that which is not I. This ambivalence can be seen embodied in the ambiguity of the ancient term Xenos, which corresponds to something man responds to either with animosity and suspicion, or with a benign attitude and hospitality. 

It is important for psychoanalysis is not to rely and fall back on what is already known. It is necessary to return and review at times basic concepts like the concept of Xenos or the other. And this is, not only because yesterday’s knowledge can become tomorrow’s dogma (a static science), but also because some trends and some social currents bring to the fore of our individual and collective consciousness the importance of concepts like the one of Xenos; there where external traumata and specificities of certain environmental conditions impact on the psyche. 

Thus, Xenos will constitute the theme of the 9th Delphi Psychoanalytic Symposium with presentations from renowned psychoanalysts from the international and Greek community addressing in this way the participants about such an important and timely theme.

Dimitris Jackson.
8/26/2021 - 8/29/2021
The European Cultural Center of Delphi Delphi GREECE