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The Trainings of the PsychoanalystReview - The Trainings of the Psychoanalyst
by Annie Tardits
Karnac Books, 2010
Review by Rudy Oldeschulte
Mar 8th 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 10)

"Psychoanalytic training became a symptom from which a lot of people never recovered."  This comment by Adam Phillips spoke to the compliance that was increasingly required, even demanded, by the followers of Sigmund Freud that took charge of organizing a 'formal training' in psychoanalysis. This compliance, thought to instill 'conviction,' worked very well to stifle creativity or originality. As Phillips further points out, the field of psychoanalysis – and its training programs - began then, and has now, splintered into numerous paths, all of which follow different – some very different - from what was envisioned by these early adherents to the movement.  These comments may capture what may be a thread woven within Annie Tardits' book: The Trainings of the Psychoanalyst. (This thread is undoubtedly also reflected in her use of "trainings," rather than the singular).

Tardits draws a meticulously detailed history of the thoughts, ideas, and fantasies of what the early psychoanalytic thinkers desired as constituting training in psychoanalysis. She offers a detailed picture of the conversations and the controversy among the followers - the people that were left by Freud to grapple with the questions about training.  Freud continued work on his 'problem child' – psychoanalysis.  Lou Andreas-Salome played an important role early on, and in her correspondence with Freud, wanted others to consider what 'informed desire' about training might entail. Andreas-Salome wanted to " what an analytic training could be before it became institutionalized."  She reminded others that Freud's theory was not a rigidly fixed theory, but one that changed as his experience in practicing psychoanalysis grew, with Freud demonstrating what might be seen as a researcher's model.  Freud's position allowed more emphasis on 'not knowing,' contrasting this with the 'mastery of knowledge.' 

The open question about training remained an elusive one – what is to be included in a training for analysts 'to be'?  Tardits points to Freud's persistent difficulty in suggesting what a 'definitive training' would include, and his consequent worry that the wranglings of his followers, and their obsession with formulating rules would, "...block the way to intellectual freedom," and to "the impartial desire to know."  The war temporarily interrupted the conversations in psychoanalysis, with all the difficulties and dilemmas being further spread out, but regaining momentum in several different camps.   

The core of the training, according to Freud, was to be one's personal analysis. He also introduced the notion that a training would rest on the candidates grasping "...what can be taught about the theory of the unconscious," the acquisition of interpretative ability, and the 'fight against resistance.' The understanding of what to do with the transference was crucial.  Further, Freud's 'fantasical' idea was voiced, an idea not taken terribly seriously by many of his followers. His idea was that if a college was designed for psychoanalysis, the teaching would include depth psychology, an introduction to biology, clinical work, the science of sexuality, and the historical knowledge about civilization, mythology, religion, and literature. (Tardits, p.42)

Annie Tardits then introduces Lacan in her exploration of analytic training – explicating his views as they developed historically in the ongoing discussions. It is noteworthy that a reader of this text will need a fairly good grasp of Lacan's perspective on psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory, i.e., Lacan's reading of Freud and the former's work being grounded in intellectual and philosophical roots not altogether familiar to all audiences. Tardits positions Lacan well with respect to his very substantive views on the training of the analyst, as well as his historical place in the difficult negotiations.  However, Lacan's perspective may be difficult to understand for those that have received rather orthodox or a 'typical' analytic education – an education or training outside of the Lacanian school.  Nevertheless, Tardits is able to position Lacan well in relation to the purpose of her text, and many readers will enjoy the questions that emerge as a result.

In my reading of this text – and struggling to understand Lacan's views with respect to psychoanalysis - I was drawn back to the philosophical works of Susanne Langer. For her purposes, Langer articulated the notion of generative ideas, and she spoke of the terms in which theories – and the questions raised – are conceived and give rise to new or specific questions.  To quote Langer: "The limits of thought are not so much set from outside, by the fullness or poverty of experiences that meet the mind, as from within, by the power of conception, the wealth of formulative notions with which the mind meets experiences.  Most new discoveries are suddenly-seen things that were always there.  A new idea is a light that illuminates presences which simply had no form for us before the light fell on them.  We turn the light here, there, and everywhere, and the limits of thought recede before it."

Lacan's perspective on the question of 'training' for psychoanalytic work, and his theoretical and clinical contributions to our understanding of psychoanalysis, are generative in their raising of significant and important questions – many of which provide the light that we need to continue illuminating our path to further psychoanalytic thought – through research and clinical endeavors. According to Tardits, Lacan wanted to avoid the 'disintellectualization' that may result from 'pre-digested knowledge,' that is, within what many consider to be the foundations of psychoanalysis.  The Trainings of the Psychoanalyst will certainly be of interest to all those that have questioned the foundational bases for psychoanalytic training, and the limits posed by its current structure. 


Langer, S.K. (1957) Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art. 3rd Ed. Havard University Press, Cambridge and London. 


© 2011 Rudy Oldeschulte


Rudy Oldeschulte trained in psychoanalysis with Anna Freud and her colleagues in London, and in law at DePaul University. He now teaches psychology, cultural diversity, ethics, and law.


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