Egoless Psychoanalysis and Supervision as an integral part of personal analysis

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(presented as a poster at the Barcelona IPAC – 1997)

The concept of Ego progressively disappears in the work of Melanie Klein, because of her ongoing interest in the relationship of objects in the inner life of infants and adults. Ancient eastern thinking and modern Biology support this position (Varela et al., 1991). They are presently challenging the notion of a localized “self” or Ego, in the same token as Klein’s view. There is no Ego or self independent of the object.

Looking to the contents of a scientific magazine issue dedicated to “Mysteries of Mind”, we find many engineers, mathematicians, computation and physics doctors, besides the expected biologists, psychologists and physicians. The physicist F. David Peat (1991, pg. 5) claims for unification of physics and psychology. Why? He explains: because we need “a new science that would explore ( . . . ) the objective side of human consciousness and the subjective side of matter.” New paradigms are here: there are no more borders between sciences, between inside and out, subject and object, there is no fixed point from where to move the universe: all are relationships, all observation depends on the observer.

The flux of knowledge is further drive away from the topic-Cartesian way of seeing the psychic phenomena to the holistic way (in the sense of wholeness) by the works of Wilfred Bion and Ignacio Matte-Blanco. People are a totality that cannot be severed in parts, organic and psychic, conscious and unconscious, and so on, even if only to describe it in a didactic way. It is no more an “absurd” to describe “psychoanalytic cure” as a process that involves both analyst and analyzand, transference and countertransference, so I can say (1995, 1996), as many do, that this process exists not only during the analytic hour, but lasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week; that it is terminable as a two-person relationship and interminable as a process. It is the “analytic function,” as Bion says, that we redeem and put to work in our patients. When succeeded, it will last for life, because it is a human capacity that all of us have and should develop.

A further step and we must say that the way Psychoanalysis organized the analytic formation of new psychoanalysts has a constructivistic approach, since the Berlin Institute in the twenties, with the personal analysis, supervision and theoretic course, and much before that Piaget coined this concept. To begin with, the word “formation,” already encompasses the wholeness of the process of maturing a person to become a Psychoanalyst.

Being so, the next obligatory step is to consider the supervision as an integral part of the personal psychoanalysis of the candidate. It is still a sin saying that in our Cartesian spaces of discussion. Ferenczi and Rank (1924) thought that “Kontroll-Analyse should have the task of dealing with the unresolved complexes of the candidate (…)” showing that this issue is an old one, but the current voice (following Eitingon opinion) is that one should not interfere with each other and that the supervisor should refrain to “interpret” his supervisionand. But, when you show to the candidate (as Ralph Greenson did: 1967, pg. 220) that he (or she) did not perceive a manifestation of the patient, and he (or she) understands and adds “It may be a blind spot of mine, I had just had a (something) like the patient . . .” [And we known that similarities in the personal histories lend to blind spots] — what is the supervisor doing, if not interpreting?

I cannot “force” someone to know what is the flavor of guaraná soft drink to me, even if he had already tasted it. Experience cannot be “transmitted”. One constructs it acting upon reality, changing both, subject and object. In many occasions I had had the chance to see that supervision is part of personal analysis, beginning by my own, but a patient of mine had provided me with the best example I could find. During a period of her analysis she had “only” three sessions a week, for diverse rationales, including the obvious financial ones. She was supervising with a colleague that is very close to me, not only as an old friend, but also in theoretical points of view, but this detail she ignored. Following the usual criteria, he was very careful in the way he helped her to understand her patients, but, of course, he could not avoid showing her the blind spots eventually happening in session, in a fashion that was very near the way I would do, eventually with the same words I would use. Analyzing in the following session with me, invariably she realized that all seemed as if the supervision fulfilled the “fourth” session that was “lacking,” because, even before the next analytic session, she made insights about many aspects of her involvement with her patient and the development of her countertransference. When she resumed the “four sessions a week” rhythm, the supervision became a “fifth” session, à la British, even if now with another supervisor.

Recognizing that the supervisor is also a “co-analyst” (not an Edipic rival) may help to understand the many ill-fated relationships among analysts, as pointed out in so many texts and contexts. Possibly the blind spots about this theme are more a question of power and politics than anything else. I am sure this subject merits more brain time: a discussion group in one IPA sponsored segment of Internet, perhaps? If we try to systematically observe the way things happen, maybe we are more in the mood to understand life as it is and Psychoanalysis as it should be.


David Peat, F. (1991) The Philosofer’s Stone. Chaos, Synchronicity and the Hidden Order of the World. Bantam Books, New York and Toronto.

Ferenczi, S., Rank, O. (1924) Die Entwicklungsziele der Psychoanalyse cit. by Fleming, J. & Benedek, T. (1966) Psychoanalytic Supervision. Grune & Stratton, New York and London., pg 11.

Greenson, R.R. (1967) The Technique and Practice of Psychoanalysis, Vol I, Int. Universities Press, New York.

Pellanda, L. E. (1995) Auto-análise pós Psicanálise IN Psicanálise Brasileira, Outeiral, J. & Thomas T. (org) Artes Médicas, Porto Alegre.

—————– (1996) Psicanálise hoje: ainda uma revolução? IN Psicanalise Hoje: Uma Revolução do Olhar. Pellanda, Nize, Pellanda L.E. (org) Vozes, Petropolis.

Varela, F, Thompson, E., Rosh, E. (1991) The embodied Mind. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.