Psychoanalysis as a Space to Grow

Book tickets

Organised by:

Psychoanalysis and Politics

01 March 2023

Time: 18:00 - 19:30

Price: £28, and £15 for artists, freelancers and students

Location: online


Part of the Psychoanalysis and Politics series Crises and Transmission

As analysts we are not accustomed to using the term “growing up” when speaking about our patients. We use many more complex words to express this evidence in human development, but we would all agree that patients come to us with an ardent desire to move, to change to become free to grow. We know that a large part of our task is to provide a special frame, a kind of “facilitating environment” that will help our patients to become aware of their internal dynamics and to provide a space that will enhance their maturational processes. The creation of a “facilitating environment” is the result of a complex interaction of psyche, soma and experience.

According to Freud the analyst can only take his/her patient to “where he has been” in the psychoanalytic process. This poses the question of the analyst’s personal analysis, internal economy and psychical functioning. The analyst’s own story, psychic processes and the “metaphors” he/she lives by are fundamental tools in work with patients.

The early environment at the very beginning of life can satisfy the needs and support the channelling of maturational processes by creating a space of adequate integrative structures. Donald Winnicott insists that from the beginning there is no such thing as a baby- there is only a nursing couple. That is a baby is born into an “environmental-individual set up” and the “capacity for a one-body relationship” depends on the introjection of the object. We know that it is on the basis of such integrative processes as projection, introjection and identification that an ego capable of relating to an object comes into being. I would like to propose a hypothesis that a large part of our work as analysts is an attempt to continue the directing of maturational processes by creating a frame, a space where psychic integration can be rehabilitated. For this to happen, we need to have an idea of where these integrative capacities have broken down. Winnicott does not hesitate to speak of his own personal experiences that were the source of his ideas and knowledge of the maturational process, also of his personal analysis that took him back to the “forgotten territory” of his own infancy.

Ferenczi expresses his perspective of the “infant stage of development” in terms of “Stages in the Development of the Sense of Reality”. In Thalassa, birth is the first “catastrophe” in the maturational process, departing from the biological underpinnings of genitality, Ferenczi links these to the psychological development in the human process of growing up, surviving the never ending transformations involved in moving from the omnipotent foetal state to becoming an adult capable of accepting the limits, frustrations and castrating experiences of “reality.

With the help of Donald Winnicott, Sandor Ferenczi and Sigmund Freud, I will attempt to draw out both the contours and the forces at work in this “space to grow” for both analyst and patient in an attempt to illustrate the change-producing factors in the maturational process. Winnicott and Ferenczi both insist on the importance for the analyst to be in contact with their own infantile, archaic psyche. Is this an essential “psychoanalytical tool” for creating a “space to grow”? I would like to share with you my explorations of the “infantile” that helps me understand and try to decode the “archaic” processes at work in my patients. To use “mutual analysis” as a metaphor in my case I could say that my “mutual analysis” was with the story of Peter Pan. When writing the book Peter Pan, the Lost Child (Phoenix, 2022) I asked myself why had I a chosen this story as a vehicle to write my own? Three strands intertwine: the relevance of the Peter Pan story for psychoanalysis, a glimpse into the psyche of James Mathew Barry, the author, and vignettes from my life as associations with the text. In other words, my attempts at analysing Peter Pan – Barrie, Peter Pan- Barrie was analysing me! It was only after the publication of the book and the years of its exploitation that I realised how uncanny it is to “write things down” and how powerful is text in its subtle materiality. Quite unexpectedly and totally outside my control, the text was “analysing” me via the metaphorization of “unsaid known” archaic processes.

Kathleen Kelley-Lainé is a trilingual psychoanalyst working in private practice (English, French and Hungarian). She is an active member of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris, the European Psychoanalytical Federation, the International Psychoanalytical Association, and the International Sándor Ferenczi Society. She is internationally known for her many conferences, published articles in psychoanalytical journals, and books.

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