n the practice of a profession which has been called the ‘talking cure’, the role of the psychoanalyst is to talk – but not about himself. When Therip first proposed the idea of creating an archive of interviews with senior members of the British Psycho-analytical Society who have helped to shape its development we were concerned with the anonymity of the analytic technique which might prove fatal to the project. Although in the event, no analyst refused an invitation on these grounds, we asked those interviewed to choose their own interviewer (a friend or colleague) and agree with them in advance the main themes to be discussed. Thus the privacy required of a practising analyst would not be at risk. The arrangement proved to have another advantage: we found that some of the liveliest and most fruitful dialogues developed on the basis of a long-standing rapport between interviewer and interviewee.
One of the main purposes of the archive has been to capture knowledge and experience before psychoanalysts take it with them to the grave. The analysts interviewed have lived through a turbulent period in the history of the British Society and we have asked them to give some thought in their interview to their memories of this history and the party they have played within it. Because the interviews were unstructured and each interviewer was different, the archive material does not provide a coherent account of the development of psychoanalysis in Britain. But we would claim that the material, at its best, has a liveliness and charm, which, however anecdotal, provides glimpses of the analytic world not available elsewhere. Where else, for example, could we learn that members of the Anna Freud Centre described the Tavistock (at that time in Fitzroy Avenue) as ‘within spitting distance’? Or sit in on Christopher Bollas’ first supervision with Paula Heinmann as she held her head in her hands: ‘Oh no .. oh dear, oh dear, … no, no’?
The interview, if indeed it qualifies as a literary genre, is clearly linked both to biography (how the interviewer sees his subject) and to autobiography (what the subject chooses to reveal of himself). There is little of the confessional in these interviews: no sex or sin, no childhood memories and, in most cases, less personal detail than in the most restrained of obituaries. The analysts interviewed have chosen, entirely appropriately, to talk about their professional and not their personal life. But a man cannot appear without showing himself. Without wishing to deny that the text may well transcend its author, we believe that these recordings will be of particular interest to future generations of scholars, bringing life to the written page.
The psychoanalysts interviewed have been drawn, as far as possible, from all groups and strands of opinion within the Society. The venue for the interviews has varied, often at the preference of the speakers. Some have had no objection to speaking at the Therip Annual Conference, others have preferred a smaller audience, and some have been interviewed at home (usually for reasons of health). Interviews last well over an hour and were recorded on VHS tape or DVD disc. Later it is planned to extend the project to continental Europe, South America and India.
- Category: Being a Psychoanalyst
Christopher Bollas who has been kind enough to give us an interview and Brett Kahr who will be interviewing him. We are grateful to them both. When it comes to introducing Christopher Bollas, I find myself in a difficulty. Probably, like most people here, I have not met him until this afternoon. I know of him only through his writing.
But these days one cannot equate the text with the author. Indeed I don’t know that Dr. Bollas would claim to have written the books that have his name on the title page. Perhaps the most he will say is that he was there when they were written.
Now in his earlier books he tells us that he is a psychoanalyst, a member of the Independent Group in the British Society. But in his last three books Dark is the End of the Tunnel, I Have Heard the Memories Singing, and Interplay, we are told nothing except that Christopher Bollas lives in London and North Dakota. His name remains on the Roster of the British Society – although I am not sure when he last attended a meeting – and I have heard him described as the major theoretial contributor to the Independent Group. But what strikes me as significant about Christopher Bollas is not so much that he is an analyst – which he is – but his dis-identification with the analytic movement. He is not, so he himself puts it, ‘one of those Freudians’. To describe him as a member of the Independent Group is like describing Bion as a Kleinian. It’s not wrong, but it’s not right either, for he is his own man. And nowhere more so than in his most recent allegorical works which represent a new and original literary genre.
I have, however, a link to Dr. Bollas of which he is probably not aware. In his novellas he describes Bion as his hero and his three works of fiction immediately bring to mind that Bion too turned away from the case history as a mode of transmitting psychoanalytic knowledge, preferring the greater authority of fiction in his trilogy ‘A Memoir of the Future’. Now it happens that I was analysed by Bion, and I would like briefly to draw attention to one or two features that their works have in common.
- Category: Being a Psychoanalyst