Ferro said that in the few days of this weekend conference he had not tried to convey concepts. He is grateful for all the models he has learned over the years (Bion, Klein, Winnicott, Ogden), but what matters to him most is the democracy of models; for instance, Ogden’s “the analytic third” can be thought of as being a concentration of “the field” and an equivalent to the concept of “the link” introduced by Pichon-Riviere and elaborated by the Barangers. At this moment Alpha function and Beta elements are not so important to him. He said that what matters is to have an experience together, to share our ideas, and to think about how the mind works. His aim in this workshop was to show us how to create an atmosphere that allows the patient to come alive and be creative and then to co-construct an experience that is transformative. Ferro said that he appreciated the warm, free atmosphere at the International Psychotherapy Institute in which we could dream together and create a narration. He likes the group affective model developed at the International Psychotherapy Institute and hopes to export it to his own teaching.
“I appreciate the warm, free atmosphere at the International Psychotherapy Institute in which we can dream together and create a narration. I like very much the group affective model developed at the International Psychotherapy Institute and I want to export it!” Antonino Ferro, President, Italian Psychoanalytic Association.
Having studied the analytic process as one in which the Beta elements are represented in images (pictograms) and then in narrative form, we moved on to look at the process that occurs in reverse, in Frederico Fellini’s dream book. Fellini had a daily habit of writing down his dreams and then drawing the image that came to mind. Ferro showed us that the drawing serves as the interpretation of the dream—no further narration, and no analyst in sight—and that completed the process until the night when the next dream could occur. Looking at a sequence of Fellini’s dream-text-picture records, we saw a progression from terror and loss to manic defense and resolution with acceptance of depressive anxiety. Like Fellini, we face the risk of plunging into depression, but we can use the fuel form the energy of the paranoid-schizoid position to arrive at a state of integration that is full of life. As we discussed this material in the large group, many minds were brought to bear on the dreams and the relevance to self-analysis and analytic therapy with patients. In Ferro’s way of putting it, based on Bion, the group brings many Alpha functions to bear on puzzling material, a super-Alpha function that he calls Gamma function, and this allows for a much richer appreciation of the material presented to us, richer for us, and for him.
Ferro showed us how to think of the history as a collection of facts or as a dream dreamt by the presenter of the case history. When a patient describes an avoidant attachment to a withdrawn and unresponsive mother, we can think of her as a dead mother. The patient may react by feeling dead or exploding in rage because all the messy, needy feelings of the baby cannot be taken in and metabolized, but return like a boomerang that misses its target and settles in the mind of the baby. The mother is dead to the infant’s need for having its Beta elements taken care of, but since she is alive in general she cannot be mourned. This problem has to come alive in the field for any transformation to occur. In the clinical situation, the person with this history has to find a way in to the field, but has no entry strategy. So the person may shut down and give up trying or may explode into the therapist’s mind, unless the therapist is able to open the door and allow entry. This opening of the door is more effective than making interpretations that penetrate the vulnerable, withdrawn or raging infant mind and are felt as persecutory rather than understanding.
Distinguished analyst Antonino Ferro, president of the Italia Psychoanalytic Association, opened our April Weekend Conference by presenting his unique approach to the clinical situation as a waking dream. The therapist receives unmetabolized proto-emotions generated in the here-and-now of the therapeutic relationship and contains them, first as a pictogram (image), until he/she can present them as a narrative. How does the therapist develop and enlarge the capacity to contain? This is the topic we will explore for the rest of this intensive weekend conference with our special guest, Antonino Ferro.
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