SFCP's 2013 Visiting Professor Week: An Introduction to Claudio Laks Eizirik, M.D. (Part I)

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SFCP’s 2013 Visiting Professor Week  Nov. 10th-17th

An Introduction to Claudio Laks Eizirik, M.D. (Part I)

by Eric Glassgold, MD, Visiting Professor Program Co-chair

In our October newsletter, Visiting Professor Co-chair Laurie Goldsmith, Ph.D. will discuss Dr. Eizirik’s paper: On the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis.  Psychoanalytic Quarterly 76S: 1463-1478.  We encourage all SFCP members to read this paper in preparation for Visiting Professor Week.

Jim Dimon, M.D. will present “An Introduction to the Work of Claudio Eizirik” on Thursday, October 24th, 2013 at 7:30 PM at SFCP.  The program will be available via telecast for members far from SFCP.  In-person attendance is requested for those with reasonable commutes.

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Claudio Laks Eizirik, M.D.Claudio Laks Eizirik is a Training and Supervising Analyst in the Porto Alegre Psychoanalytic Society and the Brazilian Psychoanalytic Association.  He is well known in South America as a dedicated teacher and supervisor of the psychoanalytic process.  He himself speaks of making contributions to the technique and practice of psychoanalysis in three main areas: understanding the experience of the countertransference, elaborating the concept of the analytic field, and re-conceiving psycho-analytic neutrality. 

Dr. Eizirik identifies many influences contributing to his formation as an analyst.  Two groups, Betty Joseph and the contemporary London Kleiniains and the field theorists, notably followers of the Barangers, are the most clinically alive for him.  Among the field theorists, he includes the Italian analyst, Antonino Ferro and notes that Bion’s work is a common root among these seemingly diverging groups.

Dr. Eizirik also identifies many fiction writers and poets as especially important to him.  Reading their work facilitates reverie and gives him words to describe powerful feelings and dilemmas that arise in doing psychoanalysis.  He counts the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, the Argentinian writer J.L. Borges, and the American novelist Philip Roth among his favorites.

Dr. Eizirik further credits a culture of open-ness in southern Brazil as especially important to his development.  He says that in Brazil “we descend from a mix of peoples: immigrant Europeans, Asians and native Brazilians.  We dance with anybody, play soccer with any one, mix with and marry with everyone.  We embrace everyone.  We do analysis in like fashion, that is in every possible way: with families and couples and individually, with every possible level of patient and, perhaps most importantly, with the community.” 

Dr. Eizirik has spent his life in Porto Alegre, the southernmost of large Brazilian cities.  It lies mid-way between the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, and the Brazilian capital of Sao Paolo.  The proximity of Buenos Aires has led to ongoing personal supervisions, analyses, and theoretical conversations with Argentinian psychoanalysts.  Among those most important to him are Enrique Pichon-Rivière, Angel Garma, Heinz Racker, Willy and Madeleine Baranger, Jorge Mom, José Bleger, and Isidoro Berenstein. 

One important aspect of this last group’s contributions is a conception of a social dimension of psychoanalytic interventions.  According to Dr. Eizirik, South American analysts have developed a metapsychology of social identity.  This framework facilitates analysts’ paying attention to the challenge of becoming a social subject, to the gap between a person’s internal and social worlds, and to the impossibility of being fully understood or comprehended in social groups.   In his view and in the spirit of Winnicott, psychoanalysts must keep psychoanalysis alive at a social level by speaking to the community.  

Accordingly, Dr. Eizirik has written for national and regional newspapers in Brazil (where most daily newspapers have weekly columnists who are psychoanalysts).  In a piece that has proved especially popular, he recounts his father taking him to soccer games in the old Porto Alegre stadium.  As an adult, each return visit to the stadium rekindled the feelings of closeness he shared with his father.  Referring to Freud’s paper “On Mourning and Melancholia” he links the replacement of all the old soccer stadiums in Brazil by new ones being built for the 2014 World Cup to precipitating unmanageable and disorienting losses.  For many Brazilians, the loss of the stadiums is a loss of a container childhood experience and identity.   The loss also represents a crisis: the failure of the Brazilian state’s containing, parental function.

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Dr. Eizirk’s has dedicated himself to teaching psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy to young, emerging members of our community.  Taking this dedication to the classroom, he has written two textbooks on psychodynamic psychotherapy and human development.  Both are used throughout Brazil, Portugal and other Lusophone countries.  Moreover, long after he had completed his own medical studies and psychoanalytic training, at a time when the government began to require all faculty members in Brazilian medical schools to have a Ph.D. in addition to an M.D., Dr. Eizirik returned to graduate school to earn a Ph.D.  In this way, he maintained a position (and a psychoanalytic influence) on the medical school faculty.

His published writings focus on psychoanalytic supervision, on aspects of clinical process such as listening, conceiving and organizing interventions, and on the validity and outcome of psychoanalytic treatments.  His writings also explore the need to adapt psychoanalytic institutions, practices and theories to create openings to new groups and emerging cultures in the globalizing 21st Century.  Another related theme is bringing a democratic process to the psychoanalysis both in practice and within psychoanalytic organizations.   Consistent with these ideas are his efforts to establish new psychoanalytic institutes in parts of south America that formerly had no access to training, expanding the reach of the International Psychoanalytic Association in Asia and Africa, and advocating  teaching of psychodynamic psychotherapies within graduate school and residencies.
Dr. Eizirik has held numerous positions of leadership.  He has chaired the psychiatry department in the medical school in Porto Alegre and later became the school’s Dean. He has served as the president of his local psychoanalytic society, the Brazilian Psychoanalytic Society, and of the association of South American psychoanalytic societies (FEPAL).  From 2005-09, he was the President of the International Psychoanalytic Association.  Since finishing his term as President of the IPA, he has stepped back from taking on new leadership roles and instead focused on his patients, his supervisees and his students.

Dr. Eizirik believes an imperative to lead originated in his childhood when he would sit in synagogue watching his grandfather, a rabbi and immigrant from Eastern Europe, lead his congregation.  He also remembers his early twenties, when he witnessed police brutality at demonstrations along with the rise of anti-democratic forces in Brazil.  Not only does Dr. Eizirik acknowledge that it is every Brazilian’s responsibility to make the world more democratic, he sees psychoanalysis as a necessary means to that end.

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