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

Visiting Professor Week
November 10th through 17th, 2013

An Introduction to Claudio Laks Eizirik, M.D. (Part III)
In their own words: Claudio Eizirik, Madeleine Baranger, and WIlly Baranger
by Eric Glassgold, M.D., Visiting Professor Program Co-Chair

In the 1930‘s and 1940s, a wave of German, Austrian and Eastern European immigrants arrived in both North and South America. But in the 1950's and 1960's only South America experienced a "British Invasion.” In response to this British influence, South American analysts began to assimilate Kleinian perspectives. South American analysts also grappled with psychoanalytic influences from France and Southern Europe, especially Lacan's.

Although it is impossible to generalize about such a diverse community of psychoanalysts, one could not go wrong in saying that South American analysts have synthesized many schools of thought while generating their own ideas and reciprocally exerting influences on Europeans. One might also venture that they have had the best of both psychoanalytic worlds. They have had the freedom to immerse themselves while enjoying a distance from the polarizing forces of the figures such as Anna Freud and Melanie Klein in England or Sacha Nacht and Jacques Lacan in France.

Rosine Pereleberg, our 2012 Visiting Professor, typified this pluralistic position. She grew up in Rio de Janeiro, practices in London and combines technical innovations of British object relations schools with a French framework that prioritizes infantile sexuality and the drives in conceptualizing everyday clinical encounters.

This year Professor, Claudio Eiziirk, the second of three Visiting Professors from South America,[1] will bring his highly developed view of pluralism to share with us. Laurie Goldsmith and I have each written in prior Fall Newsletters regarding the influence of the Haydée Faimberg, the Contemporary Kleinians, and field theorists on his technique. The purpose of this month's column is to further introduce you to Dr. Eizirik's thinking as well as that of two of his Franco-Uruguayan influences, Willy and Madeleine Baranger.

Dr. Eizirik situates his perspective on pluralism in his 2006 paper “Psychoanalysis as a work in progress," where he refers to a celebrated controversy between Robert Wallerstein and André Green. Eizirik explains:

“[I]n a culturally and historically distinctive part of the world, Wallerstein argues for the existence of a common ground in clinical psychoanalytical theory, and believes that psychoanalytical pluralism, that is, the existence of a variety of theorizations or metapsychologies, may not be a lasting trend. That, on the contrary, it may be possible for theories to gradually converge towards an ever-expanding common ground. In his view, psychoanalysis is a science and should be able to find its place among the different scientific disciplines, equipped with distinctive methodologies that allow for empirical research.”

“Green criticizes this idea of a common ground as an illusion and a myth. He stresses that people who subscribe to opposing theories are positively unable to listen to each other and merely reaffirm their arguments over and over again. He suggests, moreover, that psychoanalysis is not a science or a branch of hermeneutics, but a practice based on clinical thinking leading to theoretical hypotheses. According to Green, a common ground, to actually exist, must have a firm foundation. The only valid procedure, in his view, is to show how some clinical material consisting in, and based on, the exposition of a series of sessions and on a sufficiently disclosed psychoanalytical process can reveal the affinity between two different theories, which, he stresses, are based on different techniques and interpretations.

“I would like to offer the alternative intermediate notion that psychoanalysis is a work in constant progress; a discipline undergoing a transition, in which a number of its theoretical presuppositions are being critically discussed and revised and its different educational models re-examined. This transition also means a pursuit of greater transparency and thoroughness in the formulation, presentation and discussion of clinical material, aiming to stimulate and promote a more unequivocal and objective evaluation of our clinical competence as analysts, as well as a greater openness to dialogue with other areas of knowledge.[2]

In other words, Eizirik posits a diversity of viewpoints that coexist but do not share a common ground, as well as a group of increasingly enlightened analysts who can clearly communicate with each other about their convergences and divergences.

At this year’s "Day With....,” Dr. Eizirik will present the paper “Exploring the Analytic Field: Bastions, Surprise and Movement.” In this paper, Dr. Eizirik will apply some of the clinical concepts developed in the early 1960‘s by Willy and Madeleine Baranger.

Few analysts better exemplify a pluralistic approach than Willy and Madeleine Baranger. Willy Baranger was born in Algeria and then trained in France to become a philosopher. Madeleine Baranger was a fellow student in his graduate program. In 1947, they emigrated to Argentina when WIlly took his first job teaching philosophy in Buenos Aires. Both began their first training analyses in Argentina and were subsequently invited to begin a training institute in Uruguay, where they practiced most of their lives. Willy Baranger died in 1994. Madeleine Baranger continues to teach in Argentina.

In their writings from the late 1950's and early 1960's, the Barangers bring together ideas of Freud, Lacan, Klein, Bion, Bleger, and Racker, as well as ideas from social anthropology. Their work, and especially their concept of the bipersonal field, reflects the spirit of the nuclear age. In the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, electrons in an atom continually change state between particulate matter and waves of energy. When distinct atoms combine––“hydrogen and oxygen for example”––the outcome, a molecule of water, is nothing like the original atoms. Each atom in "the field"
gives up its electrons and shares them with the others. Something that belonged to one is temporarily possessed by another. This is very much the model of the unconscious communication between the analyst and patient in the field. The members of the dyad retain their individuality and yet simultaneously share elements of their unconscious phantasies in new combinations that takes on qualities inconceivable to each.

What follows are the Barangers speaking in their own words about this conceptualization[3]. Please note that for the Barangers, the word “symbiosis” refers to a state where the analyst and patient fantasize that they are undifferentiated and that they therefore exactly resemble one another.


The Bipersonal Field

“What is the analytic field composed of? What does it constitute as such? At first sight, it is a field of communication, where things are said and listened to, and where other things are transmitted and received in a nonverbal way. It makes sense to think, with Liberman that intrapersonal communication in the patient, with its impediments, is reproduced in the interpersonal communication in the field. The same can be said about the analyst, although to a different extent.Beneath the verbalized “material” there is a rich interchange, the transmission of multiple experiences,
sometimes even in the body (transference and countertransference somatic reactions to the non-verbalized aspects of the communication).” [page 14-15]…

”The nature of the processes of projective and introjective identification in the analyst is different from that in the patient. This difference accounts for the asymmetry in the field. They are not merely quantitative differences.... [Even so, on] a certain level, projective and introjective identification phenomena are of the same nature in analyst and patient. The analyst can view the patient according to some aspects of his “self” or of his internalized objects or react with “projective counter-identification” (Grinberg, 1956) to the projective identification unconsciously accepted from his patient. [page 15-16]


Unconscious Fantasy

“The bipersonal unconscious fantasy of the field is what gives it meaning at any given moment of its functioning and what conditions the emergence of the manifest verbal content [page 15].”

Field fantasy tends in its essence to erase the individual boundaries between analyst and patient, including the space between their respective bodies (this is one of the reasons why patients stay in a position from where they cannot see the analyst: looking, as a way of establishing and controlling the distance, would work in a sense inverse to that of communication [page 15].”


Paralysis and the Bastion

The analytic process can be conceived as the successive resolution of all the impediments that time and again hinder communication and the mobility of the field. If, as Freud thought in one of his unfinished works, every defense mechanism implies a certain “Spaltung,” some splitting within the ego, then every pathological construction of the field implies a splitting of one of its sectors, which then escapes the general dynamics and creates a more or less marked paralysis. Even if there is some mobility in the field, the splitting functions to isolate the split sector, so that it remains out of the dynamics of the situation [page 17].”

“In the bipersonal situation, this process becomes really detrimental when the patient’s attempted splitting meets the analyst’s unconscious complicity or a blind spot [p. 17].

“There are bastions the patient is determined to keep out of the contract. It may be an object relationship, a pleasant activity the patient considers “perverse”, some information concerning his economic situation, an ideology, and so forth. If there is no complicity on the analyst’s part, then the patient’s bastion is just a difficulty for the analytic work or a “resistance,” but it is not a bastion in the field [p. 17].

“The patient tries one way or another to breach the fundamental rule, and the analyst strives to reintegrate into the general movement the content avoided by the patient. However, when such complicity is present communication is divided: a sector of the field crystallizes, comprising the patient’s resistance and the analyst’s counter-resistance, unconsciously communicated and operating together, while on another separate level an apparently normal communication goes on..... Both analyst and patient keep walking the treadmill or the bastion that both have unwittingly built together [pp. 17-18].

“Subjectively the analyst feels impotent, invaded by the patient; the analytic situation loses its temporal framework and overflows out of the sessions, and concern about the patient appears between the sessions” [page 18].


Insight and Interpretation as collaboration

“Analytic insight is the work of two people...In general, it is the result of the interpretation given by the analyst. If so, the moment of insight has been prepared by previous material, and the analyst has given partial interpretations. A dialogue has been established, reaching a point at which the analyst formulates the “mutative interpretation” (Strachey) that elicits insight [p. 20].

“In other cases, it is the patient himself who puts an end to the dialogue and arrives at a formulation that clarifies the situation of the bipersonal field and the inner situation that has structured it. When this happens, it is the analyst who learns from what the patient has taught him. Freud’s ‘opus magnum” may perhaps have been to allow himself to be taught by his patients (by Dora, or by the “Wolf Man”, by Little Hans) and to teach us how to allow patients to teach us. Even today, any theoretical progress in psychoanalysis is the result of the collaboration of an analyst with his patients [p. 20].

Insight is not produced by just any interpretation given by the analyst, nor at any given moment of the evolution of the field. There must be a previous mobilization in the field. Paralysis, one of the basic phenomena of the the field pathology, is an anti-insight condition par excellence. Insight implies the reintegration of paralyzed situations in the “bastion” into the general dynamics of the analytic situation, to recover what has been alienated and make it “one’s own”. In this sense, it means overcoming the splitting and agrees with what Melanie Klein called the “depressive position”. It means the reparation of a field situation endangered or damaged by dissociative processes. It is a re-association. To accomplish this reparation, the analyst never acts alone. He can repair the situation if the patient agrees momentarily with him to do so––that is, if both share the need to do it. That is to say, insight is something that takes place within a symbiotic situation. It is a second look of the field that allows a dual interior vision. It is between these two faces, strictly speaking, that insight is produced and the symbiotic situation ceases to be. [page 21].

The touchstone of insight and of the validity of the formulation that is one of its essential moments is the change in the kind of communication felt in the transference and in the countertransference. The bond between analyst and analysand relies no longer on complementarity but on sharing the same experience––of discovery and enrichment, of free communication, of non-erotized affection, and without denying the aggressive tensions that have been produced and will be produced again, the possibility of a future in the field and in life, since the latter depends on the former.



The discovery-insight is always that, even when for the analyst it means facing familiar and experienced situations––always entails surprise [page 21].

With the Baranger’s emphasis on introjective and projective identification, projective counter-identification, direct transference interpretation, and collaboration, they send the message that their approach is “contemporary.” Yet they wrote this paper in 1964! As the Argentinian analyst, Janine Puget points out, South Americans have lived with the Baranger’s work for fifty years. In that time, South Americas have continued to revise and extend the Baranger’s ideas. We will be interested to hear more from Dr. Eizirik about how these ideas have evolved in his own work.


[1] The Argentinian child and adolescent psychoanalyst Virginia Ungar, Ph.D. will be the 2014 SFCP Visiting Professor.
[2] Thanks to Laurie Goldsmith, Ph.D., Visiting Professor Program Co-Chair, for contributing this citation.
[3] Excerpts from Madeleine and Willy Baranger. “‘Insight’ in the analytic situation [1964]” in The Work of Confluence: Listening and Interpreting in the Psychoanalytic Field. London: Karnak Book, 2009, pp. 12-23.

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