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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Nov 19, 2023

“Discrimination is something that is needed for the child to create himself as a person. You need to be discriminated from the other, and the other is useful for you, as Freud said, as a model, as a rival, as an enemy. There are different kinds of relationships with the other - you need the other, and we are persons connected with the other. If you discriminate you from the other, this is benign. But if you are doing it from a power position, saying: ‘These people are not like me’ - this is malignant othering. It is malignant because when you are marking these people as different, as the Nazis did with the Jewish people, then it is very easy for these people to become the target for any kind of attack when there will be social or economic problems. Malignant  because you are doing it from a position of power and because these people that you are discriminating from you may become targets for possible attacks for different reasons in the community."


Episode Description: We begin with Abel reading a statement from the Prejudices, Discrimination and Racism Committee which is included below. He shares with us his personal and family story that led him to be interested in racism and to chair this committee. We discuss the differences between benign otherness and malignant othering. He emphasizes the presence of negation in all of us, tempting us to ignore the dangers from discrimination. He speaks of the future of psychoanalysis and how he feels it depends upon its application in settings off the couch. We consider the risks of dilution of the training experience and also the great benefit to the many who will receive treatment from analytically oriented care. He warns us of the dangers of making the perfect the enemy of the good. 


Statement from the IPA Prejudices, Discrimination, Racism Committee:

The rise of antisemitism in the wake of the Hamas barbaric attack


We strongly condemn the murder, maiming, and abduction of hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers during an unprovoked attack by Hamas terrorists. The scale of this terrorist attack is unprecedented in recent history. It can only be viewed as a pogrom, and we express our deep solidarity with the victims. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and Palestinians are also their victims. We feel sorrow for all civilians who are killed or suffering in this war, including so many in Gaza.

In its founding document, the Hamas Charter, Hamas states that it is committed to waging Jihad, or holy war, in order “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine”. Its stated goal is to eliminate the Jewish state and kill Jews. It must be made clear that the terror against Israel is not motivated by economic, geographic, or political conflicts: all of Israel is considered a holy land that must not be defiled by the presence of "infidels", whether Christians or Jews. The statement of freeing Palestine from occupation, “From the River to the Sea”, reveals a clear intent to eliminate the State of Israel. A fight against Hamas is a fight of light against darkness, of liberalism against the forces of oppression.

We, as psychoanalysts, can identify the dehumanization of the Jewish population that was displayed by the horrific massacre on the 7th of October. In addition to the suffering of Israel´s population, antisemitic manifestations and attacks have increased exponentially all over the world. As the Prejudices Discrimination and Racism Committee we are alert to antisemitism and the dangerous consequences of its negation. We hope that in due course, it will be possible to find strong leaders who will have the courage to meet and negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians.


Abel Fainstein (Chair) Argentine Psychoanalytical Association (APA)

Paula Kliger.  Michigan Psychoanalytic Society (MPS) 

Rosine Perelberg. British Psychoanalytical Society ( BPS)

Leonie Sullivan. Australian Psychoanalytical Society  (AP

Raya Zonana. Brazilian Society of Psychoanalysis of Sao Paulo. (SBPSP)

Mira Erlich-Ginor (Ex officio)  Israel Psychoanalytic Society (IPS)


Our Guest: Abel Fainstein, MD is a Psychiatrist, Master in Psychoanalysis,

Full Member and former President of the Argentine Psychoanalytical Association (APA) and the Psychoanalytic Federation of Latin America (FEPAL). He is a former member of the IPA Board and Ex Com ,Current Chair of the Prejudice, Discrimination, Racism Committee of the IPA, current advisor of the IRED Interregional Encyclopedic Dictionary in Psychoanalysis by the IPA, and of the Revista Uruguaya de Psicoanálisis by APU. He is a judge for the first IPA Tyresias Award on Sexual and Gender Diversity, 2021. He was awarded the KONEX Award in Psychoanalysis, 2016.  


Recommended Readings:


Busch, F. ( 2023) Psychoanalysis at the Crossroad. An international perspective. Routledge. NY. 


Cabral. A.C ; Fainstein A.M (   2019  ) On training analysis .Debates. APAEditorial. Buenos Aires


Sandler,P. ; Pacheco Costa G. (2019 ) On Freud's "The Question of Lay Analysis.” Turning Points and Critical Issues (The International Psychoanalytical Association ... Turning Points and Critical Issues Series) Routledge. London. 


Powell, J.A, Menendian, S. (2016) The Problem of Othering. Othering and Belonging. Expanding the Circle of Human Concern. 

Othering & Belonging is published by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley.


Winer,R;  Malawista,K (2017 ) Who is behind the couch. Karnac. London