Salomon Resnik on the Importance of Ludic Transference

Confessions of a psychoanalyst who has not forgotten how to play

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There I was, walking along the streets of Buenos Aires in the early 1950s, when I ran into Alexander, an old childhood friend of mine. I had not seen him for many a long year. We had first met in primary school, and had spent some years together in high school. Later, I learned that, like me, he had gone on to study medicine, but in a different medical school.

It was in a sad tone of voice that he greeted me. He told me that he had lost his father; he had felt exhausted as a result of that and very sad. At times he even felt extremely confused: “It’s as though I don’t know where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing”. I had indeed noticed that he had an absent-minded look about him, and that his general appearance was unkempt, as though he were living in another world. He said: “I know that you are quite a well-known psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. As for me, even though I qualified as a doctor, I feel unable to work.” He added, in a quiet voice: “I need analysis, but I can’t pay the fees.”

derealization

Derealization

Alexander fell silent for several minutes, then said: “I remember when we were children – we used to play together. We understood each other very well.” “What do you remember?” I asked him. “Just that I used to play with you and the other children, whereas now I feel all alone.” “So you’re out of the game now?” I asked. He was upset, and looked all around. The street was full of people, yet he seemed to have lost his bearings; he seemed to be all alone, far removed from reality. At that moment, the two of us, in spite of the many years that had gone by, were able to make contact again, from one friend to another, from one child to another.

I told him to phone me, because I wanted to see him again and try to find some way of helping him if at all possible. The very next day, in fact, he did phone to ask if he could come to my consulting room and talk things over with me. As we spoke, I realized that Alexander was in a state of deep depression and that he felt he had lost contact with himself and with reality in general. He was suffering from melancholia, depersonalization and what Freud called “derealization” [Freud 1936a: pp. 244, 245-7]: a feeling of strangeness or unfamiliarity as regards reality. He seemed to be asleep from time to time, as though he were dreaming with his eyes open: in other words, he was hallucinating reality in an oneiric manner. At that time in Buenos Aires, very few psychoanalysts treated patients presenting psychotic states. I suggested to Alexander that we make another appointment. He asked me whether I thought I could help him; although we had been friends as children, he said, we hadn’t seen each other for a very long time. Then he added: “I know I can’t pay a specialist, but I don’t want my treatment to be free: sometime in the future, when I feel better and am able to work, I’ll make it up to you.” Alexander also had trained as a psychiatrist.

Alexander had four sessions per week with me, and we avoided meeting each other outside of the psychoanalytic setting. I treated him for two years, before leaving Buenos Aires to come to Europe.

Maurice-Merleau-Ponty

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

I arrived in Paris in the mid-1950s. During my internship in the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital, I lived in the Paris University halls of residence. I attended Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s lectures in the Collège de France, as well as those of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roger Bastide at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. My life as a student was a happy one; I did not have very much money, but plenty of emotional resources, an adventurous spirit that could take on board these new life experiences and a great deal of hope as regards what I was learning. One day while I was in Paris, I received a letter from the United States. It was from my friend Alexander, and he had enclosed a cheque. He asked how I was doing; he wrote that he himself was in good health and was working as a doctor in a private clinic. He added that he was very grateful for the work we had done together in Buenos Aires. Knowing that I had little in the way of financial resources in Paris, he offered to send me some money from time to time as payment for the treatment I had given him at no cost in Argentina.

Gift-of-Gratitude

“in true gratuitus, there is also grace and gratitude”

That experience with my friend Alexander touched me deeply. It made me understand that what I had done was not “gratuitous” in the sense of “free”. His gratefulness taught me that in true gratuitus, there is also grace and gratitude: humanitas. This kind of relationship between human beings must be differentiated from the false “gratuity” that comes from exhibitionistic narcissism. Nor has it anything to do with gratuitous in the sense of “unwarranted” (as, for example, some gratuitous crime or other), with false mysticism, with scientific, political or religious proselytism – that of perverse states of mind.

I firmly believe that the origins of give-and-take – true exchanging – lie in childhood, when children learn to play. The barter economy typical of pre-contractual societies (before the introduction of money) has to do with playfulness and pleasure in mutual relationships. The concept of play (homo ludens) [Huizinga, 1957] is part of general culture and is complementary to such notions as Homo sapiens and Homo faber. According to Huizinga, human beings play just as animals do: they enter into the game and demarcate its limits. In play, fun, humour and aggressiveness all have a role. This is to be distinguished from playing jokes on and making fun of the other person (playing tricks on someone rather than playing with the person). Play also appears in verbal or gestural language, and is part of the world of fantasy and the imagination, of myth and the fantastic.  Aristotle refers to the human species as animal ridens – and this is perhaps the case of some animals too. There is also the idea of comical as well as poignancy, the painful pathos of the child-adult that conveys pleasure and anxiety because of the exaggerated effort to make other people laugh.

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton

One example of this would be Buster Keaton communicating his unhappiness to his audience with a playful sadness. Children and animals often play together, and the animal world participates in children’s play.

Playful animality is personified in children’s play – in the instruments children use for imagining, for dreaming of and thinking about reality. The ability to imagine and the expressive mobility of mind and body are typical manifestations of the intimate feeling of liberty that is part of human nature. Language and body movements belong to what in ancient Greek culture was called paideia. Freud was interested in the world of childhood, in how it developed and in what its implications were for the adult world. The ability to play and the pleasure that accompanies it are significant features in the life of human beings. In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, humour also plays an important role. One of his early writings deals with the sense of humour as expressed through jokes, as well as with the dramatization and theatricality we find in dreams and in children’s fantasies.

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“The ability to play and the pleasure that accompanies it are significant features in the life of human beings”

In The Interpretation of Dreams [Freud 1900a] and in Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious [Freud 1905c], Freud notes that playing with oneiric or poetical images or with words as though they were toy-objects corresponds to the child’s earliest form of expression. One day, while he was staying for a few weeks with one of his daughters, Freud observed his grandson, 18-month-old Ernst, playing with a wooden cotton-reel. The boy could say only a few comprehensible words and used different sounds as a way of expressing himself. He was not, however, a particularly precocious child – perhaps too much of “a good boy”, somewhat inhibited and timorous. According to the boy’s mother (Freud’s daughter), Ernst did not disturb his parents at night and did not touch certain objects or go into certain rooms if he was told not to. He hardly ever cried. (I wonder if he was slightly autistic.) However, this good little boy was in the habit of throwing certain objects into corners, under the bed, etc., then looking to see where they had gone. As he threw them, he would pronounce the sound “o-o-o-o”, which was apparently an indication that he was pleased. Freud and the child’s mother felt that the sound Ernst uttered corresponded to the German word fort (gone). In Freud’s view, the child was playing at throwing away – at separating from – a significant object, his mother, in order to be able to find it again. In a recurrent manner, “o-o-o-o” could mean either fort (gone) or da (there): “I’ve found it again” [Freud 1920g].

Cotton reels and mobile phones: separation anxieties

Cotton reels and mobile phones: separation anxieties

One day, the boy was playing this game with a cotton reel to which was attached a length of string. He would never, however, use this cotton reel as a kind of toy vehicle that he could pull along the floor behind him. Freud watched him make the reel disappear over the edge of his curtained cot, while still holding on to the string; then he pulled on the string and hailed the reappearance of the reel with a joyful “Da!”. For Freud, the little boy was dramatizing his relationship with his mother, in terms both of separation anxiety and of joy at being with her again.

Freud quotes this sequence as an example of the tendency to repeat a traumatic situation which remains unconscious and which is brought to the fore in the transference during the therapeutic process. That idea would later be developed by Melanie Klein. Klein developed the play technique for use in child analysis, and emphasized the mourning process that was implicit in young Ernst’s play with the cotton reel: losing, then finding the missing object again. In the earliest mother-infant interaction, there is an implicit play between the infant’s mouth and the mother’s nipple. The mother needs the child to stimulate her in her role as mother, while the infant needs the mother’s warm presence. At one particular point in the infant’s relationship with his or her mother, an inevitable process of separation and distancing will be set up, one that will last until the child is weaned. For some infants, weaning is an experience of breakdown in the relationship – they break or otherwise lose contact with the thread that linked them to the cotton-reel / mother. Young Ernst’s play would thus seem to represent the dramatization of the painful situation which every child has to experience at one point in his or her development, leaving one stage behind in order to move on to a new process of integration.

FORT-DA

FORT-DA

' Madonna Litta' by Leonardo da Vinci

‘ Madonna Litta’ by Leonardo da Vinci

In this play, the threshold between outside and inside (outside in the daylight as opposed to inside in the darkness, under the bed) is a significant feature of children’s capacity to wean themselves from a situation that is ordinarily parasitic: the mother speaks for her child, translating the “o-o-o-o” sound into fort or da as the occasion demands. In the rules of every play of this sort and in the playful aspect of symbolically separating from / then coming together with the mother (or a part of her body), the presence and function of the father are essential ingredients: the presence of a third party, as represented by the dialogue between Freud and Ernst’s mother replaces the implicit dialogue between maternal and paternal objects.

The father’s function, of course, is quite different from that of the mother. The father – in his crucial role – appears at one point as the person who must contribute to the weaning process in order to ensure infant-mother and mother-infant separation. This third-party figure – the father – transforms the infinite thread of the cotton reel (no barrier to the merging between child and mother) into a link, a bond, a tie. There can be no bridge if there is no “gap” to be bridged…. Heidegger [1978c] goes as far as to say that bridges are what “organize” a landscape. The pontifex father is the organizer of the first dramatic play in which the limits of the arena encompassing infantile desire and maternal source have to be drawn up. The link or bridging function makes for continuity in the play between losing the maternal object and finding it again – in some ways, it resembles a game of hide and seek. (In my book The Delusional Person, I note that the term pontifex – bridge-builder – was applied to the Pope of the Roman Catholic church because of his role, inter alia, in the building of bridges over the River Tiber. The reader may appreciate the fact that the Sovereign Pontiff – or Holy Father – is also a “bridge” between heaven and earth.)

Some years ago now, at a psychoanalytic congress in Belgium, I noticed in the list of participants someone called Ernest Freud. Obviously interested by that, I very much wanted to meet the person. My initial tentative questions elicited the response: “Yes, I am indeed the cotton-reel boy.” That was a very moving occasion for me – Ernest Freud was a delightful person, rather modest and shy, with a beard – he looked very like his grandfather Sigmund. This grandson was born Ernst Wolfgang Halberstadt; he was later known as W. Ernest Freud – obviously he wished to keep alive the image of his grandfather — and practised as a psychoanalyst in Germany.

I had another very moving experience concerning the history of psychoanalysis when I went to visit one of my schizophrenic patients who had been hospitalized in a clinic on the outskirts of Paris: she was in a ward named after “Anna O.”, Breuer’s famous patient, thanks to whom the basic foundations of psychoanalysis were laid. In order to make clear to the reader the importance of play in communicating with patients who have lost the thread, which kept them in contact with their own particular cotton reel, I shall now say something about my visit to Marie, the patient hospitalized in the Anna O. ward of that psychiatric hospital near Paris.

Marie was a young schizophrenic, a charming and very beautiful young woman who was in treatment with me for many years. She was a very interesting patient, and I shall do my best to convey the vicissitudes of our relationship and of the transference interplay that emerged in the course of her sessions. When I arrived for the first time in that hospital, evening had already fallen; I walked through the many corridors of the clinic until I found myself at Marie’s bedside; she was in an acute state of mental confusion. I asked a nurse to help her dress and to accompany her to a small room on the ward.

The Annunciation' by Simone Martini

The Annunciation’ by Simone Martini

Marie stood facing me, on the other side of the desk, in a dream-like state. She said: “My father came and woke me up”. I understood her to be referring to me. She showed me her left hand, on the palm of which was written a series of numbers in different colours. After a moment’s silence, she said: “I found a girl on the Underground; she wrote down that phone number”. According to the description Marie gave me of her, this person was about the same age as Marie and was something of a tomboy – corresponding, perhaps, to Marie’s masculine double. After a long pause heavy with emotion, she picked up a pencil that was lying on the desk, called it a “child” and cradled it in her arms. In her mystical maternal delusion, she was identifying with the Virgin Mary and Child. In the days before her hospitalization, she was struck by a postcard she saw in my consulting room representing the famous painting by Simone Martini The Annunciation, which is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. That painting had made a powerful impression on me in 1955 when I saw it on my first visit to Florence after leaving Buenos Aires. I was due to attend my first international congress of psychoanalysis, held that year in Geneva, where I would meet Ernest Jones, Melanie Klein, Herbert Rosenfeld and W. R. Bion, all of whom would later be my mentors when I arrived in London. In Simone Martini’s painting, the Archangel is announcing to the Virgin Mary the forthcoming birth of the Christ Child. In my interpretation of this scene, the Archangel’s voice (flatus vocis) reaches the Virgin’s ear through a kind of divine acoustic copulation.

Since Marie was standing opposite me, I was the ear that was listening to the voice of Marie-the-Archangel (her masculine ego), while she, with her arms, was dramatizing the Virgin Mary with Child. Between us there was a kind of “symbolic copulation” in the transference that gave rise to a lightening message or something equivalent to bringing a child into the world, the fruit as it were of our work together. In her mystical and oneiric transference, another transformation took place. She moved her arm that was cradling a pencil and said: “Now I’m holding a rocket missile”. Looking upwards and holding the missile-pencil in her hand, she spoke of Jupiter. As she pronounced the word Jupiter, she touched her skirt [“jupe”, in French]; then she mentioned Saturn. What came to my mind at that point was the fact that the planet Saturn has rings that could be said to resemble either a halo or a skirt. At one point, Marie said: “I’m tired and confused, I feel really down, here on this planet”.

jupiter-saturn

Alienations: Jupiter and the ‘halo’ of Saturn

I understood her to mean in the playful transference that her infantile ego, in a state of crisis, wanted to leave the planet Earth where she would “quake” with terror (because of her incestuous phantasies concerning her father) and take off for another world. She was thus dramatizing in the transference interplay the fact that our relationship could give birth to a missile/child born into another life on a different planet. As she went on talking about Saturn and Jupiter, I felt she was thinking of a male and female couple, perhaps a parental one: Jupiter would be the supreme and powerful father, while Saturn would be the mother figure with a skirt.

At one point, still standing, Marie said: “My head’s spinning, I feel dizzy and everything’s spinning all around me.” She repeated “All turn, Saturn”. This is an illustration of the importance of play – the infantile transference – in the psychoanalytic process, especially with psychotic patients who are going through an acute phase or are in a state of profound regression. In the theatricality of her delusion, Marie was dramatizing these transformations, emphasizing the presence of an infantile ego which, in spite of the severity of her acute state, had not forgotten how to play. This kind of situation, in which I find myself in a child-with-child relationship rather than in an analyst-with-patient one, awakens in me the capacity to enter into the game and gives me the opportunity for playful and creative communication.

Goethe

Goethe

In his 1917 paper “A Childhood Recollection from Dichtung und Warheit”, Freud [1917b] writes of the early years of childhood and refers to the first few pages of a text by Goethe about his own life, Dichtung und Warheit [Poetry and Truth], which he began writing when he was 60 years of age. The introduction to the text contains some information about Goethe’s birth on August 28, 1749. Freud was struck by the fact that the only childhood event that Goethe describes in any detail was when he used to throw a great many objects out of the window. Goethe’s influence on Freud’s thinking is well known, and the poet’s early years quite naturally acted as a stimulant for Freud. Goethe writes of the birth of his younger brother and of the distress to which that event gave rise in him. Young Goethe was extremely jealous, and this caused him great pain. When Goethe was 10 years old, his little brother, by then 6 years of age, died; that event was traumatic for the future poet, the trauma taking the form of denial of any loss or need for mourning. He did not cry, and even appeared to be upset by the grief shown by his parents and his sisters. When his mother asked him if he had felt no love for his brother, Goethe dived under his bed, from where he brought out a large number of sheets of paper on which he had written lessons and stories. He would have taught his younger brother all that, thereby manifesting not only hatred and jealousy but also love towards him. In that way, Goethe, finding himself trapped between affection and jealousy, managed to overcome his ambivalence by adopting a “good daddy” role, in which he could be in a superior position. Goethe’s unconscious expressed his rejection of his little brother by throwing out of the window a series of objects, such as plates, having maternal connotations: what he was also getting rid of was the relationship between his mother and his little brother. Thus part of the young Goethe unconsciously felt thrown away, thrown out of the window, pushed out of the maternal womb-space by the new baby growing therein.

Giving birth to jealousy: keep it or toss it

Giving birth to jealousy: keep it or toss it

Freud writes of a patient who reminded him of the young Goethe. He too used to throw things out of the window for a similar reason involving the birth of a younger sibling. This patient’s jealousy as a child was expressed in a rather violent play which consisted in getting rid not only of his younger brother but also, as with Goethe, of maternal aspects (kitchen utensils) felt to be responsible for his distress. In his paper, Freud quotes a statement he himself made during an earlier meeting of the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society, according to which practically all children experience jealousy and envy towards their younger siblings; he adds that, like other feelings and phantasies, they are expressed through play.

At that meeting, Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth, a pioneer of child psychoanalysis and a forerunner of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, presented two observations related to this phenomenon. The first was that of a 3½-year-old boy, Erich, who was in the habit of throwing out of the window anything he disliked. Then his mother had a miscarriage in the seventh month of her pregnancy. After that dramatic event, Erich calmed down and, in his mother’s words, became “sweet and quiet and so good that he seemed quite changed ” [Freud, 1917b, p. 154]. (Perhaps he was depressed.)

In the second example, a young 19-year-old woman reported that when her little brother was born, nobody had any time for her any more; she responded to this by throwing her father’s favourite glass on the floor.

a transference

the container of transference

These examples illustrate how the unconscious in the transference expresses love and hate in the child’s own language. Freud says that Goethe’s autobiography could well have begun thus: “My strength has its roots in my relation to my mother.” [Freud, 1917b, p. 156]  That, indeed, was how Melanie Klein began her contribution in the 1920s. In her paper on Transference [Klein, 1975, p. 48] – the capacity to give and take (negotiating differences) – she writes: “In some form or other transference operates throughout life.” In German, the word for transference is Übertragung and has the same root as the Italian word for “ferry” – traghetto. In a paper I presented some years ago now at a Fondation Cini symposium which took place on the island of San Giorgio, I pointed out this relationship between “transferring” and “going from one riverbank to the other” (traghettare). It is as though between patient (child or adult) and analyst there is a space, a kind of canal that has to be crossed (traghettare) in one direction then in the other. Thus, to use a playful metaphor, we could say that there is a small gondola, a kind of container (a signifier), that holds meaning which can be carried from one to the other through the transference. In this sense, transference is a kind of Venetian game that I am playing in the company of the reader. Like poets, inspired psychoanalysts play with their ideas in order to make their metaphors come to life, the metaphors that give foundation to their interpretative hypotheses.

Freud presented a paper on December 6, 1907 in the home of the Viennese publisher and bookseller Hugo Heller, who was also a psychoanalyst. The title of Freud’s paper was “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming” [1908e (1907)], and the talk would form the basis of his 1917 paper mentioned above. In the 1925 version published in Freud’s Collected Papers, the title appears as “The Relation of the Poet to Day-Dreaming”. In that paper, Freud discusses the initial traces of imaginary activity in children. He emphasizes the importance of play as a way of giving and taking, and he links play activity to that of the poet and creative writer playing with his or her own images. Since it was important for the child part in Freud to let itself do its own fantasizing…. Freud highlights the relationship between fantasy, day-dreaming and the experience of time. According to Freud, fantasies come alive through children’s play; children may play alone (in a closed network of the mind which internally is open in a meaningful way, as long as the child in question is neither delusional nor hallucinating), but above all they play with other children. Through their play, children express their desires and their illusions. Often, they play at being adults, and imitate people – in that way, they give dramatic form to their fantasies between play, theatre and reality. There is also a very close relationship between fantasy and dreams. Freud writes of dream-thoughts and of “phantasying” (day-dreaming) as a creative form of play.

Still dressing up: the unconscious content of phantasy

Still dressing up: the unconscious content of phantasy

One of the major texts of the Kleinian school is Susan Isaacs’ paper on unconscious phantasy [Isaacs 1948]. As a psychoanalyst, Isaacs was particularly interested in the relationship between phantasy, imagination and play. In her view, unconscious phantasies are mental representations of the instinctual drives. They are “the primary content of unconscious mental processes” – an a priori of consciousness – and form the basis of creative thinking. This enlightening approach (the etymology of the word “fantasy” contains the idea of “fanes”, light) gives the image of a kaleidoscopic reality that is continually moving and changing. The ability to imagine the unconscious content of phantasy through play emerges during the first few years of life and, Isaacs points out, if we observe children at play during the first three years of life we can see them express in their play their hidden desires and fears. They usually dramatize their imaginative scenarios through play by calling on those most familiar to them: mummy, daddy, other children. Parents often appear more authoritarian and more strict than they are in real life. They will often be seen punishing their badly-behaved offspring, but there are also scenes in which tender and affectionate parents protect their children. For the child (and adult) psychoanalyst, it is important to point out the differences between the patient’s imaginary parents and his or her real ones.

Through play, children develop their capacity to differentiate between fantasy and what they know of the world around them. In my work as a child and adult psychoanalyst, I would argue that the give-and-take series of exchanges which emerges in the transference and its emotional content depends not only on the patient’s capacity for play but also on that of the analyst. In the field of psychopathology, we can observe how patients who have forgotten how to play, those whose mind has become paralysed and those who are very repressed, can get back in touch with their imaginative and playful aspects. In chronic psychotic patients, that capacity can be re-awakened if the therapeutic process is marked by “black” or “zany” humour.

Mildred was a 35-year-old schizophrenic patient whom I analysed when I lived in London. She had spent many years in a psychiatric hospital. Thanks to the transference interplay, she began to recover a taste for life and to develop a capacity for give and take. At the beginning of her very first session, she lay down on the couch and said: “I’m tired, dead tired, more dead than alive, that’s why I’m lying down on the couch”. She then fell silent for several minutes, immobile and stiff, then said: “I’m a corpse”. While she was saying that, I noticed that the big toe of her right foot was moving. I pointed out that something was still alive all the same, something that was making her foot move. She looked at me and commented: “You’re right, something is still alive”.

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a sad and abandoned little Poochi

Over time, communicating spontaneous or unconscious messages became more and more frequent, and the patient began to develop an idiosyncratic sense of black humour. That enabled her to enter into an infantile playful transference with respect to me. One day she told me of her dog, Poochi, who, very depressed, was a sorry sight. When I returned after a lengthy summer holiday break, Mildred remarked: “I hope your luggage wasn’t too heavy”. I asked her why, and she replied: “Because Poochi was in one of your bags”. I said that perhaps she wanted to know if I had taken with me in my head an image of her transformed into a sad and abandoned little Poochi.

Once, after a long weekend (she had five sessions per week at that point), she said: “There you go, you keep on abandoning me. You treat me like a dog.” In a later session, she arrived a few minutes late, saying: “I went to the Society for the Protection of Animals, because when you go away you abandon me as if I were a dog.” I understood her to be dramatizing in the transference an infantile situation in which she felt abandoned by her parents when they went on holiday; there was perhaps also a note of emotional hunger when they were not constantly by her side.

In one session, after remaining silent for quite some time, Mildred said: “There’s something burning in your fireplace.” It was a winter day, and the fire had gone out. Nevertheless, I was troubled by what Mildred had said, and quite naturally I got up from my chair and went over to the fireplace to see what was going on. When I sat back down, Mildred laughed gleefully like a child and said: “I’m practising telekinesis on you.”

My intention has been to talk of my life and to give a few examples of playful transference with patients who had lost contact with their infantile ego. The ability to play bears witness to the creativity which we have in life and in particular to the possibility of sharing experience, of giving and taking. I have a special liking for the imaginative and fantasy aspects of our existence as human beings. In concluding this chapter, I would like to append two extracts which I find particularly relevant to my argument.

5988574-Nietzsche - Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Sp0ke Zarathustra

The first is from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra [1961 (1883)].

‘One day had Zarathustra fallen asleep under a fig-tree, owing to the heat, with his arms over his face. And there came an adder and bit him in the neck, so that Zarathustra screamed with pain. When he had taken his arm from his face he looked at the serpent; and then did it recognize the eyes of Zarathustra, wriggled awkwardly, and tried to get away. “Not at all,” said Zarathustra, “as yet hast thou not received my thanks! Thou hast awakened me in time; my journey is yet long.” “Thy journey is short,” said the adder sadly; “my poison is fatal.” Zarathustra smiled. “When did ever a dragon die of a serpent’s poison?”, said he. “But take thy poison back! Thou art not rich enough to present it to me.” Then fell the adder again on his neck, and licked his wound.’

The other is taken from John Huston’s film The Misfits, starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. The two lovers are nearing the end of their odyssey; they have broken free of the prison – symbolized by the horses which, released from their shackles, are henceforth at liberty to roam wherever they please. As the horses disappear over the horizon, Marilyn Monroe asks Clark Gable: “How do you find your way back in the dark?” The wide open spaces of the Arizona desert lie before them, but how are they to choose where to go? Jorge Luis Borgès once famously said that there is no more complex a labyrinth than an open desert. At that point in the film, Clark Gable sees a star in the sky and says: “Just head for that big star, straight on. The highway is under it. She’ll take us right home”. The star enters into their loving interplay as a lucky omen.

I wonder what part of my imagination harbours my beloved Nietzsche. Looking for him, I find him deep within myself. He says to me: “I listened to your dialogue with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, and I found it interesting.” Like Nietzsche, I too talk with my heart, which says to me: “You also have to search for a star – or, rather, search for a road along which you will either find yourself or lose yourself”. For me, life itself is playful and full of surprises – our whole existence is an aesthetic adventure.

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On the highway: Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in ‘The Misfits’

 

Salomon Resnik was born in Argentina and studied at the Faculty of Medicine, Buenos Aires. After graduating, he became a full member of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, specialising in the study and treatment of juvenile delinquency and child psychoanalysis, as well as the psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis in both children and adults.  While in Buenos Aires he also became interested in Surrealism and wrote for the avant-garde art journal Cycle, working with Jorge Luis Borges and the art critic Aldo Pellegrini, and pioneering an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to music, art, and psychoanalysis.  After a serendipitous meeting with Melanie Klein, at the International Congress of Psychoanalysis in Geneva, he decided to move to Europe, studying first in Paris with  Claude Levi-Strauss and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and then moving to London to attend the seminars of Klein and Wilfred Bion.  With the support of Winnicott, Klein, Foulkes, and Ester Bicks, he helped set up a therapeutic community for young  people with psychosis, first at Netherne Hospital in Surrey and then at Cassel Hospital in Richmond.  While in London he also made contact with Italo Calvino, who invited him to publish his works at the publishing house Einaudi, and introduced him to the leading Italian intellectuals and analysts. After teaching at the Sorbonne, Lyon, Naples, and Rome, he moved to Venice to collaborate with the Giorgio Cini Foundation, a centre for art and culture and a non-profit social organisation, working in the interdisciplinary field of painting, literature, and human sciences. He currently lives and works in France.

He is the author of a number of works including The Theatre of the Dream, The Delusional Person: Bodily Feelings in Psychosis, Glacial Times: A Journey Through the World of Madness, and Mental Space.

‘Salomon Resnik is undoubtedly one of the most original and productive psychoanalysts of our time. His philosophical, literary and artistic background is impressive, and he has a deep understanding of psychoanalytic theories.’
– R. Horacio Etchegoyen

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