Meltzer in Venice, by Maria Elena Petrilli, Hugo Marquez, and Mauro Rossetti

Adolescent sexuality, aesthetic conflict, and the importance of case discussions


Meltzer in Venice: Seminars with the Racker Group of Venice demonstrates how in psychoanalytical psychotherapy work groups, seminars, and case discussion are a fundamental element in transmitting and developing ideas. This was the method employed by Dr Meltzer for many years in a highly personalised way as a kind of psychoanalytical laboratory. Such a method enhances the context of the therapeutic relationship: it helps to engage the therapist’s mind with the patient’s, the clinical material naturally expands into the search for meaning, and a situation evolves in which psychoanalytical knowledge is both discovered and rediscovered. The Racker Group turned to Dr Meltzer with intellectual challenges and stimuli that facilitated a process of what he calls ‘inspired learning’. We might venture to say that just as we felt the need to discuss the cases with the maestro, so did Meltzer equally rely on the work group with its clinical material and questionings.

meltzer_by_silvia_neborak-jpg250x190_q90-1All the cases presented in this book have a common feature: these are cases of adolescents entangled in relations and environments in which not a single element of personal, private, or intimate interest surfaces that could be a link in making a vital space where they can grow and become themselves. The couple constituted in therapy is one such expression of a vital space and helps to fulfil this essential requirement.

Not all case studies in this collection, however, refer to the experiences of an analytical couple. Two case studies concern groups of pubertal age under the care of educators working for the local public services. These cases also were treated with psychoanalytical attention and studied meticulously as clinical material by Dr Meltzer. In addition, in his supervisions Dr Meltzer further elaborated the fundamental principles of the theory of adolescence that was put forth initially in collaboration with Martha Harris.

511uhj-pblThis book demonstrates clearly the principle elaborated in that theory that, although adolescents appear to be anxious about sexuality, what they are truly worried and anxious about is primarily the knowledge and comprehension of the new world arising from the loss of the certainties of their infantile world. Such a shift also implies a radical change in the endeavour to understand the world of adolescents. It facilitates the recognition that adolescence is a mental state rather than a mere chronological period. While Martha Harris notes ‘the principle task of that developmental period is to find one’s identity’, Dr Meltzer stresses the repeated oscillation of adolescents between the thrust to move forwards and backwards.

41zcqhvzydlIn the course of our work with Meltzer over 15 years, meeting regularly two weekends every year, Meltzer developed the concepts of aesthetic conflict and published The Claustrum, a highly imaginative conjecture based on solid clinical foundations. Indeed, models prove useful so long as they provide a context for formulating the meaning of emotions. All the material in this collection focuses on this particular area of attention, concerning the communication of emotions and its vicissitudes. In each individual situation Dr Meltzer finds and creates an evocative yet precise mode of description. The theoretical and technical features suggested by Dr Meltzer can be truly understood only in the way they find expression in the unique context of these individual cases.

Maria Elena Petrilli/ The Racker Group of Venice

Meltzer in Venice: Seminars with the Racker Group of Venice, edited by Maria Elena Petrilli, Hugo Marquez, and Mauro Rossetti, has just been published by Karnac


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