Splits in psychoanalysis

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Since its beginning, the psychoanalytic movement has been plagued by conflicts and has given rise not only to numerous splinter movements, but also to adversarial sub-groups and internal divisions within its larger institutions. Some see this as an indication of the psychoanalytic movement's tendency towards dogmatic organizations that practice exclusion and "excommunication." But others see signs of what they call "heteroglossia," noting that with conflict, propositions that were once judged to be inconsistent with the general theory of psychoanalysis are later reincorporated into it. The breakup of Freud's friendship with Wilhelm Fliess could be called, albeit a bit arbitrarily, the first psychoanalytic "split." The way they split seems almost paradigmatic: two passionate researchers who seemed similar were able to collaborate in spite of profound contradictions between them that remained hidden until the moment one of them began to assert himself. The 1912 break between Freud and Alfred Adler could be described in just the same way, and likewise that of Freud and Carl Jung in 1913. Neither of the two came to Freud empty-handed. They each had their own theoretical ideas and their own body of research. And their encounters with Freud were for a time more like those between like-minded individuals. They were not waiting for any kind of illumination, which they believed they already possessed, but rather supplemental clarifications, or better still, Freud's approval. Both followed theoretical tendencies that diverged from Freud's own ideas and personality and that indicated orientations characteristic of their time: Adler emphasized social factors, under the influence of the Marxist movement that unfolded for most of the twentieth century; Jung was preoccupied with mysticism and the esoteric tradition from which Freud, in spite of his curiosity, kept a distance in his theorizing, if not in private life. Each of them founded parallel movements that refused to take any advantage of their connections to psychoanalysis even by virtue of their names: Adler's "individual psychology" and Jung's "analytical psychology." Wilhelm Stekel, who left the psychoanalytic movement after Adler in 1912, remained a marginal figure and only had a few disciples who followed him personally without constituting a group. The first true psychoanalytic split was that of Otto Rank in the aftermath of the publication of his book The Trauma of Birth in 1924. Rank was educated with Freud's help and even somewhat under Freud's wing, and he was a crucial player in the conception and the organization of the psychoanalytic movement. On the basis of Freudian premises, and by claiming to be their true inheritor, Rank separated himself from the very person to whom he owed his entire career. In contrast to others who moved up the Freudian ranks for a time and then took a divergent path only to disappear forever after, Rank did not remain alone, and only his early death prevented him from developing a school with successors to carry on his ideas. His ideas on trauma, the primal relation to the mother, and the shortening of the duration of the treatment are some of the themes that later emerged to take an increasingly important place in contemporary psychoanalysis. Sándor Ferenczi's influence in psychoanalysis followed a similar trajectory, and he only narrowly avoided a break with Freud over the experimental techniques of his late career, as detailed in his article on the "Confusion of Tongues" (1932). His death prevented a break with Freud, which would have been one of the last to have a theoretical cause. The same can be said of Wilhelm Reich, who was thrown out of the psychoanalytic movement in 1934, though his political activism was a precursor of the Freudian-Marxist movements that would appear some decades later. Problems of training increasingly came to overtake theoretical disputes as the primary motive for splits. This shift was signaled in 1926 by the trial of Theodor

Reik for quackery, by Freud's commentary on the case in The Question of Lay Analysis, and by the discussion that ensued within the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1927. Training was confirmed as the new topic of debate by the creation of the Swiss Medical Society for Psychoanalysis in Zurich in 1928. The new society excluded non-physicians, a measure aimed specifically at Oskar Pfister. The debate intensified when, in 1938, the American Psychoanalytic Association's refusal to admit non-physicians to their membership led to the brink of a split with the International Psychoanalytic Association (I.P.A.). But as Ernest Jones said in all seriousness, "the advent of the Second World War altered the whole situation . . . and the Americans . . . cordially cooperated with [the I.P.A.]" (Jones, Vol. 3, p. 300). But it was actually the death of Freud in September 1939, along with the disruptions that accompanied the exodus of Jewish analysts from Europe, that would radically alter relations among analysts (Mijolla). This led to the codification of the qualifications for the status of "psychoanalyst," which Freud had held the supreme right to confer while he lived.

One of the last great theoretical debates was the controversy between the partisans of Anna Freud and those of Melanie Klein from 1941 to 1945. The debate almost provoked a split, with each of the parties considering themselves to be more faithful to Freud's thought, but in the end the crisis was averted by a compromise that allowed the British Psychoanalytic Society to split into three subdivisions that have managed to coexist as well as could be expected. Meanwhile, in the United States, Karen Horney was kept out of the New York Institute, also for theoretical differences. In 1941, along with others who shared her "culturalist" views, she founded the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis and the American Institute of Psychoanalysis. A series of splits followed, in Washington, Boston, and Los Angeles, while at the same time a number of associations for lay analysts were founded, such as the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, founded by Theodor Reik in 1948. In 1987, this association was, after a long struggle, the cause of a reversal in I.P.A.'s policy on lay analysts. In Germany after the war, theoretical grounds were used to settle scores for the positions that some had taken during the Nazi era. The German Psychoanalytic Society (Deutsche Psychoanalytische Gesellschaft, D.P.G.), which was reestablished in 1945 under the strict leadership of Carl Müller-Braunschweig and Harald Schultz-Hencke, was a heterogeneous assembly that had hardly any conceptual or practical relationship with I.P.A.'s conception of psychoanalysis as represented at the Zurich Congress in 1949. Harald Schultz-Hencke advocated a "neo-psychoanalysis," and several of the group's members were more Jungian than Freudian. Thus Carl Müller-Braunschweig, in spite of the fact that his past did not inspire much confidence, was encouraged by those who held more orthodox views to found the German Psychoanalytic Association (Deutsche Psychoanalytische Vereinigung, D.P.V.), which was the only German group to be recognized by the I.P.A. as authorized to train analysts. The two groups would coexist until the German Psychoanalytic Society was eventually readmitted into the international psychoanalytic community. Increasingly, problems of recruitment and training caused crises and splits within the international psychoanalytic movement. After World War II, the growing popularity of psychoanalysis and its geographical expansion linked to the exodus of analysts from Europe led to an increased demand for analysts and trainers in the western world. The example of France is significant in this context. Young psychiatrists were already interested in psychoanalysis, but the creation of a bachelor's degree in psychology by Daniel Lagache in 1947 broadened this interest considerably. The decision to found a psychoanalytic institute in Paris triggered a struggle both for leadership and for authority over the candidates who began to flock to it. The outcome was the split of 1953, which left the Psychoanalytic Society of Paris (Société psychanalytique de Paris, S.P.P.) under the control of Sacha Nacht and led to the creation of the French Psychoanalytic Society (Société française de psychanalyse, S.F.P.) and a "free institute" co-directed by Daniel Lagache and Jacques Lacan. The new group then requested membership in the I.P.A., which, with an unprecedented intensity, took on the role of arbiter and even supreme authority in matters of training. Excluded from the I.P.A. by their own secession, the analysts of the S.F.P. fought for twelve years before their credentials as training analysts were granted. This recognition came at the price of excluding Jacques Lacan, who refused to comply with the norms that the I.P.A. imposed on analysts all over the world, such as the quantity and frequency of sessions in a

training analysis, the length of sessions, and the rituals concerning the required supervised analyses. But conflicts over training reemerged after the foundation of the Freudian School of Paris (École freudienne de Paris, E.F.P.) by Jacques Lacan in 1964. A case in point was the split of 1969, when Piera Aulangier, Fran-çois Perrier, and Jean-Paul Valabrega left to form the Quatrième Groupe ("Fourth Group" or O.P.L.F.). After Lacan dissolved the E.F.P. in 1980 and died the following year, the Lacanian movement suffered split after split, giving rise, in fact, to a plethora of small groups, most of them not very long-lived. In spite of its violent internal conflicts, the School of the Freudian Cause (École de la Cause freudienne, E.C.F.), the successor to the E.F.P., remained the most stable institution. Its longest lasting contemporary, the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, broke up in 1995.

Psychoanalytic splits are often political, like the formation of the Psychoanalytic Seminar of Zurich in 1977, and often emotional, like the divisions over Kleinian theory in the Argentinean Societies. In the end, they are too numerous for a comprehensive overview. It has been impossible to give more than the most significant examples here. Nevertheless, they do have common features, among them emotional breakups, rebelliousness, and ideological schisms. Each split presents a mixture of these features in different proportions. Splits resemble emotional breakups insofar as old friendships are broken, transferential bonds are brutally cut, and choices must be made. "It reminds you of parents who are divorcing," as Anna Freud said in 1953 (Lacan, p. 72). As for "rebelliousness," its traces are to be found in the new structures and regulations that arise, with much of the focus being on the functions of training, supervision, and so on. And ideological schisms, though generally masked by administrative operations, are always present. The fact that debates over ideas rarely reflect contrasting theoretical visions does not mean that they are any less vital. This is evident from the fact that every split is followed by a burst of creative activity on both sides. It is possible to see in this last feature the invigorating potential of splits, which might otherwise seem like a kind of destruction. New, often formally unstable ideas can cause a definitive break, yet later they may reemerge in the mainstream of a psychoanalysis that is in perpetual evolution.

See Also

[Carl GustavJung]]


  1. Lacan, Jacques. (1990). Television: A challenge to the psychoanalytic establishment. (Joan Copjec, Ed., and Denis Hollier, et al., Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1974)
  2. Lockot, Regine. (1995). Mésusage, disqualification et division au lieu d'expiation. Topique, 57, 245-256.
  3. Mijolla, Alain de. (2001). Splits in the French Psychoanalytic movement between 1953 and 1964. In R. Steiner and J. Johns (Eds.), Within Time and Beyond Time (pp. 1-24). London: Karnac.
  4. Pines, Malcolm. (1995). La dissension dans son contexte: schismes dans le mouvement psychanalytique. Topique, 57, 191-206.
  5. Thompson, Nellie L. (1995). Les schismes dans le mouvement psychanalytique auxÉtats-Unis. Topique, 57,257-270.