Contribution From The Vienna Congress


Mr Harold Bridger (U.K.): One of the aims of psychoanalysis is the understanding of the internal world to an extent that one can balance and control one's relationship to the external world. Similarly, before endeavouring to establish relations with other sciences and professions or engaging to meet them in multidisciplinary discussions, I am going to make perhaps an unpopular suggestion, that the psychoanalysts learn to improve their relationships with one another, to understand more about communications, and to understand more about the processes operating within groups and organizations. Without this they would be at a great disadvantage.

I am one of those psychoanalysts who spends much of his time working in the field of group and organizational processes and in communities. Working in the multidisciplinary groups in the Tavistock Institute one comes to know well the difficulties that are inherent in this kind of situation. We are entering a period and a future when the psychoanalytic profession is growing at a tremendous rate – I think the Congress has doubled in the last two succeeding Congresses – but at the same time, the sophistication of the external world is growing apace, and there is a greater understanding of psychoanalytic work than there is perhaps among psychoanalysts of other scientific developments which overlap and interact with their own.

One other point I would like to make. In the study of group and organizational processes, we have learned that in any profession or organization the work system interacts with a career system and a political system. I would doubt whether we have enough knowledge and control over the political system or the career system within and among ourselves as psychoanalysts. I would make a plea that we even use the opportunity of the Congresses for developing an understanding of the group processes operating during our discussions without detracting from the central themes of psychoanalysis. One could use the opportunities that are provided of working in groups, to ensure that people who conduct the groups understand something about groups and can help members of them to learn something from the group experience as well as from the content of the discussion. Such 'chairmen' could help the groups understand by practice as well as by precept, and even improve the intercommunication between people working in the same field. This would mean devoting something like a day to groups for a purpose which involved using the form and structure of the Congress to understand the processes happening during its course, and not only studying the content with which we are so much concerned. The learning at Congresses has, I think, been mainly intellectual – it is right that it should be – but, at the same time, we should use all the forces and opportunities we may have for this additional dimension. I think it would improve communication and it would improve our personal learning, as indeed I was very glad to hear Miss Freud mention this morning, when she, to my surprise and pleasure, put group development as a task, after child development.

From: Gitelson, F.H. (1972) Report of the 27th International Psycho-Analytical Congress (in Vienna). Bul. Int. Psychoanal. Assn., 53:83-140