Haydée Faimberg, MD, 2013

One of Dr. Haydée Faimberg's main interests lies in exploring the way that one culture understands how another culture addresses essential psychoanalytic problems. She believes that some of her contributions to psychoanalysis found their origin in a paradoxical difficulty that she probably shares with so many analysts from previous generations who had to migrate. The challenge facing Dr. Faimberg was the following: how to rethink her basic assumptions in order to be understood and accepted both as a French psychoanalyst and as someone with her own tradition and history, with her own voice. Haydée Faimberg likes to believe that one becomes an analyst by combining freedom of spirit with rigorous thinking.

Dr. Faimberg has studied, with due respect for the psychoanalytical method, how the 'history of  "another"' and 'History with a capital H' can be brought to analysis without turning the psychoanalytical process into sociology or 'applied' psychoanalysis. Transmission of the narcissistic mode of solving conflicts between three (or more) generations is a main focus of her research, for which she enlarged the concept of Oedipus Complex and coined a new concept of 'Oedipal configuration and its narcissistic dimension' which serves to relate Oedipal conflicts and narcissistic links over at least three generations. Dr. Faimberg considers 'filicide-parricide' to be a narcissistic dilemma governing the Oedipus myth. She has identified the functions of 'appropriation and intrusion', which regulate narcissistic objet relation; developed the concept of 'telescoping of generations' and the alienating narcissistic unconscious identifications where three generations are condensed; and defined the function of 'listening to [the patient's] listening' as a means of broadening the scope of clinical work. We can discover in all advanced analyses instances of transmission from at least three previous generations, not only for transmission of narcissistic wounds but also of values and the capacity to acknowledge a particular filiation. Dr. Faimberg has written on 'psychic consequences of Nazism in psychoanalytic patients' (2012) and illustrates how the 'listening to listening' function has been a precious tool in analysing a patient who survived an extermination camp.

Dr. Faimberg had the privilege of pursuing an ongoing dialogue with Jean Laplanche who writes in a letter about their work together: ‘…The developments of Haydée Faimberg’s thinking, always coupled with exact clinical observation, and creative and rigorous theorizing, have run side by side with my own, without there being anything strained in the affinities. Thus we have continued and further fleshed out the debate on the specific temporality of psychoanalysis and the concept of après-coup,(Nachträglichkeit). Should I add that a parallel with D.W. Winnicott, which becomes clear to me on reflection, is singularly instructive in helping us to situate Haydee Faimberg's thinking...’ Laplanche refers here to the fact that Dr. Faimberg linked as a first author ([1998] 2012) the Winnicottian concept of ‘Fear of Breakdown’ with the Freudian concept of Nachträglichkeit. She is also the first author to have proposed a broader concept of Nachträglichkeit (1998, 2007). These two contributions have now been widely acknowledged. About the convergences she has proposed between Laplanche’s concept of ‘intromission’ and the functions of ‘appropriation and intrusion’ (Faimberg 1981), see Dr. Faimberg’s chapter ‘The enigma posed by the transference’ in J. Laplanche et coll, Paris, PUF 1994. 

Dr. Faimberg also published the first study on Winnicott's 'Fragment of an analysis' (1955) centred on the 'paternal function' and she proposed a new clinical concept, the 'as-yet situation´ (Psychoanalytic Quarterly 2013). In a second essay, she studied the 'paternal function', comparing Winnicott's and José Bleger's conception of the psychoanalytical frame (International Psychoanalytical  Journal in press 2014). She has revisited the texts of classic authors (Bion, Bleger, Fenichel, Ferenczi, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott), in particular reading how they have read Freud and created new concepts.

Haydée Faimberg remains in internal dialogue with her teachers, Enrique Pichon-Rivière and Jose Bleger, Baranger and Liberman, who, when she knew very little about psychoanalysis, encouraged her to find her own words to pose questions: their answers were so enlightening that made her feel intelligent in her not-knowing. She traces back to their influence an attitude of curiosity about what is not known...yet. So then she came open to listening in the words of her first patient Mario (who is frequently quoted as a classic), to something that she was in no way prepared for (in 1969) either by a theory or by experience and that she would later conceptualise as the 'telescoping of generations'  ([1981/85] 2005) and the 'Oedipal Configuration and its narcissistic dimension' ([1993] 2005). Antoine Corel wrote that 'history is not a given: in the psychoanalytical process we acquire our own history'. This conception added a new dimension to Haydée Faimberg's work, when they wrote together a chapter on (re)construction ([1989] 2005).

Having initiated and chaired the first Working Party to discuss clinical material in the European Psychoanalytical Federation Conferences (2002/2005), at the same time she was creating her own method: Dr. Faimberg has extended the clinical/theoretical concept of 'listening to listening' as a method for recognizing in clinical discussion groups the basic assumptions of the presenter (and participants) and appreciating the way in which each one works differently. Her method is used in Europe, North America, Latin America and Congresses of IPA. For more than 20 years she has co-chaired the Franco-British annual clinical meeting. As IPA Vice-President (for Europe) she created and chaired the first International Conference on Intra-cultural and Inter-cultural Dialogue (1998) whose salient trait consisted in establishing first an intracultural dialogue (in this occasion on the concept of Nachträglichkeit) before the intercultural dialogue took place. From then on the concept of Nachträglichkei was studied by different psychoanalytical cultures and discussion groups were included in IPA Congresses.

Haydée Faimberg has contributed 18 chapters to 15 books. Her main book is The Telescoping of Generations: Listening to the Narcissistic Links between Generations, Routledge 2005.

Dr. Faimberg received the Haskell Norman International Award (2005) for 'outstanding achievements as a clinician, teacher and theoretician in psychoanalysis' and delivered the 44th Annual Freud lecture: 'On Constructing Historical Truths', at the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Dr. Faimberg is a Training and Supervising Analyst, Paris Psychoanalytical Society (SPP), in private practice in Paris. She did her psychoanalytic training and became Training and Supervising Analyst in the Argentine Psychoanalytical Society (APA) before migrating to France.

Excerpt of Dr. Faimberg’s address upon receiving The Sigourney Award:

“It is a great honour for me to receive the Mary Sigourney Award. There is no greater recognition for a psychoanalyst!

I was torn between two contradictory temptations. I was saved from both by some words of the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. The first was to try to say as much as possible in this short time. I gave up when I began to feel like that cartographer imagined by Borges, who, desperate for accuracy, ends up by drawing his map on a scale of one to one! And it was Borges' delightful remark, 'who would possibly be interested in the opinion one person has of herself ', which cut short the opposite temptation of telling you what I think of my own ideas.

Literature has the privilege of suggesting the most unexpected connections in the minds of the readers.

It is the nonsense displayed by Lewis Carroll [in the 'Hunting of the Snark'] that has led me on the trail of the logic of the unconscious ([1977] 2005) (as surprising that it might have been for Lewis Carroll himself!). The web of time in which a lion hunter gets entangled while waiting (featured in Italo Calvino's short story 'Time Zero') allowed me to read different kinds of temporality (1989). I owe to my reading of the 'Invisible Man' by G.K. Chesterton, the paradoxical idea of the 'invisible' concept that is, nevertheless, there : a source of inspiration both in defining what I understand by an 'absent concept' (2005) and recognising when it is legitimate to coin a new concept.”