Didier Anzieu, a French psychoanalyst, a professor of psychology, and a gifted teacher was born in 1923 and died in 1999. As a psychoanalyst, Dr. Anzieu’s life intersected his personal history, his psychoanalytic history, and the history of the French psychoanalytic movement. His mother had been treated by Jacques Lecan and Dr. Anzieu began psychoanalysis with Lecan in 1949 before continuing his training with others.
Dr. Anzieu always held himself out as an orthodox analyst, but he was also careful to modulate the mechanism and technique of interpretation according to the treatment needs of the particular patient. As he refined his theoretical understanding through clinical activity, he highlighted transformations needed in the object interpretation (the “archaic”) and in the handling of a reliable and flexible framework that harmonized with the specific transferences generated by the pathologies of the primal. He gave increasing attention to these areas of practice, which were supported by his contacts with the Anglo-American school. He was also interested in the unconscious formations and processes involved in group bonds and the work of creation.
Dr. Anzieu’s worldwide recognition is largely due to his scrupulous approach to clinical and theoretical work and his intellectual freedom in searching for innovative tools. He renewed the understanding of self-analysis and dream interpretation, primordial models for what he would later theorize as the work of creation and processes of thought. He introduced new concepts into psychoanalytic theory. With the important concept of the “skin ego”, he referred to “a figuration the child’s ego makes use of during the precocious phases of its development to represent itself as an ego containing psychic contents based on its experience of the surface of his body.” This concept inaugurated several research projects of psychic interfaces and envelopes, on the dual prohibition of touching, on formal signifiers and their normal and pathological transformations. These investigations gave rise to a theory of thought processes and a conception of the work in which the dual polarity of creation and destruction is affirmed.
Dr. Anzieu made use not only of clinical psychoanalysis but also of literature and the visual arts to bring to light the traces of the body in writing, drama, and painting. Finally through his work on individual and group psychoanalytic psychodrama, he enriched the instrument derived from psychoanalysis by proposing a new outlook on the operation of the unconscious in groups.