36. Jahrestagung der EPF: Illusionen - Illusions - Illusions



March 24th,
25th, 26th 2023

Illusionen Illusions


Dear Colleagues,

We have chosen the theme of ‘Illusions’
for the EPF 36th annual conference and we look forward to
another EPF Annual conference in person.

The Plenary Speakers for the 36th
Annual Conference on the theme of Illusions will be:

       Michael Günter, René Roussillon, Sally Weintrobe and
Luc Magnenat



We are now welcoming parallel panel
proposals and Individual Papers for the programme to be presented in March
Please read the argument below and prepare your panel or individual
paper on the theme. Each panel or individual paper proposal should
include a Speaker, a Discussant or two Speakers with suggestions for a
Chair/Discussant. We look forward to receiving proposals from the EPF
Forums and Ad Hoc groups.

The proposals should include a title
associated with the theme and an abstract (up to 200 words). Please see
the programme for the 35th EPF conference in Vienna 2022 for

Deadline for Panel Proposals: October 31st
2022. Deadline for Individual Papers: November 30th 2022. 

The parallel panels and IPs are 90 minutes
in duration.

As we prepare for the 36th EPF
conference in 2023 we are full of hope that the terrible Russian
invasion of Ukraine will have been concluded along with an end to the
pandemic and lessening of climate change. These world events have had a
huge impact on psychoanalytic practice at a global level. We look
forward to an atmosphere of reflection in order to facilitate analytic
thinking on global trauma and crisis associated with the theme of

The etymology of the word ‘illusion’
across the three official EPF languages references perception and a
subjective distortion of the perceived object. The Latin term ‘ludere’
means ‘to play’ and also to deceive. Illusion is associated with art,
for example in Gombrich’s study of the pictorial representations of
illusionist art (Gombrich 1959). Psychology, in a general way, explains
that certain illusions are not simply a psychological process but
involves specific brain processes that sometimes make sense or nonsense
of the impulses arriving via the optic nerves. In philosophy perhaps it
is mostly Kant who defines illusions as transcendental and in his view,
in accordance with Freud, suggests illusions are natural, like certain
optical illusions (Kant 1781). They do not disappear, but we can come to
realise that certain illusions are misleading.

In psychoanalysis, it is Freud’s paper
‘The Future of an Illusion’ (1927), in which the term ‘illusion’ first
became prominent in the psychoanalytic literature, during the phase of
his late work (1920 – 1939). According to James Strachey in his
‘Editorial Notes’ Freud wrote in his Postscript to his Autobiographical
Study, that ‘…a significant change’ had emerged in his writings
between 1925 and 1935.


My interest, after making a long
detour through the natural sciences, medicine and psychotherapy,
returned to the cultural problems which had fascinated me long before,
when I was a youth scarcely old enough for thinking’
(S.E. 20: 72).


Strachey points out that Freud had
previously touched on these topics, for example in ‘Totem and Taboo’
(1912 – 13), but it was in the writing of ‘The Future of an Illusion’
that Freud ‘…entered on the series of studies which were to be his
major concern for the remainder of his life
Of these the most important were ‘Civilization and its Discontents’
(1930), which is the direct successor to ‘The Future of an Illusion’.

Both papers, significantly, led up to the
1933 paper ‘Why War?’ during a period in European history when the rise
of Hitler in Germany was threatening world peace.

Stemming from Freud’s critiques on
religion and culture arose the Frankfurter school, with its classical
study of the authoritarian personality. On February 24th
2022, Freud’s paper on war became once more pertinent to Europe when the
world seemed to stand by helplessly as the violent and murderous
invasion took place by the Russian army on the people of Ukraine. This
unprovoked invasion threw the world into the horrors of war, causing
thousands of people to flee their homeland.

This was no illusion but a terrible and
agonising reality that at the same time felt unbelievable to so many of
us. The traumatic effects of both the pandemic since 2020 and the
Russian invasion of 2022 have affected and continue to affect all of us.
Meanwhile, for several decades now, the whole world edges to the brink
of devastating climate change on a scale that has never happened before.

The ethical position of psychoanalysis,
while ever present, has once again, as in WW2, come to the fore. How can
psychoanalysis be practiced in a totalitarian regime in which there is
no freedom of thought and no space to think and reflect from a position
of safety and freedom?

When Marion Milner started her analysis
with Sylvia Payne (who was the first female President of the British
Psychoanalytical Society), it coincided with the start of WW2. At the
same time Milner also started writing her book, ‘On Not Being Able to
Paint’. Her use of the term illusion was inspired by the American
Spanish philosopher George Santayana who wrote that symbolism cannot be
understood unless we regard it as a form of imagination ‘happily
grown significant…in imagination, not in perception, lies the substance
of experience
…’ Milner concludes that ‘the substance of
experience is what we bring to what we see, without our own contribution
we see nothing

(1950 p. 27). This profoundly enlarges the concept of the transference-
countertransference matrix and reaches forward to the realm of symbolic
thinking and its acquisition. At around the same time Winnicott was
developing his ideas of the transitional object and transitional
phenomena that strongly resonate with Milner's formulation of ‘illusion’
(Winnicott 1953 p. 90). He referred to the ‘substance of illusion
which emerges out of the early mother-infant merger. While Milner saw
that there was no meaning in life without the self's inner contribution
to perception, Winnicott focused on the necessity of the experience of
the ‘illusion of omnipotence’ - a mother who adapts to the
infant's needs so that the infant feels like God. For Winnicott, this
was the fundamental experience for a nascent self to begin to become a
Self as long as the process of disillusionment was also facilitated by
the mother. ‘The subject of illusion […] will be found to provide
the clue to a child’s interest in bubbles and clouds and rainbows and
all mysterious phenomena, and also to his interest in fluff

(Winnicott, 1968).

Both overlapping and complementary
theoretical contributions offer fruitful formulations for psychoanalysis

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