The state of psychoanalysis in Scandinavia today.

Per Magnus Johansson

Today, the Scandinavian psychoanalysts are confronted with several crucial questions and problems. One question that has been of vital importance during the whole of the twentieth century, in Scandinavia as well as elsewhere, deals with the position of psychoanalysis at the university and the psychoanalyst's relation to academy. The question that the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society is presently confronted with, is whether the society should try to integrate its training program into the university system. This means that the psychoanalytic society would be subordinated to the university and would lose a great part of its independence. But, as a consequence, a candidate who passes the psychoanalytical training program would automatically be recognized by the state, and would, in Sweden, be referred to as a legitimate psychotherapist. This question has raised a lively debate among psychoanalysts as well as among other psychotherapists. This is however not the first time that the question of being recognized by the state appears in the history of psychoanalyses in Scandinavia. During the fifties and the sixties, some of the leading psychoanalysts tried, without success, to convince the Swedish government that there should be an authorization for psychoanalysts.

During the twentieth century, from 1911 up to now, Swedish psychoanalysts have had a complicated and strained relation to the university, and none of the most important Swedish psychoanalysts have had a permanent prominent position within its domain. Likewise, none of them has been responsible for any education on a higher academical level. It all started with the Danish medical doctor and psychotherapist Poul Bjerre. Bjerre had met Freud in Vienna and, for a short period of time, he became a member of the IPA. Apart from translating some of Freud's works into Swedish, he was the one who introduced psychoanalysis in Sweden and in Scandinavia. His medical studies terminated, Bjerre left the university. His teaching was to be confined to a private institution that he himself had created, and he never formed any psychoanalysts. In 1956, owing to some of his more influential patients, Poul Bjerre, at the age of 80, was presented with the title of professor.

The Finnish-Swedish psychoanalytic society was founded in 1934, and its first president was a woman by the name of Alfhild Tamm. A medical doctor by profession, Tamm became an honorary doctor at the age of 75. Besides Bjerre and Tamm, Lajos Székely is another prominent Scandinavian psychoanalyst, who have met recognition afterwards; he got his professor's title in 1995, a month before he died - he was then over 90 years old. At the age of 24, Lajos Székely presented a thesis in Hungarian at the University of Budapest. His theses, never having been translated, failed to attract any serious attention amongst Scandinavian scholars or psychoanalysts and, consequently, have never had any importance in Scandinavia. Székely was one of the few Scandinavian psychoanalysts familiar with the research of experimental psychology, which, in Scandinavia, by the end of the forties, was more or less equivalent with academic psychology. When he came to Sweden in 1944, he tried to get a position at the psychological department at the University of Stockholm, but to no avail. Together with Gudmund Smith, the professor of the psychological department at the University of Lund in Sweden, he made another attempt at starting a project, but his efforts never resulted in any lasting, financed research. After leaving Hungary, Székely wrote several articles that were published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. Neither of these articles has been taken into consideration by Scandinavian scholars - despite the fact that the International Journal of Psychoanalysis must be regarded as the most important journal within the IPA - and there is not much evidence that they have had any great importance for Scandinavian psychoanalysts or generated any further research.

Paradoxically, Scandinavian psychoanalysts seem to have combined a strong craving for recognition from the university with a markedly disdainful attitude towards it. According to them, not a single person at the university has had the intellectual capacity to really understand psychoanalysis in its essence. But at the same time, few of the psychoanalysts have been willing to take on the necessary work that comes with postgraduate studies at the university, the kind of extra effort which, of course, is indispensable in getting access to leading positions at the university. Simultaneously, during long periods of time, psychoanalysts in Scandinavia have lived in a society were the different universities were having difficulties in taking into account the importance of psychoanalysis or even in granting it any value whatsoever. This is true for the faculty of medicine, for the faculty of psychology and for the faculty of philosophy. Especially leading philosophers had either criticized Freud's theory or just ignored it, considering psychoanalysis as irrelevant for philosophy in general. However, there have been some short privileged moments during the fifties and sixties in Sweden - at the faculty of medicine in Stockholm - and during the sixties and seventies in Finland - also at the faculty of medicine in Ĺbo. There have also been fruitful periods in psychoanalytical history of Norway through the work of the prominent Norwegian psychoanalyst and university teacher, Harald Schjelderup. In the wake of his work other teachers at the university of Oslo, who have been trained in psychoanalysis, have tried to succeed him and to continue to transmit and transfer a psychoanalytical knowledge and a psychoanalytical understanding of the human being. But these periods in the different countries can not conceal the basic fact that the collaboration between the university and the psychoanalysts has been less than fruitful.

Another problem has been that the psychoanalytic societies have not always had neither the capacity nor the desire to fully appreciate and integrate their own members, especially those with a thinking of their own. Probably, the medical doctor Pehr Henrik Törngren was the most brilliant of all Scandinavian psychoanalysts during the thirties and the forties. He was in analysis with Ludwig Jekels, translated Freud as well as Thomas Mann, and taught for more than fifteen years within the institution for adult education Kursverksamheten [Open University]. At the same time he stayed in contact with Scandinavian physicians through the journal Nordisk Medicin [Scandinavian Medicine] and was thereby part of a scientific context. But he was excluded from the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society, and as a logical consequence also from the IPA; he criticized psychoanalysis in a way that was not permitted, and for him the discussion about psychoanalysis and its limits came to an end.

Another important person in the history of psychoanalysis in Scandinavia is Ola Andersson. He wrote but a few texts, but on the other hand the work from his pen is of a very high quality. In all, Andersson wrote one book, two short introductions to Freud, an article for a professional journal, and a few articles for newspapers. In the fifties, together with his colleague Göran Schedin, he supervised two translations of Freud, and in the eighties he himself translated five books and several of Freud's articles. Andersson, one of few psychoanalysts to take a doctor's degree in Sweden, wrote his thesis in English, and it has furthermore been translated into Italian and French and will soon be translated into Portuguese. Andersson achieved senior lectureship. Despite the fact that he was engaged in research at the University of Uppsala from the mid-fifties to the beginning of the sixties and taught at several educational institutions, Andersson did not convey his experience as a researcher at any of these institutions. He restricted himself to teaching at private institutions, where he focused on existential subjects, often with a religious perspective. To a limited extent, he also taught at different institutions at the university.

Andersson was a member of the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society for the whole of his professional life, but as a supervisor and teacher he was mainly active outside of the society. As a member of the IPA, but active outside of it, he turned mainly towards psychotherapeutic associations inspired by a Christian view of life. Andersson engaged in studies of Freud from the beginning of the fifties. His approach being that of an academical researcher's, he compared Freud's work with other contemporary scientific theories and ideas. According to Andersson it was the historical and interpretative sciences that were closest to psychoanalysis. A lone wolf, Andersson did not find a place in any Scandinavian psychoanalytic society.

A third problem connected to the first above-mentioned questions is what position the Scandinavian psychoanalysts should take concerning the relation between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. One psychoanalyst that was preoccupied with this question was the Finnish-Swedish psychoanalyst Carl Lesche. In Finland, he acquired a basic education in the natural sciences, but in the forties he decided to become a psychoanalyst. He wrote a licentiate thesis in practical philosophy in the beginning of the sixties. Lesche had a key position within the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society, and taught, to some extent, within the Scandinavian psychoanalytic societies. Apart from that, he taught temporarily at different universities around Scandinavia for four decades. He did not produce any book of his own. However, he published articles in Danish, English, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, and German, and through these articles he had some influence on students and scholars at the Scandinavian universities. He appeared, as early as the beginning of the sixties, as a symbol of the revolution against what many of the students perceived as a petrified and positivistic scientific ideal. He grew interested in studying the identity of psychoanalysis and accentuated parts of Freud's theory - the analysis of the parapraxis and dreams - in order to show that psychoanalysis is an interpretative discipline. Lesche was intent on systematically combining psychoanalysis and philosophy in the form of Husserl's phenomenology. Lesche was furthermore preoccupied with the question of theoretically separating psychotherapy from psychoanalysis, of scrutinizing the aims of psychoanalysis in comparison with those of psychotherapy, clarifying in what way they differ. He stressed that psychoanalysis has very little or, more exactly, nothing, to do with psychotherapy, psychology or psychiatry. Psychoanalysis strives towards the truth, and is not concerned with the patient's adaptation or his or her psychical health. The psychoanalytical interpretation is made, exclusively with reference to the truth, while the intervention of the psychotherapist - even a so-called dynamically oriented one - often has another goal.

In this context we also remind ourselves of the way psychoanalysis was received in Scandinavia. From the outset, several psychotherapeutic societies were founded alongside one another: Adler, Jung, and Freud in conjunction with psychotherapy inspired by Christian values were introduced simultaneously.

In Scandinavia the transmission of psychoanalysis has taken place under circumstances that were often less than favorable. Freud wrote in 1923 that the Scandinavian countries were those where psychoanalysis encountered the hardest resistance. The work of the most talented psychoanalysts was often marked by difficulties: apart from the fact that the psychoanalysts themselves did not always recognize the merit in a colleague who raised himself above the crowd, they often faced resistance from the university, academical psychology, analytical philosophy, and the established medical society. The influential representatives within Scandinavian universities have rarely recognized the significance of Freud's theory, in contrast to their colleagues in countries like Argentina, Brazil and France, where Freud has been a frame of reference and a source of inspiration for philosophers, psychiatrists, and supervisors of clinical psychology. Neither has any Scandinavian psychoanalytic society managed to provide a sufficiently solid structure to render an academical discussion of the history, theory, and practice of psychoanalysis possible. These facts notwithstanding, some psychoanalysts have written vital texts that show a certain amount of originality and psychoanalytic practice still survives in Scandinavia as well as in many other parts of the world. Towards the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century a consistent and almost complete Swedish translation of Freud's text is under way - though not without resistance.

Let me conclude with three questions that, in a concrete form, elaborate the relationship between the structure of knowledge and power at the university, and the particularity of the transmission of psychoanalysis in Scandinavia. These are questions that do not only concern Scandinavian psychoanalysts. They already engage psychoanalysts in other countries and will most certainly continue to do so for some time. What will be the consequences for the psychoanalysts if their training program to a smaller or greater extent is to be subject to Government control? What can we learn from history about the difficulties psychoanalysts have had in establishing a meaningful relation to the university? What can the psychoanalytic societies do in order to create an intellectual climate that will stimulate a sound, substantial and honest discussion about essential problems concerning the human being of today while taking into account what is specific of psychoanalysis?

Dr Per Magnus Johansson.
Haga Kyrkogatan 26
41123 Göteborg
00-46-31-7110004; 031- 7112093
Fax: 00-31-167570

Per Magnus Johansson
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