A Psychoanalytic Journey: From the Art of Archery to the Art of Psychoanalysis, by Marilia Aisenstein

Posted on Aug 10, 2017

An Analytic Journey into New Psychic Terrains

This book is a collection of texts written between 1983 and 2017. They could be read as a diary, the private diary of my life as a psychoanalyst. The texts in the book are all responses to questions that I have asked myself or that were sometimes put to me. They are thus inner dialogues, often with imaginary interlocutors. Others may well know how to write differently, but for me writing is always addressed to someone else, sometimes in order to contradict them. I have always had a rebellious spirit, as I was told even when I was a child. Later on, Pierre Marty, with whom I worked from the creation of the Paris Day Hospital for Psychosomatics until his death in 1993 used to call me ‘Mrs “Yes, Sir, but…” ‘.


The book begins with a painting of the French psychoanalytic landscape. Many colleagues are unaware that the roots of the French psychoanalytic method are anchored in Ego-Psychology, revisited by Lacan and then by the Paris School of Psychosomatics. In the course of the book, moreover, the reader will find descriptions of the technique of the Paris School and clarifications concerning its theoretical foundations.

The title of the book, or rather the subtitle, is that of one of the articles in the book. I have always had a passionate interest in literature. When I was about 30, I discovered Japanese literature of which I have become an assiduous reader. This was how the little book Zen in the Art of Archery fell into my hands. I was struck by certain images which could be applied metaphorically to the profession of psychoanalysis.

Freud wanted psychanalysis to be recognised as a science; it may be regarded as one of the human sciences, but for me it is essentially an art that is acquired at the price of daily work of reflection on our technique and the theories that give it meaning.

When one visits the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, one can see the immense work of the young Picasso who for years copied the great painters of the past before finally discovering his own spare and abstract style. That is how I picture the evolution of the psychoanalyst.

The last chapters focus on thinking and destructiveness. Having been confronted as a young analyst with psychosis and psychosomatic organisations, I was necessarily led to reflect a great deal on attacks on the processes of thinking at work in our most difficult patients.

I believe that there is an element of destructiveness in the human psyche that can only be contained by a work of culture (Kulturarbeit).

In certain circumstances, personal or historical (the Holocaust, for example), this destructiveness is turned against thought and psychic work itself. For me this is the only way of understanding the submission of individuals and the masses to totalitarian abuses of whatever kind.

This is why our work is crucial both for our patients and ourselves, and underlines its essential role in society.

Marilia Aisenstein is a member and training analyst of the Paris Psychoanalytical Society and of the Hellenic Psychoanalytical Society. A past President of the Paris Psychoanalytical Society, past President of l’Institut de Psychosomatique de Paris, former European representative to the Board, and former Chair of International Psychoanalytical Association International New Groups, she is the author of many papers and publications about psychosomatics, the co-editor of Psychosomatics Today: A Psychoanalytic Perspective (with Elsa Rappoport de Aisemberg, Karnac 2010), and received the Bouvet Award in 1992.

Her latest book, An Analytic Journey: From the Art of Archery to the Art of Psychoanalysis, has just been published by Karnac.

Reviews and Endorsements

An Analytic Journey is a wonderful collection of Marilia Aisenstein’s writings, attesting to her long and outstanding career as a psychoanalyst. Reading this book felt akin to embarking on a fascinating analytic journey through new and exciting psychic terrains, led by the most original of guides. The author is an engaging and creative writer who shares her discoveries and explorations both in terms of content and approach in an ever-changing world. Especially intriguing is the way Aisenstein’s writing bears witness to her own personal and professional growth. This is one psychoanalytic journey not to be missed.’
– Antonino Ferro, president of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society

‘Representing the best of the French psychoanalytic tradition, Marilia Aisenstein seamlessly blends the foundational work of Freud with the important contributions of Lacan, Laplanche, Green, Pontalis, Marty, and M’Uzan. She tackles a wide range of topics, including the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis, the father’s role in development, bisexuality, the destruction of thought process, and, above all, the indissoluble unity of psyche and soma. The last-mentioned topic is Aisenstein’s forte and she is undoubtedly the finest scholar and practitioner of psychoanalysis in this realm. The ample material provided from her clinical work makes this book humane, lively, and deeply convincing.’
– Salman Akhtar, MD, training and supervising analyst, Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia

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