In accordance with the custom established last year, the third and final number of volume II of our journal is given over to the proceedings of the Annual Congress of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland (APPI). This issue of The Letter contains most of the papers presented during that November congress at St Vincent’s Hospital, the topic of which was Anxiety and its Co-ordinates.
The opening paper, delivered by Cormac Gallagher, essentially set the tone for much of what followed on that day. It draws attention to the theoretical and clinical challenge that anxiety poses to psychoanalysis, situating the centrality of the phenomenon of anxiety in Freud’s developing theory both with relation to what is at stake for any human subject and what is constandy at work in any psychoanalytic practice, and drawing together the innovations which Lacan brought to the study of the nature of anxiety which culminated in his conceptualisations with respect to the object of all objects, the object o. Insofar as the paper launched the congress and insofar as it constituted an encouragement to analysts to resist the all-too-tempting flight from anxiety which erupts in the course of analysis, for analyst as well as for analysand, this paper could well have been entitled ” Hi! Anxiety” as response to an encounter with “High Anxiety”.
The closing remarks at this year’s congress, the final paper in this issue of our journal, were made by Dany Nobus, who deserves special mention in that he was called upon to step into the breach and gather together the threads of a long day’s debate at little more than a moment’s notice, the scheduled speaker Charles Melman finding himself stranded in a strike-bound Paris. His remarks are proof that what is hastily gathered together in (perhaps?) the embarrassment of a moment can serve as a fine cloth indeed!
Between this ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ the substantial interval was filled with a succession of papers tracing the various routes which anxiety has taken and continues to take in the theoretical and clinical work of our discipline: from the work of Lacan, to the clinic and theory of neurosis, on to responses to anxiety, and ending with the clinic and theory of perversion and psychosis, each session followed by discussion and debate which, with hindsight, seems now to have been all too brief. The realisation, however, that there is more to be said on the subject than was possible given the limitations of time on the day, coupled with the willingness of the audience to share its comments on the presentations augurs well for a continuance of the debate.
It is not my intention here to give an outline of each of the papers delivered on the day since the brevity of my comments would do injustice to the engagement of each of the authors with the subject under discussion. Suffice it to say that, as with anxiety itself, a careful reading of each of these will not leave you deceived.
It remains to me to thank on behalf of the members of APPI both Patricia McCarthy for her work in co-ordinating the congress, and Fiona O’Brien Lavin, the secretary of the School of psychotherapy who, like the phenomenon whose co-ordinates we took as the pivot for our congress, shuns the limelight but works tirelessly in the shadows.
In conclusion let me return to a remark made on the day, to the effect that ‘in our often grim profession anxiety can introduce us to comedy as well as tragedy’, and note simply that the November Congress, while it addressed material the nature of which bore witness to the many tragic routes down which the human subject can find himself led, was not devoid of its own share of humorous moments. An analyst in response to a question from the audience as to whether he would permit an anxious client to drink alcohol during a session, replied answering anxiety with humour that he would of course allow it, – but that in such cases one would do well to remember the old adage:
– Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine!
– Your lipsl
– No!… My liquor!