Con il concetto “listening to listening” la psicoanalista Haydee Faimberg si riferisce a un particolare ascolto intersoggettivo. Intende prestare attenzione a come il paziente risignifica le interpretazioni dell’analista e questo, tra le altre cose, permette di individuare le identificazioni inconsce del paziente. La stessa Autrice, sviluppando meglio lo studio di questo concetto analitico, estende la “listening to listening” agli scambi professionali tra colleghi suggerendo un nuovo modo di ascoltare il racconto delle sedute in supervisioni di gruppo.

Si tratta dunque di riflettere su quanto ascoltiamo con le nostre specifiche, e implicite, categorie mentali psicoanalitiche per arrivare a cogliere appieno ciò che un collega cerca di trasmetterci con il racconto clinico (divario di comprensione che l’Autrice definisce con il termine misunderstanding). La Faimberg evidenzia come sia importante co-creare un linguaggio per discutere le differenze individuali, per comprendere a fondo il lavoro di un collega e allo stesso tempo per riconoscere i propri assunti teorici. In questo modo la supervisione non diventa un solo esporre differenti punti di vista volti all’aiutare il collega che presenta il caso clinico, ma anche un’esplorazione dell’impatto che gli assunti teorici hanno sulla discussione stessa.

L’obiettivo è capire realmente l’altro, evidenziare le differenze individuali e rintracciare la matrice teorica comune che soggiace ai singoli analisti. A tal fine la Faimberg propone un metodo di lavoro suggerendo di trovarsi in gruppi (della numerosità di circa 20 colleghi) dove esporre un caso clinico dividendolo in sezioni e presentando una sezione per volta, in modo approfondito. Per ogni sezione il gruppo può discutere senza sapere cosa accadrà dopo né come ha lavorato l’analista. Occorrerà prendersi tutto il tempo necessario per riflettere sul rapporto tra visioni soggettive, modelli di lavoro e assunti teorici.


Letter from Haydee Faimberg
Working Party ‘Forum on Clinical Issues’ (Working with the ‘listening to listening’ method [Haydée Faimberg, 2002])

While attempting to develop new ways to approach our discussion on clinical issues, it seems inevitable that at the same time we keep in mind as psychoanalysts our constructs (we cannot not have a theory). It would be an illusion to imagine that we fully understand the basic assumptions of the presenter (underlying his particular way of working) by translating into our own psychoanalytical language what the presenter is trying to convey.  Each analyst/translator has his own basic assumptions with which he translates.

We shall go on with the task of co-creating a language to discuss differences and understand the presenter’s work.

More often than we think clinical material is heard from one chosen implicit basic assumption (recognised or not).

It is part of our goals to train ourselves in listening not only to recognise the presenter’s clinical assumptions but also to recognise our assumptions as well.

We shall try to understand from which theory we are listening to the Presenter as well as trying to understand from which theory the Presenter is listening to his patient and interpreting or not interpreting. We explore the impact that the theoretical assumptions of each participant have on the discussion itself.

In this kind of dialogue we would be using the function of ‘listening to listening’ which I had initially limited to the psychoanalytical listening in the session. That is, to listen to how each intervention in the discussion of the group is heard by the others in a particular context of the discussion.

From the gap existing between what the participant thought he was saying and how he was heard we begin to co-create a language to understand the psychoanalytical complexity of each issue. By “listening to how each participant listens to each other”, the sources of misunderstanding may appear and so we begin to recognise the basic assumptions of each participant (which might create, precisely, the misunderstanding).

Thus, listening to misunderstanding is a valuable tool to discover different implicit basic assumptions.

This method, this style of discussion has its own logic, its own coherence, which we are trying to develop at its best.

Allow me to add something at the risk of repeating myself.

The common language we wish to create has as an aim to understand how each one works in a different way, and why does this analyst work the way he/she works. It is not at all to appreciate the other because he is just as ‘me’, but to know in what way he is different. Different in the sense of recognising his/her different basic assumptions; not different for what ‘I’ think the differences are only related to my own basic assumptions. Common language refers therefore to a way of understanding each other in the group, not to a project of working as psychoanalyst in a similar way. Though it might seem a difficult task, I feel it makes justice to differences instead of idealising sameness.

The analyst presents the sessions, divided in sequences, which allows that in each sequence the group can discuss in the position of not-knowing what would happen afterwards (which was the original position of the Presenter as an Analyst).

We take time to reflect on ways of understanding the articulation between modes of working and underlying basic assumptions. It is important to share the whole time exchange. The group is comprised of about 20 members.


References: ‘Listening to listening’ and ‘Misunderstanding and psychic truths’, Chapters 7 and 8 in Haydée Faimberg The Telescoping of Generations: Listening to the Narcissistic Links between Generations, London and New York: Routledge 2005.

Haydée Faimberg Chair of the Forum on clinical issues with the ‘listening to listening’ method.

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