Issue 3: Winter 2015: “The Aesthetics of Truth”


The Online Journal of the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education (IFPE)

2015 Editorial Staff

Executive Editor – Farrell Silverberg

Managing Editor – Merle Molofsky

Triage/Reviewing/Editing Team –

Merle Molofsky

Richard Raubolt

Oren Gozlan

Ginny Rachmani

General Introduction to the 3 issues of Other/Wise 2015:

Other/Wise 2015 has appeared in three issues, and this is the third and last issue containing a selected sampling of papers connected to presentations from IFPE’s 2014 conference on the theme of necessary fictions.

The theme invited presenters to explore the interplay between psychoanalysis, truth, creativity, self-definition, writing and literature. Papers from this conference spotlighted the fabrications of the mind in the service of survival, reflected upon our narratives of self and other, and sought to explore the relationship between reading, writing and healing. Papers from 18 of these appear in our e-journal, and have been divided among this year’s three issues.

As Thomas Ogden, IFPE’s 2014 Hans W. Loewald Memorial Award winner stated in regard to analytic writing,

“What makes this literary genre so demanding is that experience–including analytic experience–does not come to us in words. This fact generates a paradox that lies at the core of analytic writing: analytic experience (which cannot be said or written) must be transformed into ‘fiction’ (an imaginative rendering of experience in words) in order to convey to the reader something of what is true to the emotional experience that the analyst had with the patient” (2005, p. 15).

Introduction to this current issue, Issue 3 of Other/Wise 2015:

“The Aesthetics of Truth”

Towards the end of his teaching career at the Collège de France, literary theorist and philosopher, Roland Barthes became focused on aesthetics of all kinds, but most especially on the aesthetics of our sense of reality, and of how we make sense of our place in the world. Like the contributions in this the final issue of Other/Wise 2015, Barthes essays about such aesthetics meandered through a search for relevance, meaning and truth in everyday reality and in the arts of literature, photography, film, painting and music. In the end, it has even been argued his final essays were, in actuality, novels instead––works of fiction about fiction (O’Meara, 2012, pp. 19-20).

Ultimately, and as all the contributors to this issue of Other/Wise ask (and I paraphrase here) in each of their papers, “Does the search for truth conclude in fiction? Does the line between reality and fantasy even exist? Never mind whether the same can be asked about the (supposed) line between subjectivity and universality?” This issue contains articles by Noel Glover, Amira Simha-Alpern, Ginny Rachmani, Penny Busetto, Merle Molofsky, and River Malcolm.

The opening paper, An Introduction to Truth-Saying by Noel Glover, explores the issues of truth in teaching, learning, psychoanalysis and in writing. Glover’s deeply thoughtful observation that “a desire for truth might tell us something about that which we wish most to hide: our own incompleteness” opens up a trauma-linked hidden dimension to the noble search for truth.

Using the ideas of Barthes, Derrida, Freud, Winnicott, Arendt, Britzman, Riceour and Lacan as points of departure, Glover weaves a tale of truth that moves far from the commonplace of fact into the realms of felt-sense and the impact of meaning. The reader may find herself or himself placed upon a crossroads between truth and fiction, past and future, and felt sense versus what we have learned, when, as the author so adeptly puts it, “truth is conscripted by a desire.”

The next paper, Narration of an Absent Mother: When Fantasy Replaces Reality by Amira Simha-Alpern, expands upon the notion that the search for truth, and related voyages into fantasy, are inspired by our own incompleteness and loss. In this paper, the themes are introduced and developed in as literary a fashion as can be found in a classic novel. Beginning with theorists such as Bowlby, Spitz, Fairbairn and Fromm, who show us that maintaining the human bond is our prime directive dating back to infancy, the author then moves us through Greco-Roman mythology, as well as Judeo-Christian archetypes.

Simha-Alpern points out that, psychoanalysts may automatically begin the work of deconstructing fantasies of an internalized object even though these fantasies might serve to make a person feel safe and secure, and life more bearable. In making this plea for the value of idealized fantasy, she quotes Mitchell who stated, “Reality cut adrift from fantasy becomes vapid and empty” (Mitchell, 2000, p. 29). Through her theme and case examples, Simha-Alpern asks us to fight the view that fantasy is an obstruction and urges us to value fantasy, as it can serve to link us to reality when otherwise the task would be too daunting.

Further demonstration of the value of fiction and fantasy, in this case reflecting the clinical value of fiction in achieving an integrated truth for patients, is found in Ginny Rachmani’s paper Fiction as a Transformational Container: A Graphic Detective Story. The author uses Bion’s concept of a “waking dream” (Bion, 1962b, p. 8) and Ogden’s (2005) extension of this concept, to develop the relationship between the day-to-day facts and the hidden fantasies that dwell below the surface.

Rachmani presents a riveting case history of a patient who developed a fictional alter ego through her writing, whose representation of denied aspects of the self embodied the acting out of the patient’s real rage after a traumatic event. This alter ego was involved in cloak and dagger, that included a dagger that she kept in her Chanel handbag. As the patient continued to unfold the arc of her fictional self-object’s adventures, this transitional construction fought her “battles for revenge and justice…,” Simultaneously, through the container of the intersubjective treatment relationship, the realization of unspoken parts of self, albeit “fictionalized,” provide a form of development-enhancing twinship that reflected and encouraged growth.

The exploration of a felt-sense aesthetic of truth continues in Penny Busetto’s paper, Borderlands of Meaning: the Paradox of Truth wherein two versions of truth are identified. She points out that the truth we are so driven to seek is the truth that denotes “faithfulness or fidelity to an emotional or a felt experience…”

In exploring and questioning the writing and film of 1930’s South African psychiatrist B.J.F. Laubscher, Busetto points out that to understand unfamiliar people whose culture is different, one must be aware of one’s own cultural bias and lens. She shows us, that there is an “ethics” of knowledge that becomes relevant at the moment we enter into interaction with an “other,” whether an individual or a group, whose ways seem confusing to us. The author makes the case that, upon reaching the limits of familiarity, we are in danger, according to Busetto, of applying misconceptions based on what we knew until that point, rather than beginning a dialogue that will lead to understanding. Here, through exploring a truth that came out of a felt sense of discomfort with Laubscher’s film and writing, this paper helps the reader identify a moment at which falsehoods can replace truth and, if unchecked, even lead to the “spectres of racism, Nazism…” and, “eugenics” instead.

In the penultimate paper of this issue, Merle Molofsky’s Everything is Fiction, the author shows us that, in our attempts to make sense of the “blooming buzzing confusion” (James, 1890, p. 462), each of us develops an “inner narrative voice” that becomes our reality/realities. Molofsky paper takes us on a philosophical reflection that begins with Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching, and states that unknowable reality can be likened to “The Tao that cannot be spoken is not the eternal Tao” (2006, p. 3).

Molofsky finds way stations throughout the King James Bible, John Keats, Freud, a case history (Molofsky, 2002) and a memoir, before reaching her concluding recommendation that we follow Wittgenstein’s instructions for understanding the world and, in doing so, “we must, so to speak, throw away the ladder, after [we have] climbed up on it” (1922, 6:54). She encourages us to embrace mystery, and to understand that the truth does not favor non-fiction over fiction.

Concluding this issue, among the most fictional of all the articles in this year’s Other/Wise, River Malcolm’s My Analysis with the Spirit of Professor Sigmund Freud: Toward a Collaborative Case History. Malcolm’s tale explores her commitment to a notion that lies at the heart of the analytic process, which is, as she puts it, “we can face fears together that we cannot face alone.”

Describing a journey of self-discovery that began upon viewing the figure of Sehkmet (Egyptian goddess of destruction) that was on display in the Freud Museum in London, and after terminating a Jungian analysis in which she had been engaged, Malcolm’s internal debate with an imagined reincarnation of Professor Freud’s spirit becomes challenging and darkly humorous as the paper unfolds. Returning to the question of truth or fiction in our case histories, her spiteful spirit of Freud, on reflecting upon his non-corporeal form, states “I lacked even the power to write a case history to avenge myself upon you,” and forcing us, albeit though tongue in cheek, to examine the motives behind our case history accounts that “must be transformed into ‘fiction’” (Ogden, 2005, p. 15).

With this concluding article, we have come full circle, back to our theme of necessary fictions and find that the “aesthetics of truth” can take many forms—even one that is wickedly funny, yet pointedly experienced as true. I think you will enjoy reflecting upon all of the truths and fictions in this, our third and final issue of Other/Wise 2015 (even if, truth be told, we are actually posting this issue in January of 2016).

–– Farrell Silverberg


Bion, W.R. (1962). Learning from Experience. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Lao Tzu. (circa 600 BCE). In: Tao Te Ching: Annotated and Explained. (Derek Lin, trans. and ed.). Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2006.

Mitchell, S.A. (2000). Relationality: From attachment to intersubjectivity. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.

Molofsky, M. (2002).  “Aloneness With Aesthetic Pleasure:  An Aesthetic Step Reflected in Memory and Dream.”  The Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 89, No. 2, pp. 217-238.

Ogden, T. H. (2005), On psychoanalytic writing. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 86: 15–29.

O’Meara, L. (2012). Roland Barthes at the College de France. London: Oxford University Press.

Wittgenstein, L. (1922). Tractatus. Logico-Philosophicus. London: Kegan Paul.

Volume 3 Winter 2015

pdf View/Download Full Issue in PDF Format


Image: Jody Zellen,

Individual articles in this issue:

By River Malcolm

By Penny Busetto

By Merle Molofsky

By Virginia Rachmani

By Noel Glover

By Amira Simha-Alpern, Ph.D.

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