Between January 1943 and May 1944, the British Psychoanalytic Society held ten extraordinary meetings. These came to be known as the Controversial Discussions. They were held to resolve major disagreements over the theory, practice and teaching of psychoanalysis. A new documentary video has been commissioned and released by PEP (Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing) about this reportedly (particularly) extremely acrimonious period in the history of psychoanalysis in London.

‘Controversial Discussions for the XXI Century’ looks at the history and legacy of the discussions regarded by Andre Green as ‘the most important document of the history of psychoanalysis’. A number of leading figures in psychoanalysis were interviewed about the events at the time, their immediate impact and their relevance to the psychoanalytic community now.

KEN ROBINSON:  The controversial discussions are about who owns psychoanalysis after Freud’s death. And Anna Freud and Melanie Klein both felt that they were, as it were, the successor to Freud.

ANNE-MARIE SANDLER: The aggression, the passion which one feels in the controversial discussion is really a bit mind-boggling at times. But at least it was said.

RICCARDO STEINER: The controversies are unique. But they can be an example of a way of dealing with conflicts in psychoanalysis. It can be summarized in that famous statement by Strachey: who tells us that what, today, seems so crazy and so impossible to understand, in a few years, will be part of our discipline and will be accepted.

Bringing up to date the original ‘Discussions’, the film examines contemporary understanding of ‘unconscious fantasy’ by leading Freudian and Kleinian psychoanalytic thinkers to examine areas of controversy and disagreement and bring the debate up to date in the light of recent advances in developmental psychology and neuroscience and promote the use of pep-web as a platform for dialogue across modalities.

Other interviewees include Jan Abram , Dana Birkstead-Breen , Catalina Bronstein , Peter Fonagy , Bob Hinshelwood , Isabel Hernandez-Halton , Rosine Perelberg , Ken Robinson , Anne-Marie Sandler , Allan Schore , Mark Solms , Riccardo Steiner and David Tuckett.

The documentary can be viewed – along with a transcript at this link: