Review, Ricerca nel setting, R.D.Hinshelwood, by Simone Schirinzi

Research on the Couch,


London: Routledge 2013.

Edizione italiana a cura di S.Marinelli:

Ricerca nel setting.

Roma/Milano: FrancoAngeli 2014.




Research on the Couch, a review


By Simone Schirinzi



It’s usually difficult to translate from a language to another without losing the original meaning (or to translate the content of a book in a review), but, as we know, every Transformation lets us understand an aspect more than the other and than the common Real through the elaboration processes of linked people. So the title of the Italian edition: “Ricerca nel setting” (Research within the setting), although obstructing the undertones of significance that is possible to get from the terms “Research on the Couch”, immediately introduces us in the core of the book. The terms “within the setting” are strictly and complementary associated tho the “on the Couch” ones: research on the emotions and contents (un)conscious of the analyzed person, research about the couple-generated Psychic Life (as intended by De Toffoli); research on the other in ones mind, that is a synonymous of research in the place where events take place: in the setting. From this point of view, the core of Hinshelwood’s work, could be intended as this: to retake the attention on the relation, on our capability to think about it and maybe even restart from the frustration to increase the knowledge and assign a form to the corpus-psychoanalysis.

I don’t think it is by chance that this kind of work is to be published in this time, when the psychoanalysis is subject to strong social and professional pressures about it’s responsibilities. “What the psychoanalytic studies are?”, “Is the psychoanalysis a science?”: those are the questions that give the beginnings to the author’s work and study, questions that are a hidden request of identity and presence to a group that seems to be split not by creative solutions, but in order to be split from the others parties, confusing the group and the groups that interact whit it.

To answer questions about the existence we need to acknowledge others and to acknowledge ourselves as the other, therefore the research is “within” the setting and not outside it, it is not about introjecting fantasies about how the psychoanalysis should know and be known, but about showing what our way to know has produced “on single case”, just like a natural science would do. The scientist lab, Hinshelwood says, is just like the analyst setting: independent variables (the elements within the setting) are under the researcher’s (the analyst’s) control, so we just need to organize an experiment to see how a variable (new element in the setting) depends on the others that we already control. Controlling all these dependent variables is certainly an illusion, but is just when this illusion comes out that the theory or the model makes another step through evolution, giving us the possibility to explore and to know the unknown, if we can. Like that Hinshelwood proposes to re-discover Freud, not intended as a model to whom refer, but in order to get an experimental standard that could assist us on the growth of the theory, a selected fact that could give meaning to the unlinked elements (as intended by Bion). This is a crucial task for the author, the group-psychoanalysis has to find again an experimental model that could make possible the evaluation of the new theoretical proposals, just has Freud did, but downsizing the influence of an ipse dixit (that could be referred to every well known name in the field) as the only standard of effectiveness.

In the title itself Hinshelwood tells us how the work was performed: the absence of the verb “to do” lets us dream not just about doing a research, but about going on a quest; the absence of the article “the”, not only doesn’t characterize his suggestion as the only research method, but lives us room to think that the term “research” is also a suggestion about what the analyst can put his attention on when answering the questions we where mentioning before. So “research” could be a suggestion: “you must re-discover, rescue, within the setting (on the couch) in order to find an answer”: it’s a must to re-discover a rail, a compass that could point the different analytic schools of thought toward communication, confront and tolerance with the critique in order to avoid destructive criticism.

Hinshelwood’s objective is surely a great one and we have to pursue it together: even the author, in the last pages of the book hopes for his proposal to be taken, experimented on, criticized and made better. Through this book He proposes a frequency on which the group-psychoanalysis could be tuned, hoping that this book will be acknowledged as a “A”, unlike other works, as Bion’s Elements of Psycho-Analysis, that weren’t heard by the group. The reader will find itself in front an accurate dissertation that will accompany him in his journey, but he will have to take some brakes in order to weight those same assertions.

The Rome meeting was an experience in which the complexity and the novelty of the model and it’s use emerged, as well as the difficulty in applying it in a context where were taken multiple contents, a lot of which, maybe, were not thought of before. It’s probable that it’s in this that we can notice the contribution taken to Hinshelwood’s book and to his model by the “Italian psychoanalytic tradition” translating “nel Setting” the terms “On the Couch”: the introduction of aspects part of less pragmatic, but more concentrated on the analyst dreams psychoanalysis, where the space-time is felt (vissuto) in a different way from the “English psychoanalytic tradition”, where the author comes from; a psychoanalysis strongly orientated to group dimension, in which Hinshelwood’s model still has to refine details for it’s realization.

Just like that, through a simple translation, we can have that work of revision and construction that, if debated, helps in the growth of the model. Divulgation and debate shall let the author and his model travel and know, shall let it growth, but only if the request of a new discussion will be answered by professionals and interested people, firstly in the professional and then in the social field.


I hope the reader will excuse me if I was rather vague about the proposed model and about some considerations and affirmations taken for granted without explaining the path taken by Hinshelwood,

but I tried, with this review, to live to the book the presentation of the contents, given the clarity of the Author and his fine work; my words could not grasp all the path included in a whole book. Therefore my contribution resides in the proposition of my appreciation of the author’s work after reading the book and taking part to the lecture, where we discussed and re-elaborated it with my colleagues and prof. Marinelli, and participating in the meeting held in Rome. My hope is to leave you to a more careful reading, focusing the attention on some undertones and values brought by the book, beyond the truthfulness and precision of the model.




Traduzione: Guido Cedrone
Testo originale: Simone Schirinzi



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