Keeping Psychoanalysis Alive and Evolving: 2022 Sigourney Award Winner


This 2022 Sigourney Award winner reflects on his work.


I was nominated in previous years by some colleagues of fame and had not won the Sigourney Award. I did not apply again until a North American colleague, Caron Harrang, nominated me and I thank her for valuing my work and taking the initiative. I was surprised and pleased to win the Sigourney Award, undoubtedly the most important recognition in the field of psychoanalysis.

When I learned that I had won, I felt a sense of deep, calm satisfaction for the recognition and of gratitude to my patients, the many valuable teachers (among whom I cannot fail to mention Antonino Ferro and Thomas Ogden), analysts, supervisors, colleagues, and students whom I have had the fortune to meet in Italy and abroad.

I felt that I had dedicated my life to something noble, and through my work as a psychiatrist, to the care of mental suffering and the investigation of what constitutes the essence of our humanity.

It is not easy for me to explain concisely what my original contribution to psychoanalysis consists of. For a few years, I have been researching the theme of intersubjectivity to firmly reinforce the metapsychology of the post-Bionian analytic field theory. The original concepts I have introduced into the lexicon of psychoanalysis are useful for carrying out clinical work with more awareness (for example: transformation into hallucination, immersion versus interactivity, interpretive metalepsis, etc). Other concepts I have contributed to that we can interpret in a new way include intersubjectivity, sublimation, regression, somatic reverie; the Bionian concepts of O, negative capability/faith, the "in search of existence" graph, and masochism, etc). I think that the analytic field model can support an ethical refounding of psychoanalysis, an issue of the utmost relevance for me. The reason for this is that it integrates psychoanalysis with the essence of modern ontologies no longer based on the subject/object and mind/body split, but on intercorporeality and the "we" (originally addressed by Maurice Merlau-Ponty and Jean-Luc Nancy). We finally have a chance to set aside the classic suspicious way of listening to patients derived from Freud's view of the unconscious as "hell," which at times, in my opinion, can very easily become ideological and distancing.

Although my work has thrived in redefining theories and establishing new concepts, Freud and classical psychoanalytic dialogues are dear to me. I have written extensively on the relationship between psychoanalysis and aesthetics but in a dimension of reciprocity and exchange. In short, I think I have always been faithful, if not literally, to Freud's method of using the filter of dreams and the unconscious to understand what animates the psychic reality. My work has aided in radicalizing this method to make it strictly consistent with the epistemology of our time. In doing so, without neglecting theoretical commitment, even the most abstract, I have always favored attention to clinical work, to the quality of the therapeutic relationship.

In fact, I think I have contributed to forging new and more versatile tools for analytic therapy. In this, I have reaffirmed with conviction that—by virtue of what Freud precisely calls the ‘Junktim,’ or the particular conjunction of theoretical research and clinical practice—psychoanalysis has a specificity all its own. I mean the possibility it has to say something original, as no other scientific discipline could do, on what makes the 'social' essence of human subjectivity and therefore on the nature of psychic pain.

In essence, I believe I have contributed to keeping the psychoanalytic discipline alive and to develop it to meet today's needs.

Dr Civitarese is a psychiatrist, training and supervising analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society, and a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and International Psychoanalytic Association.

To see previous Sigourney Award winners, see the following:

Our Work and What the Award Means to Us: 2021 Sigourney Award Winners

Supporting Our Mission: 2021 Sigourney Award Winner

The Psychoanalyst Hears, the Dermatologist Sees: 2021 Sigourney Award Winner

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