Silvano Arieti: his life

SILVANO ARIETI was born in Pisa on June 28, 1914

Immediately after receiving his degree in Medicine he had to leave Italy because of the racial laws, and found refuge in the United States where he completed his training in psychiatry, neurology, psychology and psychoanalysis.

His research interests covered many areas.   For instance, he gave equal importance to the inner world as it appears from the psychoanalytic point of view, and to the organic functioning of the brain as it appears from the point of view of neuroscience.

He undertook the psychodynamic therapy of severe cases, including schizophrenic patients and patients with severe mood disorders, , and had the courage and intellectual freedom to follow pathways of knowledge which few had dared to pursue.   He developed a theory of pathology and of psychotherapeutic technique which takes as its starting point the quality of the interpersonal relationship.   His psychiatric approach was based on the central position of the relationship.   It did not aim at quenching the human spirit but, on the contrary, at making use of the potential that continues to exist even when it seems that psychotic anxiety prevents any real human contact.

He maintained that human meanings are contained in psychosis.   By integrating clinical work with research on the interaction between cognition, volition and afffect, he explored the psychobiological aspects of emotions and motivations.   He thus integrated the interpersonal approach in his studies on the intrapsychic Self.

He then developed his previous research on the specific mechanisms of the creative process, and studied both the psychological components and the environmental and social conditions that promote creativity.

Thanks to the breadth and depth of his contributions to the scientific community, he has become an indispensable point of reference in the history of psychiatry.   His work is full of points to be developed, and is still a useful tool in approaching complex clinical situations and the development of a theory of the psyche.

Arieti made a decisive contribution to the renewal of Italian psychiatry and psychotherapy, starting from the Sixties, when his books became available in Italian.   He thus exerted a positive influence on at least two generations of psychiatrists.

He died in New York on August 7, 1981.