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IN MEMORIAM: Dr. Louise Carignan (1951–2013)

This is an excerpt of an essay published in the Canadian Journal of PsychoanalysisVol 21, No 2, pp 381-385 (2013), and republished here with permission.


Louise would approve of being admired. She knew she had a first-class mind and she was proud of being a physician and psychiatrist. It was psychoanalysis, however, that allowed her to blossom as a clinician and then as a teacher and scholar. Louise was transformed by psychoanalysis, and this was clear when we both entered psychoanalytic training in 1985. She joined the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society in 1989. In lockstep and mutually supportive, we both became training analysts in 1996.


Psychoanalysis gave Louise scope. She was an intuitive, perceptive analyst with an enlivening grasp of analytic process. She could apply this understanding beyond the couch to art, film, and culture. We had wonderful times at conferences in foreign cities exploring art galleries. I was the student and she was the teacher. She knew a lot and was in her earlier years a talented painter.


Louise excelled as a teacher and supervisor. In particular, she deeply understood the psychoanalytic concept of narcissism and could convey it extremely well to candidates. She gravitated to academic challenges: overseeing the Douglas Levin prize and co-editing this journal with Brian Robertson.


Louise’s capacity for empathy was amplified by a deeply inquiring creativity. She grasped the nuances of complex clinical phenomena such as the perverse transference. Her paper on the topic published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1999 represents, in my view, the fullest contribution to the phenomenon in the literature.1 She was able to demonstrate convincingly through her case material how subversive and destructive dynamics could surreptitiously seize an analytic encounter, turning the analyst into an unwitting voyeur of an excited perverse enactment.


Bright and airy as a person, with an infectious remarkable laugh, she was very effective as a psychoanalyst. Her scope of practice, however, put patients’ needs first and she was productive and hardworking. It was a pleasure to refer patients to Louise because one had the full confidence that the person would get what was needed. Her competence was unmistakable and consistent.


Our friendship was intertwined with psychoanalysis and family life. We studied together as candidates, worked on our membership papers, socialized, and were involved with each other’s families. We met at conferences and worked together in the Ottawa Psychoanalytic Society and the Institute. Her directorship of the institute and ongoing involvement and oversight was essential to its success. Simply put, there would not have been an institute in Ottawa without Louise.


The last decade of Louise’s life was replete with challenges. Yet it began with joy when, following her divorce from her first husband, she met and later married David Iseman, a prominent Toronto analyst and colleague who followed me as president of the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society and later served as chair of International New Groups for the International Psychoanalytic Association. David was a remarkable person, and Louise and David were an extraordinary couple for the unity, devotion, and exuberance they both conveyed. Whether sailing—a mutual passion—or merging their lives despite living in separate cities, there was a synchrony and harmony between the two.


Sadly, David died at precisely the same age as Louise, 62 years, after 10 months of marriage. He died without warning or apparent sickness from a myocardial infarct at the gym. Although not verifiable, I cannot ignore the significance or potential implication of the toxic shock that reverberated through Louise. Its impact was far ranging and devastating on mind and body. How quickly a loss can become a tragedy as if an entropic force takes hold and will not surrender its grip.


Notwithstanding, Louise was hugely fortunate to meet Ron Crooks and to find companionship and affection. She spoke to me about Ron’s creative, humour-filled, and tender side. She was very happy with Ron and, along with her wonderful and devoted daughter, Pascale Spees, there was a steady stream of family comfort during her struggle with ovarian cancer. 


The OPS has had to adjust to life without Louise’s major input. Some will not know what they have missed. For those of us who knew Louise during all those productive years, we understand too well what this loss means. In the small enclave of Ottawa psychoanalysis, the hole feels gaping. It has been painful for some time and now takes on new meaning. Louise is gone for sure and there is no recovery possible. 


Like many who share my experience, what we would do now to hear her laugh!



Arthur Leonoff



1. L. Carignan. (1999). The secret: Study of a perverse transference. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80, 909–928.

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