The Online Journal of the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education (IFPE)
2020 Editorial Staff
Other/Wise Executive & Managing Editor –
Other/Wise Editorial Team –
General Introduction to Other/Wise Spring 2020:
“I mixed my metaphors with abandon, because I am talking near the edge of the unsayable, at the difficult edge of what I can feel but barely say.”
— Mark Doty, Heaven’s Coast (1996)
2018 Conference Theme
This issue of Other/Wise encompasses IFPE’s 2018, 29th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference, on the topic of UNSILENCING that took place in Seattle, Washington. Herein, Other/Wise presents an interesting and varied collection of papers from that conference. The papers in this issue reflect upon the meaning of the pivotal action of UNSILENCING: including its relationship to trauma and especially upon the consequences and side effects of both staying silent, and of speaking out.
Psychoanalysis has long been known as the talking cure, and in this issue of Other/Wise we explore the vicissitudes of expressing ourselves and the consequences of not expressing ourselves. This collection of papers represents the work of 13 authors who presented a version of their papers at IFPE.
There is a silenced underside to language, and for that matter, to human existence, relationships and endeavors. That underside, although silent, contradicts, augments, and also undoes its own truth. It reframes social discourse and rewrites history by including long-missing segments and memories. Yet, in the consulting room, it is only through silence, in the presence of another who can bear it, that we give birth to our thoughts and reencounter speech to make space for the previously silenced and heretofore unintegrated.
The process of Unsilencing confronts us with the undeniable force of that- about which, heretofore, we were not talking, and that brings attention to the ways in which keeping quiet had been complicit, self-limiting, damaging, and even dangerous. To Unsilence is not to force speech. Rather, it is can be an invitation to consider the margins between what was said and what was previously avoided––sometimes even inter-generationally. Even though the silencing may have started from a defensive beginning in the service of saving oneself, instead, in the words of Audre Lorde, it may be more accurate to say that:
“Your silence will not protect you”
–Sister Outsider (1984)
IFPE fosters a unique, multidisciplinary, alternative space to think, dialogue, and reflect on psychoanalysis, the human condition and our culture, both in and out of the consulting room, across disciplines and extending to art and culture. IFPE’s online journal, Other/Wise, reflects that philosophy, and presents a sampling of what is discussed at our conferences, in the written peer-reviewed, psychoanalytic article format for those presenters at each of our conferences who become contributors to this journal.
It has been a privilege to read and present the marvelous and often courageously unsilenced papers in this issue. There are 13 very interesting papers about Unsilencing about which we provide the reader with a very short description below, a brief quote from each compelling article, and encourage you to read the article of your choice in your own order of preference:
Bryan K. Nichols, Ph.D. and Medria L. Connolly, Ph.D.
In this historically important and timely article, Nichols and Connolly provide us not only with the history of the silenced and long-term effects of slavery on the culture, economics and psychology of the United States and all of its inhabitants, but provides an important psychodynamic/emotional perspective to finally healing the rift that is the American legacy, and resolving the resistance to carrying out deep levels of reparation rather than continuing the schism into future generations. The authors write:
“The idea of reparations––the provision of resources such as land or money as compensation for the lasting harm of slavery––has ebbed and flowed in the United States since the Civil War, and even before (Araujo, 2017). However, the recent wave of chatter represents a dramatic upsurge in the willingness of politicians to consider, publicly, the prospect of reparations…. In addition to the moral imperative of reparations, we suggest that there are powerful psychological forces that need to be un-silenced if this policy of repairing a profound tear in the multicultural fabric of the country is ever to be realized. Specifically, we seek to clarify the psychological benefits of reparations for all Americans as well as the psychological factors that serve as resistance to enacting reparations…”
Chet Mirman, Ph.D.
In this powerful article, Mirman presents a portrait of his own mother’s years of trauma in the concentration camps of Poland, Lithuania and Germany; the years of silencing that resulted; the unsilencing later in life; and, its effect of the transgenerational communication of trauma. Presented with moving compassion and, also with familiarity and humor, this is a psychologically astute documentary that may move you to tears while reading. The author writes:
“…The women in Koszedary were housed together so she was able to be with her mother, sleeping next to her on wood boards in the barracks. She recalls the constant blaring of loudspeakers and the ferocious German Shepherds that were used to intimidate and control the inmates. Anyone attempting to escape was shot on sight… It was at Koszedary that she watched as the Germans forcibly took her brother away from her father. Seventy-six years later her memory of her brother crying, “I don’t want to go,” as he was forcibly torn from their father’s arms, is as clear to her as if it had just happened yesterday. She never saw him again…”
Ruth Lijtmaer, Ph.D.
Lijtmaer provides us with a thought-provoking paper with unique insight into the minds, struggles, and legacy that we (with an interest in psychoanalysis) inherit. Rather than helping us to get to know the generation of psychoanalysts who escaped Europe with their lives through their theories and writings, instead, the author provides us with fascinating insight into the trauma and experiences that these refugee analysts sustained and about which they long remained silent. She writes:
“Immigrants, or exiles, enter their new country with one set of selves. These are then overwritten and refracted by their experiences with peers, neighbors, colleagues, and authorities in the new culture, and this experience shapes their consciousness, subjectivity, and sense of identity. Psychoanalysis does not yet have a coherent framework for theorizing about the subjectivity of first-generation immigrants. I am proposing here that psychoanalysis borrow W.E.B. Du Bois’ (1994) notion of “double consciousness,” (p. 39) be used to reshape it in light of current notions of multiplicity and use it to help us to conceptualize the immigrant and exile experience…”
Jenni June Villegas Wilson, LMFT
In her forthright article, Villegas Wilson gives us insight into the psychodynamic impact and meaning of culture––and, in the cases of those born “in-between” cultures, the lifelong as well as the intergenerational impacts that can mask one’s unique voice, until unsilenced. Villegas Wilson writes that:
“Survivor’s Guilt. It’s not really feeling guilty that you survived, it’s feeling angry that anyone had to survive something that appears senseless. This feeling that one should be able to do something, when in truth there’s nothing one could do, may be an unconscious attraction to the dramatic. Carrying the weight of others’ burdens can justify misdirected anger, assuage anxieties, or serve as atonement for self-perceived sins of some kind. Some will feel pressure to represent––in whatever way that means. Some will forgo a societal norm identity to become civil rights advocates at the front of the marches for justice, fighting the good fight, getting in the line of fire, while others may cash-in their chips, move to the suburbs and aspire to live by another example, creating a life of quiet safety. There is no right or wrong, good or bad. Systemic change requires forces on the inside and out. Therapy provides an opportunity for clients of mixed race or culture to accept on their own terms, the gifts and hardships of their live’s random twists of fate…”
Anne E. Reckling, Psy.D.
In this very personal, emotional, and revelatory article, Reckling shares her experiences of saying goodbye to her terminally ill psychoanalyst of many years. In her manner of doing so, and in interweaving memories, and in giving voice to a previously silenced part of herself, she provides an extraordinary insight into the Unsilencing process of psychoanalytic treatment at its best. The author writes:
“Throughout the ensuing story of my saying goodbye to my psychoanalyst, and processing that parting, I will highlight important aspects of the analysis that helped me find my voice. that parting, I will highlight important aspects of the analysis that helped me find my voice. Such aspects include: 1. Coming to view my ‘acting out’ behavior as a message about analysis rather than a resistance to analysis; 2. Adjusting the frame of analysis; 3. The impact of putting words to what previously had been unsayable… Putting language to what had been silenced does not erase the pain associated with that which was silenced. A tremendous grief and responsibility comes with that knowledge, as well as a freedom from the repetition of trauma. By marking the madness and horror of trauma by putting the experiences into words, it could, to a large degree, be left behind. Through my story of Saying Goodbye to Donna, the woman with the strength to bear witness, I highlight what it was in my analysis that worked to help me become unsilenced.”
Susan Kavaler-Adler, Ph.D., ABPP, D.Litt., NCPsyA.
In this article, Kavaler-Adler, presents her own “me too” experiences in her own early psychoanalytic treatment and bravely presents, and stands up to the power-abusing authority figure by sharing her own unsilencing story after many years. As she puts it, “. I was silenced. Now I am speaking up.” Kavaler-Adler’s clear memories and descriptions of the interactions bring to light the manipulations of her analyst as he tried to silence her in order to protect himself. The author reveals the details of what she experienced, as an example given to help others, as follows:
“Before the final blow from the senior male training analyst, throwing me out of my treatment, there was the man’s paranoia. This was all part of the silencing. Following the tale of seduction and betrayal that I will tell, the much older male analyst puffed himself up and proclaimed, without any conversation between us leading up to this, “You cannot damage my reputation!” Out of the blue, this man, whom I will call Dr. T. made this declaration, defending himself against the exposure from me telling my tale.”
In this article, Gajdics tells the story of the torturous years he spent in conversion therapy and the efforts made by his practitioners to silence him to the very core of his being and, beyond attempts by family and “doctors” to silencing parts of himself, were chemical and psychosocial means to eradicate and deny his very nature and desires. The author writes:
“With my parents before him I had resisted the idea that the abuse had caused my homosexuality, but with the doctor, I could not resist. He was the big and powerful doctor, and I was young and powerless. He told me that the medications he’d been prescribing would all help to “silence the noise” of my homosexuality, because only then would I be able to “flip over to the other side.” We needed to “correct the error” of my homosexuality, as he phrased it… Within that first year he directed me to move, along with several other patients, into what he called a “therapeutic house,” where we would all support each other emotionally while going through our deep regressions. Contact with anyone outside the house was strictly forbidden. Meanwhile, the more medications he prescribed, the less the medicine seemed to do, and so he kept increasing the dosages.”
Christine Downing, Ph.D.
As an expert in psychoanalytic theory and history, Downing presents an argument that by de-emphasizing that the goddess of death has been an undercurrent of Freud’s theories from early on, and that by the body of psychoanalytic literature overplaying the role of Eros instead, “we have also silenced Freud’s message, and thereby missed taking deeply into our souls some of his most important lessons.” She writes:
“I noted earlier that death had been a powerful undercurrent in Freud’s thinking all along. Nevertheless, full recognition of the awe-ful, awesome, power of death doesn’t come to Freud without a second initiation, an initiation introduced by the outbreak of World War I, by the deaths of his daughter and grandson, and by his own cancer. From then on, he saw the reconciliation with death as the soul’s primary task, in line with the ancient healing traditions associated with the Greek demi-god Asclepius, who told the patients who came to his shrine, ‘Whatever healing I can offer you now serves only to give you the time to prepare for the death that still awaits you.’”
Diana Faydysh M. A., Ph.D. Student
In this article, Faydysh focuses on a rather surprising synthesis of what, at first, may seem like polar opposites—the death instinct and the orgasm––but, after noting her well-illustrated arguments, “the positive aspects of Thanatos” become clear. This interesting paper, as the author puts it, “may give life to the death drive…” She writes:
“Human life is plotted according to two coordinates: life and death. Awareness of mortality generates fear, however unconsciously, as we humans play, flirt with, and strive towards death. Is this because death is something we may never fully comprehend, and because we, as humans, cannot tolerate the unknown? Or, perhaps alternately, because our fear of the end and the unknown produces a negative excitation that we cannot control? Our fascination with the unknown is not limited to thoughts of death but reaches into other aspects of life. These mysteries worry, motivate, and irritate us, but they never leave us indifferent, and when examined, many human mysteries are sexual in nature.”
Nitsa Dimitrakos, Ph.D.
In this poetic article, Dimitrakos draws a parallel between the archetype of the Mermaid (the Maiden of the Mer) and the many aspects and ages of the feminine that have, in the lives of many women been silenced, and in whom they long for unsilencing and fullest acceptance, creative expression, transformation and participation thereby. The author writes:
“I bear witness to human life
but cannot live it.
I feel painful swelling of sentiment inside
but never shed a tear.
…The mermaid’s myth is a “soul” endeavor about transformation––about unsilencing all that has been silenced. By way of the myth, we know there is a great departure that occurs, departure from self and other. Suffering and loss are parts of the transformational process, but the real danger occurs when the process itself is resisted or denied. In such a situation, one finds one’s self “stuck,” and certain symptoms of physical and psychological dis-ease may take over, destroying the process altogether.”
Ladson Hinton, M.A., M.D.
Turning to the myth of Oedipus in the Sophocles trilogy of plays as well as in Freud’s theories, Hinton points out the process of uncovering of truth, as is done in psychoanalysis, is something that can make “life worth living.” What the author uncovers in the process of looking at the myths, and at human nature, is the paramount importance of guilt and shame in the understanding of both human virtue as well as traumatic re-enactment. He writes:
“Unsilencing may evoke violent emotions that threaten the fabric of who we are, both personally and culturally (Caruth, 1996; LaCapra, 2000). Perhaps most, if not all, transformative action has its source in unsilencing (Vattimo, 2016). A turbulent remembrance of monstrous acts and emotions may rend our illusions of a neatly unified self or society… At its best, psychoanalytic ethos involves voicing the truth of the hidden dramas that human beings must somehow face (Scarfone, 2016). Shame often appears amidst the terror of such exposure. The Oedipus complex is a profound depiction of unsilencing, and, is one of the core constructs Freud used to convey his view of the human condition.”
Roy Barsness, Ph.D. and Clarissa Hill, M.A., L.M.H.C.
In a uniquely formatted article that presents both the therapist’s discussion of a patient’s case, and the therapist’s supervisor’s view of the case, one of the best examples of parallel process and uncovering enactment in treatment is revealed, unsilenced, and elucidated. The authors, of this rare and honest glimpse into psychodynamic treatment from both perspectives, write:
“The case of Ann explores the complex web of enactment as it connects to transference and countertransference, parallel process, dissociation, splitting, countertransference dominance, and the trauma responses of fight, flight, and freeze. As the case unfolds, we find the patient and the therapist frequently stuck between a rock and hard place––between hope and despair, silence and speaking, and between anger and shame. Through the themes of miscarriage and hope, intrusion and abandonment, attachment and destruction and love and hate, we hope to demonstrate how sometimes both words and silence can hide, distract, blame, and collude. And we hope to show how difficult it can be to find a way out of the bind of doer/done-to, and to find a way to communicate true embodied presence in the here and now of the therapeutic process. Creating and recreating the “Analytic Third (Ogden, 1997, p. 9, Benjamin, 2018, Aron, 2017) within the therapist/patient relationship and the supervisor/therapist relationship, continues to serve as an essential function in the unlocking of the repetition of the silencing and unsilencing in the ongoing work with this patient.”
Lynn McCann, M.S.W.
In this, the Unsilencing issue of Other/Wise, our articles are about experiences that are put into language, and that language is used to unsilence and speak or write about the unspoken and unwritten. It is fitting, therefore, that the epilogue article in this issue is about language, speaking and writing from a college teacher of speaking and writing who talks about her experiences in helping college students to speak and write in an age wherein, according to McCann the ability to speak, read and write can no longer be taken for granted as part of the education process. Furthermore, the author draws a connection between language and selfhood, which is also limited and damaged if speaking and writing are limited by such deficits. She writes:
“I think language has far more to do with consciousness – and self – than we give it credit for. It’s not just any old developmental milestone. I think it’s the journey. I feel certain that consciousness depends on language, just as much as the other way around. Egg to chicken or chicken to egg, I think the ability to speak, to read and write, to use tense and communicate in abstractions is so taken for granted, that we tend to understand these capacities, and even study them, only in terms of other things that we consider to be more important. For that, and the other reasons stated throughout this paper, I believe that language is at risk.”
Articles in this issue:
Transforming Ghosts into Ancestors: Un-silencing the psychological case for reparations to descendants of American slavery
Journal Text (Recommended) or PDF for Download
Bryan K. Nichols, Ph.D. and Medria L. Connolly, Ph.D.
Issue 1 Spring 2020