The Online Journal of the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education (IFPE)
2016 Editorial Staff
Executive Editor – Farrell Silverberg
Triage/Reviewing/Editing Team –
General Introduction to Other/Wise 2016:
Other/Wise 2016 will appear in three issues, this being the first of those issues, containing a selected sampling of papers connected to presentations from the 26th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference of the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education on the theme of Vulnerability and Its Discontents. Like the IFPE conference presentations upon which these articles were based, this year’s Other/Wise journal contains personal perspectives on the material at hand that provide the reader with a sense of immediacy depth.
This year’s theme reflects upon vulnerability – from the shared vulnerability of the patient and analyst in the consulting room to the political and global dimensions of vulnerability in today’s world. The scope of topics harkens back to Freud’s words:
“…we are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our body, which is doomed to decay…, from the external world which may rage against us with overwhelming… forces, and finally from our relationships with other people. It is from this last source that our suffering tends to be felt more acutely …”
These sentiments are equally applicable in today’s world, if not more so, since vulnerability remains a constant and ever present struggle. No one can be offered immunity to vulnerability, and even under our best-constructed shields, conscious and unconscious, acknowledged or denied, this very human element in our natures marks us as “at risk” everywhere in life from the intimate to the international.
Seventeen papers based on presentations from IFPE’s emotionally moving 2105 conference appear in our 2016 e-journal, and have been divided among this year’s three issues.
Introduction to Issue 1: VULNERABILITY AND INTENTIONALITY
This first issue of 2016 is entitled “Vulnerability and Intentionality,” as the six papers contained herein all reflect upon how intention can guide us to harness our vulnerability in the service of our own development and to assist others, or, when intention falters and is pervaded by unconscious elements, vulnerability can lead us to fall into the ravine and be lost. This is the painful truth and the double-edged sword of vulnerability.
In exploring that truth, the authors in this issue confront vulnerability in our emotional and bodily abilities and disabilities, and show how vulnerability, and our intentionality in relation thereto, can mediate our relationships with ourselves and with others. The authors also reflect on the potential for vulnerability to lead us to higher callings, while reminding us that, without such intentionality, the all-too-common linking of vulnerability and tragedy is more likely –– as many of today’s headlines demonstrate.
This issue opens with Isolde Keilhofer’s Psyche-Soma Disturbances: Working Psychoanalytically with Visual Impairment and the Dilemma of Recognition, which discusses the vulnerabilities brought about by visual impairments, the vast gray area between the fully sighted and the blind. This rhapsodic paper is full of metaphor and meaning in relation to the psychodynamics of seeing and blindness crossing the realms of psychoanalytic theory, psychogenic disease, and the easily-confused line between a “real” illness and a symbolic one. This article moves us through history, the arts, the interface of childhood trauma and vision problems, and, ultimately into the consulting room. As you will note upon reading, the author does so with the ease of taking our arms and helping us to cross the street when we, ourselves, cannot see all the traffic. Keilhofer warns us that, as therapists, our interest in the mind may obscure our ability to attribute symptoms to “organicity.” Even the astute writer on neurology, Oliver Sacks, as the article relays, missed his own organic symptoms and attributed them to psychological causes for too long. This article is a must read for anyone who has a visual challenge or any kind of disability, or knows or treats someone who does. Keilhofer sums up the pitfall of “vision” in us all by quoting Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “…for the eye sees not itself. But by reflection, by some other things.”
The next paper is Jack Wiener’s “The Vulnerability of the Body and Awareness,” in which the author articulates a perspective rarely seen in the psychoanalytic literature: the grounding of human experience, both conscious and unconscious, “in the sensorial and moving body.” After teaching creative movement for 56 years, Wiener provides us with the benefit of his experience in studying movement from the inside out, and in addressing movement, and intentional change in movement, from the outside in. This article does so poetically in the forms of both a theoretical treatise and a case history. Wiener provides us with language for getting inside the human experience of being in our bodies, as well as reminds us that all interacting, or object-relating, happens through our bodies. The author links his descriptions with familiar psychoanalytic vocabulary (such as transference-counter-transference, separation-individuation, and psychoanalytic defenses). Wiener argues that the presence or absence of sensation and tactile awareness, and the continuity thereof, reflect the subtle movements of the unconscious mind and that concepts we are accustomed to casting in a psychological light, are not as un-embodied as we might think. Wiener shows us how the subtleties of the body, and the ways in which we relate to those subtleties, is proof that “the interplay of muscles is the sensorial music of the unconscious.”
While most of the articles in this issue approach the subject of this issue as part of the intentional process of helping and healing, Cenk Cokuslu’s darkly themed paper, Tale of Pistorius: Prosthetic Aliveness as Vulnerability, warns us about the dark side of vulnerability, when intention goes awry in “ghastly” ways. This article is a flight of psychoanalytic fancy that brings the reader from Melville’s description of Ahab, through Cokuslu’s own musings and object relations understanding of vulnerability gone wrong, and concludes with an echo of Shakespeare’s murderous and orally vengeful denouement in Titus Andronicus. The author shows us how unconscious intention––that may stem back to an amputation immediately after birth––can become so dark that, even at the pinnacle of public success, can wreak a most horrific revenge in the present. According to Cokuslu’s astute and persuasive analysis, Pistorius’ revenge is carried out upon what “was absent” in the past. Using a reporter’s interview with Pistorius as the connecting tissue between all of these disturbing images, along with historical facts, Cokuslu manages, and without erring into either the sympathetic nor the prosecutorial, to explain the psychoanalytic roadmap from vulnerability to tragedy and death so clearly that, in the words of the author, it “makes me want to yell, look up!”
To return to the light, the remaining three papers in this issue are all examples of using vulnerability with intention to help and heal. In Walking on Glass: From Invulnerability to Vulnerability, author Joyce Block offers us a case study and her thoughts about it, as a means to explore the ideas of vulnerability and illusions of invulnerability. In the simple retelling of the story of her work with one patient, Block has hit upon another human commonality in her analysis of the “bridging the gulf” between analyst and patient, who come from different subcultures and walks of life. The underlying subtext, is that, to greater or lesser extents depending upon the individual, there is a common illusion that we are invulnerable to certain dangers. It is only when the stark truth hits us, we succumb to the shock of hurt and consequent knowledge that we are no longer safe. In her thoughtful analysis of her case, she finds the roots of the core conflict to be a crisis of faith in one’s apparent strength when the veil of imagined invulnerability is suddenly pulled back. Block reports that her patient’s mother would say about him, “My boy can walk on glass and not get hurt,” and who among us didn’t think that we could be immune to some injury and then discover that we are, like others for whom we felt sorry, are now among the vulnerable and injured as well? The author, also shows the courage to pull back the veil on her own vulnerability and sense of agency, and in the process of the evolution of this case, intentionally brings herself down off a pedestal with her patient. In the author’s words, “You feel like you are alone… but you actually aren’t.”
Antonia Ludwig Noble’s article, A Parallel Journey into Self, is a good example of practicing the ‘art of vulnerability,’ as she describes a case history in parallel with sharing a wealth of her own private thoughts about the case. The author promises to take the reader on a journey through the “felt-sense” of the meeting of two subjectivities with a no-holds-barred approach to describing her own experience and self-analysis thereof, beginning with an admission regarding her high expectations for her patient and disgust for the selfishness of those who cause her patient to suffer. It is no small admission that Noble openly admits the feeling of “I am lost.” To attune to a patient, sometimes the therapist must be lost, or even enter into “reverie,” in order to find the patient’s experience, and to accompany that patient on a co-creative journey of personal growth. This article is an important reminder of the vast ocean of pulls and responsibilities into which therapists are thrown as they begin each case. It will offer insight to early-career therapists, assuring them that they are not alone in their experiences, vulnerabilities, and intentions, and, concomitantly, it will offer supervisors a useful reminder of the maelstrom into which our supervisees have been cast (and, to which we may have adjusted), so that we can better help them to help others. I am sure that many a reader will echo the sentiment Noble expresses when she states in thinking about her case: “I imagine that if someone had been there for me at 18, 19 and 20 (as I am with her), I would have devoured everything on that intersubjective relational table….”
This issue concludes with a short but thought-provoking paper, and an invigorating breath of fresh perspective, by Elisabeth Crim entitled Vulnerability in the Neuropsychoanalytic Relational Process: Attending to Somatic Counter-Transference through Conscious Breath and Movement. Through this article, Crim is putting her arm around all clinicians who work with the human condition and reminding us, to attend and care for our own mind-body-spirit vulnerability as we help others with trauma. The author reminds us that from every perspective––emotional, biological, neuropsychological––states of countertransferential absorption of trauma or “secondary trauma,” puts us at risk if we do not attend to those absorptions and their sequellae. Through an exploration of psychoanalytic ideas about stored trauma, the author urges us to remember that not only does the mind store trauma in emotional memory, but also, that, trauma is stored in the body in physical memory. This article serves as this first issue’s parting reminder to find ways, and Crim suggests many, to be cognizant of and sympathetic to, the toll our work may take on our minds and bodies. This article reminds practitioners that it is not enough that we teach our clients to respect and respond to the “inescapable vulnerability” of the human condition, but that we must also look compassionately upon ourselves as well.
On that note, and with that wish for the readers of and contributors to Other/Wise 2016, I hope you will enjoy reading our first issue of papers on the topic of Vulnerability, and I am sure that the intentionality of this fine collection of authors will enrich and support your own lives and work with this element of both human frailty and strength.
With warm wishes,
Executive and Managing Editor of Other/Wise 2016
–– Farrell Silverberg
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Volume 1 Fall 2016
Image (Artist Credit):Marlene Dumas, The Image as a Burden,
1993, Oil on canvas, 15 3/3 x 19 2/3 inches,
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwiner, New York.
Individual articles in this issue:
- Vulnerability in the NeuroPsychoanalytic Relational Process: Attending to Somatic Counter-Transference through Conscious Breath and Movement
By Elisabeth R. Crim, Ph.D.
By Jack Wiener, LP, CDMT
By Cenk Cokuslu, LP, NCPsyA
- Psyche-Soma Disturbances: Working Psychoanalytically with Visual Impairment and the Dilemma of Recognition
By Isolde Keilhofer, LP
By Antonia Noble Ludwig, Psy.D. MFT.
By Joyce Block, Ph.D.