East Bay Intensive Study Group —
Negative Spaces, Negative Capabilities:
The Use of the Negative in the Therapeutic Process
A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavor to do, he drowns – nicht wahr?... No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up.
– Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900)
How we understand and engage with the negative may determine whether it sabotages the process of psychoanalytic psychotherapy or serves as an engine of therapeutic action. Transference, for example, which Freud initially regarded as a powerfully disruptive mode of resistance (like yelling fire in a crowded theater), later became for him both a potentially motivating factor for the analysis to continue and a window into the dynamic determinants of the patient’s history. Countertransference reactions, first dismissed as distortions on the part of the analyst, were later theorized as providing insights into the patient’s unconscious life and character structure. Projective identification – defined by Klein as the patient’s evacuative phantasy and clinically experienced as an attack on the therapist or therapy itself – has been reconceived as an infantile form of communication, soliciting the therapist’s receptivity and capacity for containment.
Immersion in the negative expands the therapist’s awareness of the patient’s internal world. Negotiating obscurities supports her complex role as an observer-participant, strengthening her capacity to hold the frame in the context of transference and helping her to determine the appropriate scope, timing, and tone of interventions. Just as negative space in a painting actively defines boundaries and guides the movement of a successful composition, so tolerance of uncertainty, Bion’s “negative capability,” affords the therapist internal space to deliberate alternative perspectives in the complex field of here-and-now work with patients. Even sessions dominated by repeated unreflective exchanges may ultimately be therapeutically beneficial, as surrender to the sleep of enactments precedes the awakening of understanding.
Under the guidance of insightful, experienced instructors, this year’s intensive study groups will investigate theoretical approaches to the negative and practical engagements with it in the clinical setting, considering such topics as trauma, the fusion of Eros and the death drive, negative therapeutic reaction, psychic retreats, perverse modes of relating, destructive narcissism, and excessive splitting. In some sections, reading assignments will be supplemented by films or include plays that vividly illustrate course themes. We invite you to explore with us how apparent challenges to psychotherapy may vitally contribute to the process of human transformation.
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Participants will be able to identify the psychoanalytic concept of the negative as it pertains to trauma, perversion and narcissism in the psychotherapeutic setting.
Participants will be able to assess how the concept of the death drive resides in erotic subjectivity and discuss erotic countertransference.
Participants will be able to assess a psychotic patient’s experience of the negative and utilize this information to inform the therapist’s thinking and treatment modalities.
Participants will be able to identify and discuss the classical and revised theories of negative therapeutic reaction and apply it to the clinical setting.
Bornstein, Robert F. (Ed); Masling, Joseph M. (Ed). (1998). Empirical perspectives on the psychoanalytic unconscious. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. xxviii 291
Sam Gerson, Ph.D., is a founder and past president of NCSPP and PINC, where he is faculty and a personal and supervising analyst. Dr. Gerson is an associate editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and an editor for Studies in Gender and Sexuality and Psychoanalytic Quarterly.
Megan Rundel, Ph.D., is a graduate of PINC. She has taught widely in the Bay Area psychoanalytic community. She is also a Zen teacher at the Crimson Gate Meditation Community. Dr. Rundel has special interests in sexuality, spirituality, and the body in psychoanalysis. She has a private practice in Oakland.
Andrea Walt, Ph.D., is a faculty member, and personal and supervisory analyst at PINC. She teaches theory and clinical practice in a variety of training settings. Dr. Walt has a private practice in Oakland, offering psychoanalysis and psychotherapy for adults, adolescents, and couples.
Alexander Zinchenko, Ph.D., has over 30 years’ experience treating severely disturbed, fragile, and traumatized patients in various settings, including community mental health, state hospitals, and his private practice in San Francisco. He is also extensively involved in teaching and clinical training as both a supervising psychologist at the National Asian American Psychology Training Center of RAMS, Inc., and as a supervisor of doctoral psychology interns at Napa State Hospital and CPMC.
Students not admitted due to space limitation will receive a full refund of their deposit. Cancellations prior to Friday, August 17, 2018: Full refund of deposit minus $100 administration charge. Cancellations after Friday, August 17, 2018: No refund provided.
ISG participants are eligible for 12 sessions of consultation with a PINC analyst at $60 per session to help integrate the material into clinical practice.
Administration | registration questions: Michele McGuinness, email@example.com or (415) 496-9949
ISG Program questions: Brenda Bloomfield, LCSW, firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 316-5312