Freud Memorial Lecture 2021

More Than One Can Live: Reconceiving Harm and Reparation in the Intersubjective World

  • Mon 14 Jun 21

    18:00 - 19:30

  • Online

  • Event speaker

    Dr Jessica Benjamin, New York University

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of

  • Contact details

    Lucy Taylor

Join us for our Annual Freud Memorial Lecture with Dr Jessica Benjamin

The lecture will juxtapose the intrapsychic idea of reparation, based on understanding the unconscious anxieties of harming the love object, with the intersubjective ideas of repairing rupture and restoring recognition. That is, it aims to use and also reformulate the Kleinian idea of reparation of the internal object.

The intersubjective perspective begins with the developmental importance of rupture and repair (Tronick), which creates the experience and representation of a lawful world of secure attachment. The cornerstone of this developmental requirement occurs by the caregiver acknowledging the inevitable violations of expected patterns.  Acknowledgment of injury and misrecognition become an essential element of repair, developmentally and therapeutically. When repair is absent, the child experiences her own need for acknowledgment of pain or distress to be destructive (destabilizing) to the needed other: as in, “my needs are too much, they make mother too anxious,” and later, “they will alienate my analyst who cannot tolerate his own failure to be good.” Consequently, needing recognition of one’s own distress or of being injured now becomes conflated with injuring the other and the threat of retaliation. 

This formulation allows us to see how enactments in the analytic relationship become governed by mutual fear of harming. Fear of harming and being injured drives the doer-done to complementarity involving both partners: “only one can live.” Experience with such enactments has led me to formulate the meaning of intersubjective repair in terms of acknowledgment. The moral Third is a term to describe the position in which we step out of this complementarity and co-create the sense of a lawful world. In social as well as individual relations the moral Third allows us to modify the doer-done to complementary relation via the experience of two minds recognizing each other: “more than one can live.” This recognition is crucial in the current political environment where racism, nationalism and economic exploitation threaten us all.  

The Speaker

Dr Jessica Benjamin is best known as the author of  The Bonds of Love (1988),  which is translated into many languages, and of the  currently most frequently cited article on PEP-Web, “Beyond Doer and Done To: An Intersubjective View of Thirdness” (2004), the basis for her recent book Beyond Doer and done To: Recognition Theory, Intersubjectivity and the Third (2018)..  In addition she is the author of   Like Subjects, Love Objects (1995); and Shadow of the Other (1998).   

She is a supervisor and faculty member of the  New York University Postdoctoral Psychology program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and the Stephen Mitchell Relational Studies Center where she is a founder and board member. In addition to her private practice in New York City she lectures, teaches and supervises at numerous institutes throughout the United States,  and throughout world.  In 2015 she was awarded the Hans Kilian prize at the University of the Ruhr in Bochum, Germany, the largest European award for work that joins psychoanalysis with the humanities. From 2004-2010 she initiated and directed  “The Acknowledgement Project”  involving Israeli and Palestinian mental health practitioners and international dialogue leaders.

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