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2015 Annual Conference: On Guilt, Conscience, Regret, and Reparation

Date & time: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (9:30 am - 4:30 pm)

Presenters: Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler and Dr. Donald Carveth

Location: Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, 140 2nd Ave (@ 9th Street), NY, NY

Earn 4.5 CE / post-graduate education credits!

What is it about?

What is guilt - as a phenomenon, as a defense, as a transformative existential experience? What is conscience?  What is “psychic regret”  What is reparation?  Why are we bringing the subject of guilt back onto the psychoanalytic arena at a time when guilt was left backstage by many psychoanalytic theorists and practitioners? At this conference, Dr. Carveth and Dr. Kavaler-Adler will face their overlapping concerns and the dialectic of contrasts between their views on these topics.

Dr. Carveth, in his book The Still Small Voice: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Guilt and Conscience (Karnac, 2013), deconstructs Sigmund Freud in his own way, while acknowledging the major contributions of Melanie Klein to understanding the difference between true guilt and the persecutory attacks of a primitive superego.  Dr. Kavaler-Adler, in her 2013 Karnac book The Anatomy of Regret: From Death Instinct to Reparation and Symbolization Through Vivid Case Studies, contrasts neurotic and existential guilt and minds the riches of Melanie Klein and her own theory of developmental mourning to illustrate the profound personality and relationship transformations that can emerge from an authentic and vividly conscious look at one’s own regrets. These regrets involve facing truth and all modes of its evasion, despite the painful grief, loss, and terror involved. Our own aggression becomes part of the process in which the losses and the regrets can be mourned. 

   Dr. Donald Carveth: Conflict between Superego and Conscience in Patients and Therapists.

Although Freud mostly conceived guilt as aggression turned against the self in the form of a punitive superego, in a few places he also recognized but did not emphasize the guilt arising from ambivalence prior to superego formation. This is the guilt that arises when one hates someone one also loves (a whole object) that Melanie Klein made central to the depressive position. In addition to punitive or persecutory guilt and shame, the Kleinians distinguished the depressive or reparative guilt and anxiety arising from what Winnicott called "the capacity for concern." In "The Anatomy of Regret" Kavaler-Adler (2013) associates working through the depressive position with facing one's regrets for the real and imagined damage done to the self and others. In "The Still Small Voice" (Carveth, 2013) I argue that while persecutory guilt is the province of the superego fuelled by hate, reparative guilt, to which I now add regret, are generated by the conscience fuelled by love.  

The frequent conflict between superego and conscience was obscured by Freud's decision to subsume the latter (along with self-observation and the ego-ideal) into the superego. In addition to making it difficult to conceptualize such conflict, this decision obscured recognition of the ways in which self-punishment (superego) serves to defend against reparative guilt and regret (conscience), for people often prefer to indulge in orgies of self-torment rather than acknowledge wrongdoing and move toward repentance and reparation. In the present paper, I will offer a range of clinical vignettes that illustrate the conflict between superego and conscience in the minds of both patients and therapists. Understanding of such conflict is of particular relevance in the training of therapists and in the understanding of boundary violations, impasses and stalemates, and other problems and issues of therapeutic technique.

   Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler: The Road to Loving the Other and to Meeting the Symbolic Other Within the Internal World.

In my presentation, I will focus on the interactive role of D. W. Winnicott’s theories and the theories of Melanie Klein, in the overall dimension of making existential guilt possible. Winnicott looked at how the therapist who can “survive” the most primitive aggression allows for a core true self connection, while Klein was the first to speak of reparative mourning as a clinical and developmental process.  In keeping with my integration of Winnicott and Klein, my 2014 Karnac book The Klein-Winnicott Dialectic: Transformative New Metapsychology and Interactive Clinical Theory demonstrates how such complementary theories form a fundamental clinical dialectic for working with those with primal trauma, and for engaging with all patients in a truly developmental journey towards existential guilt, and thus towards core self transformation and integration. I will offer intensely alive clinical examples that are more fully illustrated in two of my other books, Mourning, Spirituality, and Psychic Change: A New Object Relations View of Psychoanalysis (Routledge 2003, NAAP Gradiva Award 2004) and The Anatomy of Regret: From Death Instinct to Reparation and Symbolization in Vivid Case Studies (Karnac, 2013)

Bios of the presenters:

Donald Carveth, PhD - Emeritus professor of sociology and social & political thought, senior scholar, York University; training and supervising analyst, Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis; director, Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis; past editor-in-chief, Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis/Revue Canadienne de Psychanalyse; author of The Still Small Voice: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Guilt and Conscience (London: Karnac, 2013). Many of Dr. Carveth's publications are available on his website: www.yorku.ca/dcarveth .

Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, D.Litt, NPsyA - Co-Founder, Executive Director, and Senior Faculty & Training Analyst and Supervisor of the ORI since 1991. For more information, please visit Dr. Kavaler-Adler's web site at www.kavaleradler.com .

 


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