Albert Brok, PhD, ABPP

Workshop: Wanted: A Relationship Dead or Alive?
The Not So Ideal Ego, the Capacity to Love, and Inter-subjective Object Relations

Workshop leader: Dr. Albert J. Brok

Where: 285 West End ave (betw 73 & 74 street); Schwab House; apt # 8N-E ; NYC 10023
: June 12, 2010; 10am- 4:30pm (registration at 9:30am)
Fees: Pre-registration $75 Regular/ $40 Students; At the door – $85/ $50.
To register, please send your payment and the registration form to:
ORI Administrator; 75-15 187 street; Fresh Meadows, NY, 11366-1725

The capacity to enter into a relationship is a fundamental aspect of human experience.  In fact, no society exists where individuals live independently without any formed relationships of some kind.  We are definitely “Social Animals” However to what degree of depth and profundity we function as “relationship animals,” is open to question.

In this workshop we will consider many forms of relating which involve varying degrees of “aliveness” between two partners whether they are lovers, married couples, or analyst –patient relationships. We will also consider the various dynamics involved in negotiating intimacy from the perspective of personal ecological distance, mutual deadness, mutual interaction and the trajectory of relational patters ranging from, tolerating, accepting, liking, and interest in each other whether that be unilateral or mutual. We will use clinical case material as well as film excerpts to illustrate the main points. A model of “zones of penetration” (Brok, 2010) will be presented for consideration of assessing degree of intimacy and involvement that is optimally allowed by any particular couple. Implications for friendship, romantic and therapeutic relationships will be presented.

Dr. Brok has previously written that our narcissistically organized yet democratic society is treading a thin crossover line from relations organized around consideration, and interest in others (fundamental to profound enduring relationship building) to greedy self-aggrandizing, individualized independent, values and beliefs (Brok, 2007). Correlated with this is a fundamental desire in our narcissistically tinged American culture to do away with, to in effect “kill” time. In particular, because awareness of the passage of time is a narcissistic intrusion and a warning that death will eventually come. Time management and acceptance however is a crucial building block of coupling processes.

In Analytic theory, we can go back to Freud, who posited the essential nature of social experience for the development of the Psyche.  For example in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921) he posited the unique significance of the pre -conflictual positive relationship between a child and his father, idealized as it was. Since then, modern and post – modern theories have taken seriously the dynamic ecology of intra psychic, relational and inter-subjective qualities in all human relations. One example of this latter notion is the film “Lars and the Real Girl”. One of the striking aspects of the film is how the empathic understanding and non-intrusiveness of a caring social surround enables the natural developmental process of a highly schizoid individual to evolve from relying on a non-responsive object (large blow- up doll) to a living breathing person who has her own subjectivity.  In this film, we marvel at how the protagonist slowly discovers the value of a being a transitional subject to others and develops an interest in a genuine other rather than an idealized, omnipotently created object.

Lars and the Real Girl” is a somewhat idealized statement. It promotes the notion that it takes an “empathic village” to encourage the development of an intimate self in relation to others. The film is an inspiring, if unrealistic exemplar of the value of providing an optimal environment for development as opposed to an interpretative environment for insight and self-knowledge.  Obviously this carries implications for therapeutic practice as well as couple relations. The “village” in this case symbolizes the early non – impinging fantasy and play space mother.  As Lars moves rather smoothly from being a “shut in,” to having an idealized self-created fantasy transitional play object,  to an interest in, and involvement with a real subjective other: we can see the film’s message about development and formation of relationships. Another such film is Almodovar’s “Talk to her”, which has a similar theme of wanting a nearly dead object as part of the feeling of safety in a relationship.  While yet another, “Up in the Air” exemplifies the poignant trajectory of a nearly emotionally but not sexually deadened protagonist.   Case examples drawn from the presenter’s clinical experience will also be shared.

More than Friendship and Less than Idealization: A Model for More Alive than Dead in a Relationship…

It is Dr. Brok’s position that an enduring committed relationship needs more than friendship and less than idealization. And where either dynamic (friendship/ idealization) is extremely salient, a couple relationships have trouble enduring in a healthy manner. It is Dr. Brok’s position that friendship derives from the early facilitation of being in a play state during transitional space experience.  Early impingements in transitional space experience probably skew friendship and love relational patterns toward limited capacity for mutuality and greater domination -submission patterns. In coupling, true friendship accepts competition and envy within limits but is not organized around
those experiences as the principle way of relating.  Friendship needs to be mutual and organized around a fair but not blind loyalty. Where friendship obtains, it forms a base for romantic passionate love relations (committed ones). Implications for modern versions of object relations clinical theory will be considered.

Bio: Albert J. Brok, PhD, ABPP is in a private psychoanalytic practice in Westchester (Bedford Village) and NYC (Manhattan).
He is a Training Committee member of the Object Relations Institute; Director of the Group & Couples Therapy at the TIMH; Supervisor at the Clinical Psychology Department of the Ferkauf Graduate School, Yeshiva University; Faculty and Supervisor at the Derner Institute, Adelphi University; a member of the Group Cine Analysis, Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, Buenos Aires; and of the IAPFT, Paris. Dr Brok is an Ex- President: Section 1, Division 39 (Psychoanalysis); and a member of the APA Board: Division 39, (Psychoanalysis) & a Secretary, Section VIII, Psychoanalysis and Couples, APA Division 39 (Psychoanalysis).