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Seminars, conferences and online resources on psychotherapy and human relationships

Ghostly Hauntings

Subliminal and unconscious messages from our ancestors

With the writers Lisa Appignanesi and Linda Grant, and the psychotherapists Prophecy Coles, Dr Françoise Davoine and Professor Stephen Frosh

Friday 7 December 2018 - London

09.30   Registration and coffee
10.00   Professor Stephen Frosh

Postmemory and Haunting amongst those who 'come after'
The urgency of the problem of how to learn from the relatively recent past in order not to repeat its devastating effects, a problem that revolves around the ethics of memory and history, has combined with an awareness that later generations of victims and perpetrators - the 'post-' generations - may find themselves inhibited in relation to moving forwards precisely because they are not truly 'post-' at all. Still haunted by what has gone before them, these contemporary subjects are not in any way free to relinquish their pasts. It is as if they are stained with the experiences of their predecessors, which is passed on in some way through stories and selective silences, as well as through the older generation's ways of handling themselves and the personal and cultural representations of their situation. The 'post-' of the later generation is fully present.

Although the notion and terminology of 'postmemory' is becoming influential to conceptualise this, my own preference is for the vocabulary of 'haunting'. This is because it embraces the sense of being occupied by something that has come from some other place or time and is usually not willed by the subject, but somehow possesses the subject against its own conscious intentions. It leaves open the question of how this happens and it focuses especially on the consequences of loss. It is also peculiarly psychoanalytic in its resonances, both because of the occult themes in early psychoanalysis and because of the centrality of processes of transmission in psychoanalysis to this day. Examining how one is troubled by one's own past is the commonplace field of psychoanalytic encounter; but being troubled by others' experiences, and specifically by one's relationship to, and possible responsibility for, them is equally central. Both these elements are relevant to the exploration of postmemory and haunting, as 'personal' experiences come to be understood as saturated by relationships with others and by the social, cultural and historical contexts out of which they arise.
11.00   Coffee
11.30   Dr Francoise Davoine

The dialogue between the patients and the analyst's ghosts
Although I do not believe in ghosts, they flock into my office and I have to confront them in the transference with my patients especially in the case of traumas and psychosis. I will give clinical examples of the way I deal with haunting presences asking to be put to rest, as they say in old tales. I am working with the unquiet souls who did not receive proper funerals and unburied corpses who wander in the quest of a name on a grave.

The task of the analyst is to become a witness for events without a witness, as says Dori Laub, the founder of the video archives of the Holocaust at Yale. Bion has written in A Memoir of the Future that this process unfolds through interferences with the ghosts of the analyst. When Freud's work was threatened to be erased he would propose in Moses and Monotheism that the purpose of psychoanalysis in these cases is the acknowledgment of historical truths. I will also give examples in other cultures, through what Wittgenstein calls "associations of practice", when he speaks of man as "a ceremonial animal".
12.30   A reading by Lisa Appignanesi
12.50   Lunch
14.00   A reading by author Linda Grant
14.20   Linda Grant in conversation with Lisa Appignanesi
15.00   Tea
15:30   Prophecy Coles

The Uninvited Guest from the Unremembered Past
My talk will return to this book that I wrote in 2011 and I shall add some further ideas that I am exploring at the moment on the question of ghosts in the nursery. I am researching a book on the fundamental tie that adoption has with illegitimacy. They go hand in hand as a solution to the stigma of illegitimacy. The illegitimate child who legally had no family could be given a legitimate one when it was adopted. However, I am finding many unwelcome guests who no one wants to invite into the nursery, namely the illegitimate child's ancestors. The child born out of wedlock has been considered to be not only a child who should not have been born, but also, if it survived, it was tainted by the bad blood of its intemperate parents. Such a child found a world in which its past was best erased by not being spoken about. So when the adoption of such children became legalised in 1926 it was hoped that the child could be brought up as though it was newly minted in a newly prepared family.

This belief has been gradually dashed on the rocks by a newer consideration about the need for transparency. A child now has the right to know about its birth parents. But all is still not quite well as it was hoped. The legacy of illegitimacy or being unwanted lives on. The Elizabethan word for a child who was born out of wedlock was 'bastard' and the adopted child still carries the history of bastardy. Is it wanted and why was it 'thrown out of the nest?' These are the fundamental questions that continue to haunt the adopted child as it struggles to answer questions about its origins. Turning to the mythical figure of Oedipus, he continues to provoke and haunt psychoanalytic theory because Sophocles tells us that if we fail to give truthful answers to such questions, murder and incest can be let loose which has devastating consequences upon the future.
16.30   Panel discussion
17.00   End

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Handouts and lunch included
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CPD Hours

Certificates of attendance for 6 hours will be provided at the event

Grange Fitzrovia Hotel
20-28 Bolsover Street

09.30 Registration and coffee
10:00 Start
11:30 Coffee
12:50 Lunch
15:00 Tea
17:00 End