On Loneliness: Therapeutic growth and the capacity for solitude
With Lesley Caldwell, Dr Richard Gipps and Dr Akshi Singh (recorded Saturday 18 January 2020)
“I’ll never attain any degree of freedom till I’ve learnt to disagree with people—to stand alone—to face up to human loneliness.”
Marion Milner (1927)
Why is it that some people never experience the emotion of loneliness, while others feel excruciating anxiety in solitude? This conference will attempt to understand aspects of an individual’s psyche that predisposes them towards either tendency.READ MORE...
We’ll consider aloneness as a source of vulnerability, but also a necessary retreat for reflection and creativity. Our theoretical starting point is that the capacity to be alone is engendered in childhood by the consistent, repeated presence of being with another. This internalisation of “good objects” embeds a sense of the continuation of that intersubjective relationship when the other is absent, and protects the psyche at times of solitude throughout life.
When the “other” has not been installed as loving and safe internal object, what can a therapy relationship provide to counter that deficit? Our speakers will consider if terrifying states of loneliness can be ultimately transformed into an inner sanctuary that the client can use as a resource for reflection, rest and creativity. We will hear how the depressed, anxious and even the psychotic can re-experience solitude as a resource when they discover that they are loveable; when they know that they can safely return to the presence of others.
Registration and Coffee
Dr Akshi Singh
Facing up to Human Loneliness: Marion Milner’s Experiments with Solitude
Milner’s writing—autobiographical and psychoanalytic—provides an intricate account of what is at stake in the capacity to be alone—and what links or severs solitude from moments of creativity and insight. Her work allows us to think about what is necessary, mysterious, and terrifying about the prospect of being in the presence of ourselves, and the others who accompany our solitude.
The Place Where We Live: Being at Home Being Alone
Winnicott’s account of being alone in conjunction with the idea that home is where we start from concerns the patient in analysis, the widespread condition of homelessness in the contemporary world, but also the engagement with the art object and what it offers. Both aloneness and solitude are fundamental conditions for participating fully in everyday life and difficulty, and in being able to undertake an analysis. I am interested in how a concern with being in the particularity of the consulting room also offers a perspective on art and beyond.
Chaired Q&A with speakers
Dr Richard Gipps
Love’s Possibility: On Loneliness, Madness and Human Dignity
A distinction can be drawn between feeling and being lonely, between ordinary loneliness and loneliness-beyond-loneliness. The capacity for ordinary loneliness may be compared to that for hunger: without an ability to register lack, one goes mad (loneliness-beyond-loneliness) or starves to death even if food or love is available. Recovery from mental illness requires developing the ability both to feel and to tend to one’s loneliness, and correlatively to develop or recover a sense that it’s intelligible that one be loved. Examples from poetry and from the autobiographies of psychotherapy patients are used to illustrate the central themes.
Chaired Q&A with speakers