Confronting Mortal Threat – Unconscious Processes in the Face of Death
Saturday 5 September 2020 - A Live Webinar
Dr Richard Gipps, Professor Paul Hoggett, Dr Merav Roth and Dr Estela Welldon – chaired by Anouchka Grose
- Includes a recording of the event with access for a year (14 days post the event)
- Bookings close at 9.00am BST Wednesday 2 September
As the pandemic has brought us all face to face with death, either in reality or in the imagination, we will be talking about how the mind negotiates this gross affront to our sense of survival. The sudden risk of catching a fatal illness brings out some extraordinary capacities, such as adaptation, connection, altruism, but it also amplifies the deepest fear we may have of ceasing to exist.READ MORE...
This conversation is about what we notice about the human responses to mortal threat, what these tell us about unconscious processes, defense mechanisms and the internal scenarios that we create in order to live with that fate. Our speakers will discuss how we navigate increased uncertainty, prolonged fear in the face of invisible danger, the bigger sense of mortal threat, and the realisation of how little we are able to control.
Working with these insights, we will also be considering what the fear-based and rapid response to the virus tells us about our capacity to make huge mental adjustments, and ask what stops us from applying that capacity to the threat of climate change.
Dr Richard Gipps
Being Philosophical About It
To be “philosophical” or “stoical” is to remain calm and able to think in the face of adversity. But how have the philosophers suggested we achieve this? And how can their deliberations be drawn on in the consulting room without therapy degrading into intellectual discussion? In this talk Richard will discuss the relation of six virtues – the cultivation of healthy pride (dignity), the development of ego strength (inner courage), amor fati (acquiescence to fate), the will to power (determination), receptivity to grace (the cultivation of gratitude), and seeing life sub specie aeternitatis (the bigger picture) – to the “philosophical” life. Of particular importance for therapeutic practice is the distinction between i) embodying and modelling and ii) merely talking about such virtues.
Dr Merav Roth
The Opportunity of the Uncanny – In Times of Corona and Online Treatment
The coronavirus crisis is experienced as a radical state of danger, not just because it poses a mortal threat, but to a large extent also because the threat is undefined in terms of its scope, duration, methods of attack and means of defense against it. This is the most menacing combination for us – an external danger whose shape is not clearly delineated, which gives way to internal scenarios. Our inner demons will always be bigger and scarier than the external reality. Within us, they have no solid boundaries, and no meaningful logic or language that we can hold on to. Two types of reactions are liable to arise in the face of this threat. One rejects the reality and the second accepts it and “works with it”. We all fluctuate between the two throughout our lives. In the more primitive position, the mind reacts with denial and a sense of omnipotence on the one hand and panic, exaggeration and helplessness on the other. How we work with these with our patients will be explored.
Dr Estela Welldon
Sex has been comprehensively “exposed” in our culture, including the ubiquitous introduction of sex education, in its many manifest forms, in schools. Death, however, continues to struggle to get a thoughtful audience and risks being ignored, denied or experienced as an alien fate that punishes us from above for whatever we did right or wrong in life. It is as if we have learned that death is always an unjust happening, closing, if not damning forever, our lives and those whom we love – or hate. When faced with sudden unexpected deaths you become aware of the value of a true life one without deceits and falsities.
Professor Paul Hoggett
Staying with the Trouble
There is now considerable evidence that when facing the mortal threat of ecological and climatic destruction our responses go through a number of stages. The primary initial response is disavowal where the threat is acknowledged but in a way that leaves the self undisturbed. A critical moment is reached when this defence breaks down for it is easy to flip from denial straight into despair as all the feelings that have been split off flood in and overwhelm the self. The challenge is to find containment for the anger, hopelessness, grief and guilt so that we can face up to the threat using both reason and passion. In climate psychology we call this “staying with the trouble” – how to sustain our love for the world whilst facing the worst.