Secrets and Lies – Uncovering Hidden Truths in Family Histories
Saturday 21 November 2020 - A Live Webinar
With Dr Françoise Davoine, Trudy Gold, Maya Lasker-Wallfisch, John Simmonds and Dr Reenee Singh
- Includes a recording of the event with access for a year (14 days post the event)
- Bookings close at 9.00am BST Wednesday 18 November
Many families have needed to shed a past identity in order to build new lives, especially those who have been subjected to social shame or exclusion. Often, unacceptable aspects of that family history are expunged from the family narrative; histories that are considered too painful to recount – either to protect the teller or listener – are deliberately or unconsciously hidden.READ MORE...
Photographs are removed from albums. Names are deleted from family trees. War records destroyed.
Yet, our panel will propose, such buried truths can never undo what has happened to the former generations of a family, and traumatic histories can never be truly erased. Instead, secrets and lies form an insidious backdrop to family life, which seeps into the collective unconscious of that group. Often these elements become experienced as a free-floating sense of shame or anxiety in future generations that cannot be pinned to any specific event because the truth is unknown.
This conference will consider how a family – either consciously or unconsciously – avoids such knowing, and what happens to the family system when a troubling secret is brought to light. What happens when a child stumbles upon their adoption records? When a DNA result reveals misattributed paternity? Or when a diary reveals a family member committed a violent crime? How can psychotherapy help to bring such secrets to light so they can be integrated into the client’s understanding of who they are, and whose histories they unconsciously carry? And what relief may that bring?
10:00 BST (05.00 EDT)
Dr Reenee Singh
Voicing the Unvoiced: Secrets and Systemic Family Psychotherapy
Much of our work as family and systemic psychotherapists comprises providing a safe space where untold, untellable stories can be told, and where differences and difficulties in family relationships can be voiced. Some of these secrets may have to do with miscarriages, terminations and still births, or children from previous relationships. Other, possibly more dangerous secrets, are about incest and sexual abuse. This presentation will explore how to work with secrets in systemic family psychotherapy, and how to appreciate the protective function that secrets might have, for example, when working with refugee, migrant and intercultural couples and families.
Dr Françoise Davoine
The Transmission of Family Secrets Through the Transference
In psychoanalysis, such transmission often occurs through a memory recorded by the body in the present time of the sessions. While appearing as a symptom, such as voices, visions, rage or withdrawal, the hidden or previously unknown memory emerges from an unspeakable place, manifesting in the transference as an attempt to reach another in order to be shared and spoken. Françoise will detail moments in clinical work where unpredictable “elements” triggered some entrenched parts of her own history leading to a greater knowledge of both her past and the past of her client. In her experience it is at the crossroad of the clinician’s story, the patient’s story and and history at large that secrets can become known.
Integrating the Known and the Unknown into Adoption
Over the last century, adoption practice has moved from being a solution to the maintenance of moral and social order in society to a solution for children who cannot be cared for safely and appropriately by their birth parents or birth family. It has moved from a position where secrecy in the family about the child’s origins was dominant, to one where the complexity of the child’s early experiences needs to be incorporated into a more secure, settled and sensitive family life. But while these changes have come to acknowledge the importance for everybody in coming to understand their history, heritage and identity, the challenge in doing so has not gone away. This presentation will draw on evidence and experience over the past 100 years about these fundamental questions and what may be a future direction of travel in building on the best of what we know.
Maya Lasker-Wallfisch with Trudy Gold
To Know or Not to Know
In this conversation, consultant psychotherapist Maya Lasker-Wallfisch and the historian and activist Trudy Gold will explore the questions: what is a secret?, when is it toxic?, and what are the social and psychological implications within a family where the family is divided into those that know and those that do not, whether on a conscious or a subconscious level? They will also address the “secret” as a defensive adaptation to the truth in the service of protection, and consider some of the developmental injury that can occur as a direct response to being excluded from the truth.
Group Discussion: Bringing it all Together