The Art of Letting Go
With Joshua Engelman, Anouchka Grose and Mary Morgan
Recorded Friday 2 July 2021
Human existence is maintained by a web of connections, attachments and resources. These are inevitably transient yet held together by a person’s sense of ‘going on being’ with a possible future. People leave or die, relationships end, and a life passes through developmental stages that must involve some shedding of former self-states.
If an ending occurs, it would seem to make sense to live into the future, after grieving, especially if holding-on causes suffering. Doing so implies a capacity to exist in the future in one’s mind, through acts of imagination, creativity, courage and developing new ways of being — of exercising agency, purpose and optimism. And yet, doing so is rarely straightforward.READ MORE...
Letting go of another person also involves foregoing aspects of oneself that could only exist in that relationship; it demands a capacity to tolerate a temporary fracturing of self and reality.
If an ending occurs, it would seem to make sense to live into the future, after grieving, especially if holding-on causes suffering. Doing so implies a capacity to exist in the future in one’s mind, through acts of imagination, creativity, courage and developing new ways of being — of exercising agency, purpose and optimism. And yet, doing so is rarely straightforward. Letting go of another person also involves foregoing aspects of oneself that could only exist in that relationship; it demands a capacity to tolerate a temporary fracturing of self and reality.
This discussion invites us to think about a range of therapeutic concerns, including the internalization of loved-ones; whether loss can be experienced as an opening, and how we navigate an unknowable future. Our three panellists will offer their views on what makes letting go so problematic, yet so essential for full engagement with life.
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Why is breaking up so hard to do?
Freud tells us, “Mourning over the loss of something that we have loved or admired seems so natural to the layman that he regards it as self-evident. But to psychologists mourning is a great riddle, one of those phenomena which cannot themselves be explained.” This presentation will take a look at the kinds of complex internal operations that may be at play in the apparently simple, much-recommended act of letting go — of objects, people, fantasies, symptoms and even futures. If therapy is sometimes caricatured as a practice that encourages people to let go of the things that make them unhappy, here we will look at the reasons why it can never be that simple.
Q&A with Anouchka Grose
Love after Loss
“If you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love”
(Cascando, Samuel Becket)
Unlike the death of a loved-one, the end of a relationship can be far more persistent and painful, for the wound continues to fester incessantly. Not only the beloved but ability to love itself has been lost. Besides the denial, anger and grief which accompany mourning, the persistent hope for reparation for abandonment and betrayal is accompanied by feelings of guilt, jealousy, rage and shame; Heathcliff desires not comfort but revenge for his loss of ability to love. Lacan states, “Speaking about love is the only thing that happens in the psychoanalytic field”, and this offers hope that it is the acceptance of loss and of being less that can be a way to desire and to love again.
Q&A with Joshua Engelman
The ending of a therapy – examples from couple work
In couples therapy, endings take many forms. Some couples break off the therapy before it has really started, other couple therapies can feel interminable as the concrete presence of the therapist is felt to be intrinsic to the couple’s relationship. Fortunately, there are also therapies in which the ending is kept in mind by both the couple and the therapist: the therapy is on a path, even though it cannot be known where the path is leading. A good ending involves the loss and mourning of the therapist and in particular of her ‘couple state of mind’. But it is through the process of letting go of this aspect of the therapist that the couple introject this capacity into their relationship, providing them with an invaluable resource.
Q&A with Mary Morgan
Q&A with all panel