FROM FIELD TO MIND: RECENT THINKING ABOUT THE FORMULATION OF EXPERIENCE
Saturday, October 14, 2023
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST
*This is a Zoom Virtual Conference Event*
Morning Session: Distance and Relation: Emergence from embeddedness in the other
Inspired by an essay by Martin Buber (1950), and then by the work of Ernest Schachtel (1959) on the idea of “embeddedness” and emergence from it, this is an account of the role of “distance” or “separateness” in clinical psychoanalytic work. We tend to assume that the capacity to appreciate otherness is always already present. We often lose track of the necessity to “set the other at a distance” (Buber), the prerequisite for emergence from embeddedness in the other. The entire process—i.e., setting the other at a distance and then emerging from embeddedness in the other–must take place over and over again in any treatment, and in both directions: Patients must disembed from analysts, but it is just as necessary for analysts to disembed from patients. It is the emergence from embeddedness that allows the analyst’s appreciation of patient’s otherness. Embeddedness in the other is discussed as mutual enactment. This use of these phenomena in treatment is articulated in the theory of witnessing that I have presented in recent years (Stern, 2009, 2012, in press). The presentation ends with a detailed clinical illustration.
Afternoon Session: Interpretation: Voice of the Field
To patients, the most memorable moments in psychoanalytic treatment are seldom the contents of the analyst’s interpretations, but the feeling of being understood. Interpretations are most meaningful, I argue, not because of what they say, but because each one is evidence that the analyst, who routinely becomes someone of great significance to the patient, knows the patient more than they did the moment before. I call this process “witnessing” (Stern, 2009, 2022), and as a result of it patients not only know and feel—they also “know and feel that they know and feel.” They can feel their roles in authoring their own experience. Therapeutic action results: Patients “come into possession of themselves.”
Interpretations are the outcome of shifts in the interpersonal field, which reveal new freedom to think and feel. That new freedom to think and feel allows the creation of the analyst’s interpretations, which therefore serve as a sign of the new way of being in one another’s presence that has now become possible between analyst and patient. Field shifts are jointly created, without conscious intention; and interpretations arise from field shifts. Interpretations, we can therefore say, are not really created independently by the mind of the analyst, but are instead the voice of the field. The presentation ends with a clinical illustration of these ideas.