The Riggs Blog

The Role Trauma Plays In Remembering and Forgetting.

The history of trauma resides in each of us. As citizens we are marked by the history of our country at war, both present and past. As clinicians we listen to stories of trauma from victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. We often bear witness to the psychological, physical, and spiritual effects of individual and group trauma. An individual’s traumatic exposure may involve a very private or inward range of human experience, producing symptoms but also providing the wellspring for creativity to emerge as an effort toward working-through. In this year’s Fall Conference,  October 18 –19, we explore the history of trauma and the attempts to remember, forget, or mark the landscape with our history of trauma. 

Historian of science and medicine, Mark Micale, Ph.D. will discuss recent scholarship on historical trauma studies, compare emerging historical literature on psychological trauma with the research tradition of trauma produced by mental health professionals. He will focus on recent examinations of collective traumatic episodes which can provide a more global understanding of trauma and may help us move forward in the twenty-first century.

Poet, essayist and cultural critic, Lewis Hyde, will focus his presentation on the therapeutic puzzle that without memory and recall, there can be no satisfactory laying to rest of injuries from the past.  He will explore why the story of trauma is so hard to produce and how, if trauma’s legacy is intrusive and filled with fragmentary thoughts, these elements might combine into a proper narrative.  And from such a narrative, once conscious, what is the pathway for moving forward?

Austen Riggs’ staff psychologist, Marilyn Charles, Ph.D. will detail ways in which primary experience can become an ‘epiphanic moment’ that is then translated by the individual into a form that can communicate something of the original experience to the audience or reader. Discussion points might include how mourning and failure to mourn affect the capacities of the therapist to engage in creative therapeutic work with patients, and how our own creative efforts outside of the consulting room impact patients.

Diane O’Donoghue, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Visual and Critical Studies at Tufts University and faculty member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, will consider the relationship between architecture and trauma.  Can physical structures, linked to traumatic events, become the site of loss when the façade of meaning crumbles.  Further exploration will center on the ways that physical structure informed Freud’s understanding of trauma and the uses of psychoanalytic theories to further consider the affective reception of architecture.

Joyce Slochower, Ph.D. will explore the dynamics of commemorative ritual as embodied and enacted outside the consulting room. While the function of lifelong acts of memorialization in marking traumatic loss has been well documented, psychoanalysis has given short shrift to the value of ongoing commemorative rituals in instances of “ordinary” (i.e., less traumatic) loss. Enacted across the lifespan, commemorative rituals serve multiple functions. At their best, these acts—in their multiple incarnations—mimic aspects of psychoanalytic work by helping us to deepen emotional connectedness and to integrate remembering in a way that enriches and frees rather than binds us. 

Registration is required for this two-day event.  

 

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