Engaged Psychoanalysis Seminar I: Status Anxiety

Austen Riggs Center

25 Main St
StockbridgeMassachusetts 01262
January 14, 2021 at 7:00 PM

Dates: January 14, 21, 28, 2021 (Thursdays) 
Time: 7:00-8:15 p.m. (Eastern Time) 
Fee: $175 for the three-session seminar (includes CE/CME credits) 

Registration for this series has closed.

The Erikson Institute for Education and Research of the Austen Riggs Center announces a new online seminar series: Engaged Psychoanalysis. Each seminar series will generally meet for three sessions and be led by scholars with expertise in a variety of academic fields and in psychoanalytic theory.   

Participation will be limited to 20 psychoanalytically oriented clinicians and will occur as Zoom meetings to allow for discussion. Participants who register are asked to commit to all three sessions.  

Seminar I: Status Anxiety 

Instructor: Bernard Reginster, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Brown University 

Guest Instructor: James Gilligan, MD, Clinical Professor Department of Psychiatry, NYU Grossman School of Medicine 

The idea of status anxiety has received renewed attention in the last few years. From open editorials to large-scale studies in social psychology, it has been invoked as a central factor in explaining the surprising appeal of Donald Trump. By its very nature, status anxiety is infectious: its presence in some individuals or groups tends to provoke it in other individuals or groups. For example, the growing claims for status of certain demographic groups in American culture (women, racial and ethnic minorities, etc.) have been perceived by other groups (primarily white men) as a challenge to their status. In these circumstances, anxiety over one’s social status is therefore likely to become more prevalent. 

However, the precise character of status anxiety remains elusive: What, precisely, is the status at stake in status anxiety? How are we to understand some of the typical manifestations of status anxiety, such as shame, resentment, and revengefulness? And when does status anxiety become pathological?  The aim of this seminar is to address these questions. 

Session 1 (January 14, 2021): Status 

Status is essentially social and the desire for status is often described as a desire to be valued by others. But what is the significance of securing status so understood? Is it to bolster self-esteem? Is it to gain social acceptance, and thereby the benefits of communal life? Or is it something else altogether? In Session 1, we examine the idea of status and explore the various forms anxiety over it can assume. 

Session 2 (January 21, 2021): Shame, Resentment, and Revenge  

The perceived threat to one’s status can elicit a variety of responses. Shame and resentment are typical responses to the perception that one is not valued by others. And these responses can provoke revengeful rage toward them. Like the status that elicits them, the character and significance of these reactions is elusive. For example, shame is frequently understood as a loss of self-esteem, and resentment as a response to the failure by others to recognize one’s personal worth. But revengeful rage, which can follow in their wake, does not seem to be an appropriate expression for a loss of self-esteem, or for a lack of deserved respect. And inspection of ordinary experience soon reveals cases of shame and resentment in which self-esteem or just dessert is not at stake. In Session 2, we examine these reactions and explore the ways in which they might shed light on the status anxiety that arouses them. 

Session 3 (January 28, 2021): Status Pathologies (with James Gilligan, PhD) 

Status anxiety expresses a self-standing need to be valued, or recognized by others. While it constitutes a normal aspiration, it easily takes on pathological forms. For example, it can indicate a loss of self, a condition in which the person loses her sense of reality of her self: she feels as though she is ‘nobody,’ or she ‘does not exist’; or it can take the form of seemingly intractable touchiness and self-centeredness: everything is construed as a slight, and no amount of recognition by others is ever enough; and more. In Session 3, we draw on the insights developed in the first two sessions to circumscribe some of the pathological forms of status anxiety and to identify ways in which they might effectively be approached. 

About Engaged Psychoanalysis Seminars  

The purpose of these seminars is to offer clinicians enhanced conceptual tools to approach clinical issues, which current social and cultural trends make them more likely to encounter in their patients. For instance, the fragmenting of the information landscape caused by the rise of social media is likely to crystallize issues of trust, including self-trust; and the growing claims for acknowledgment by racial minorities and LGBTQ groups seem bound to bring questions of identity (racial, sexual, and other) to the surface. Academic research on these social and cultural trends yields insights that might be useful to clinical practice. 

These seminars consist primarily in discussions, in which the academic expertise of the instructor and the clinical experience of the participants aim to inform and enrich each other. While instructors are typically not clinicians themselves, they all have, in addition to a specific academic expertise (e.g., in law, politics, art and literature, philosophy, and others), a measure of expertise in psychoanalytic theory, which informs their academic work as well as their approach to the present seminars.  

The seminars and designed to maximize benefits for all participants while minimizing the investment of their time. Thus, the seminars are brief (two or three 1-hour sessions), and they require minimal preparation (one or two short readings per session).  


  1. Define, distinguish, and compare different forms the desire for status may take.
  2. Diagnose and discuss the psychological roots and significance of the desire for status.
  3. Identify and illustrate typical pathological forms of the desire for status.
  4. Apply and illustrate these findings to clinical work.


Physicians, Psychologists, Social Work

The Austen Riggs Center designates this live interactive webinar for a maximum of 3.0 AMA PRA Category1 Credit(s) ™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.     

The Austen Riggs Center is accredited by the Massachusetts Medical Society to provide continuing medical education for physicians.    

The Austen Riggs Center also designates this live interactive webinar for 3.0 continuing education credit(s) (CE) for psychology.    

The Austen Riggs Center is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Austen Riggs Center maintains responsibility for the program and its content. For additional information about this program, please call the Erikson Institute Education Coordinator, at 413.931.5230.    

The Austen Riggs Center, #1344, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. Austen Riggs Center maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider Approval Period: 02/02/2020-2/2/2023. Social workers completing this live interactive webinar will receive 3.0 continuing education credit(s).     

For a listing of jurisdictions that accept ACE, please visit www.aswb.org/ace/ace-jurisdiction-map/.    

The Austen Riggs Center follows all state and federal laws and regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). In accordance with the ADA, the Austen Riggs Center is committed to accessibility. If you need accommodations for your course, please contact info@austenriggs.net.   

For information about our accreditation, please visit: www.austenriggs.org/accreditation-educational-activities.   

Attendees who wish to receive CE credit should note:      

After the conclusion of the event, you will receive an email with a link to complete the evaluation and claim your credits.  


Seminar and continuing education information - Kathleen Young, Erikson Institute Education Coordinator 413.931.5230 / kathleen.young@austenriggs.net  


Registration for this series has closed. For any questions, please contact Kathleen Young at 413.931.5230 / kathleen.young@austenriggs.net.  



1 hour and 15 minutes