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SCIENTIFIC MEETING – The Person Who Sees the Ship: Language, Imagination, and the Interpersonal Field in the Theory of Unformulated Experience

SCIENTIFIC MEETING - The Person Who Sees the Ship: Language, Imagination, and the Interpersonal Field in the Theory of Unformulated Experience

Presenter: Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D.

Saturday, May 18, 2024: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm (no break)

TPS Scientific Meeting: Open to Members, Affiliates/Guests, TIP Candidates, and ATPPP Trainees Only

** DISTANCE PARTICIPATION ONLY – Registration deadline is one week prior to the meeting. Please RSVP by email to Preregistration is required.

How should we describe the transformation of unformulated experience into language—not only into verbal language but also into the broader forms of meaning we can call semiotic (nonverbal imagery, meaningful enactive patterns, procedural representations)? Long ago (Stern, 1983, 1997) I described the crucial ingredient in this process as imagination. In this presentation I revisit this subject, characterizing imagination as the preservation of the spontaneity, freshness, and vitality of language, created by the freedom of the interpersonal field to take on configurations responsive to the affective needs of the field’s participants. I then argue that dissociative enactment can be understood as what Levenson calls “semiotic incompetence”–a failure of language, or a compromise of “relational freedom” (Stern, 2015) brought on by freezing, constraints, or stiffening of the field.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this presentation participants will be able to:

  1. define and apply to their clinical practices the concept of witnessing.
  2. define and apply to their clinical practice the idea that clinical interpretation represents the voice of the field.
  3. define and apply to their clinical practice the conception of therapeutic action as “seeing you seeing me.”
  4. define and apply to their clinical practice the concept of the interpersonal field.

Recommended Readings (not required):

Stern, D.B. (2009) Partners in thought: A clinical process theory of narrative. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 78: 101-131.

Stern, D.B. (2022). On coming into possession of oneself: Witnessing and the formulation of experience. Psychoanalytic Quarterly

Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D.

Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D. is Training and Supervising Analyst at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City; Clinical Professor of Psychology and Clinical Consultant at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy; and faculty at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is the Founder and Editor of a book series at Routledge, “Psychoanalysis in a New Key,” which has over 80 books in print. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of the journal Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He has published articles and book chapters for 40 years, and has co-edited four books and authored four others, the most recent of which is The Infinity of the Unsaid: Unformulated Experience, Language, and the Nonverbal (Routledge, 2019). A fifth authored book, On Coming Into Possession of Oneself: From Field to Mind, is in press, and another is written but not yet scheduled for publication: Contributions to the History and Definition of Interpersonal Psychoanalysis. He is in private practice in New York City.

This event is eligible for Section 1 CME credits (0.5 credits/hour). This event is an accredited group learning activity (section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certificate Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, approved by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA). The specific opinions and content of this event are not necessarily those of the CPA, and are the responsibility of the organizer(s) alone. As per the Royal College standard, each presentation provides a minimum of 25% interactive learning.

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