SBCPS – South Bay Reading and Discussion Group May


Let’s take a break from thinking about COVID-19 and its impact on our lives/practices and engage together (virtually) with a thoughtful psychoanalytic paper in which Lisa Director poses the following question: “the question of how to ‘get in’ to Len’s (a patient) awareness was misguided: how could I first simply get his attention?” SBRG is hosting a monthly reading/discussion group for interested clinicians at all levels of involvement. Meetings will be held through Zoom. Our intent is to gather virtually for a reading and discussion of key papers in contemporary psychoanalysis that focus on theory, technique, and/or interesting clinical material.

Director. L. (2009). The Enlivening Object. Contemp. Psychoanal., 45: 120-141.

Tustin, F. (1980). excerpt from Autistic Objects: “The Origins of Pathological Autistic Objects. (1980). Int’l Review of Psycho-Analysis. pgs. 31-34.

Kim, S., Fonagy, P., Allen, J. Martinez, S. Iyengar, U., Strathearm, L. (2014). Mothers who are securely attached in pregnancy show more attuned infant mirroring at 7 months postpartum. Infant Behav. Dev. 37: 491-504.

Silberman, S. (2015). Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. NY: Penguin. Forward (Oliver Sacks: pg. 1 & Intro: 1-17).

Kim, Fonagy et al paper & Silberman chptr. are interesting but not required.

This month’s SBR/DG presents a thoughtful, clinically useful paper by Lisa Director as she conceptualizes her innovative work with a patient who, in diagnostic terms, might be considered not only schizoid but perhaps somewhere on the spectrum. Such patients are characterized by depersonalization, isolation, limited affective expression and primitive forms of engagement while being highly functional cognitively as well as linguistically — especially those we see here in Silicon Valley. From a psychoanalytic perspective, Director conceptualizes her patients’ difficulties in terms of deficits in preoedipal object relational experiences leading to the introjection of a deficient/distant/non-attuned object. Early experiences of loss and non-engagement may lead such patients to turn to what Tustin refers to as autistic objects/autistic shapes — primitive auto-sensation-based experiences to defend against the experience of lack and loss. Director offers an inspiring model of the analyst’s role as an “Enlivening Object” in working with such patients (informed by Alvarez on “reclamation”) suggesting the necessity for the analyst’s expressive engagement as a factor in the therapeutic action.

Also, please read the excerpt from Francis Tustin concerning the Origins of Pathological Autistic Objects which is the basis for Director’s work with her patient Len for whom objects exist not as persons but as things experienced through texture and touch. This interpretation grounds Director’s enlivening approach with her patient.

The Kim, Fonagy et al. paper presents empirical research on the link between a secure maternal attachment status and the capacity to mirror — the point being that not every caregiver has the capacity for what Director refers to as “key functions” to be assumed by a caregiver such as: holding, attuning, mirroring, containing and mentalizing.

From a different perspective, in his historical sweep of the professional understanding of autism, Silberman puts forth the idea of neurodiversity: the notion that conditions such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD should be regarded as naturally occurring cognitive variations of the human genome with distinctive strengths that have contributed to the evolution of technology and culture rather than mere checklists of deficits and dysfunctions. Silverman’s writing is rooted in an activists’ perspective which celebrates such cognitive differences.

Julie Gerhardt, PhD



May 29th, 2020 7:00 PM
Event Fee(s)
Admission $ 15.00