New Directions – “Life After Death: How the Pandemic Has Transformed Psychic Life”
November 3 – 5, 2023
There used to be no house, hardly a room, in which someone had not once died.
(Rose, 2021, p. 4)
The majority of Covid deaths have occurred in the isolation of the hospital room, not in a home. We– none of us — are allowed to touch the dying for fear of our own dying.
Massive death, even when unseen and blocks/cities away, infects our state of mind in myriad ways. In this weekend we will explore our upended experience of time: “Grief brings time shuddering to a halt” (Rose, 2021. p. 8).
We ask what is the mental impact of living in time and space brought to a halt: losing one’s bodily and mental space, no longer able to move freely in the inside or outside world; simultaneously losing the free flow of time, creating a version of mental claustrophobia. In the days and weeks after George Floyd’s death, his unheard plea “I can’t breathe” echoed in so many of us, a haunting echo of the violence inherent in structured racist policies. Saidiya Hartman (2002) asks: “How might we understand mourning, when the event has yet to end? When the injuries not only perdure, but are inflicted anew? Can one mourn what has yet ceased happening?”
We are required to “wait.” It is in the time of waiting that all is held in balance. We wait to find normal again only to slowly apprehend it is not coming back, rather something we call “the new normal” will take its place. As the old is replaced by the new we wait in uncertainty. This is a most painful state of mind, an extraordinary demand the pandemic has placed on us.
And yet in waiting there is work to be done. It makes all the difference in the world if we hold onto hope, or what we as psychoanalysts call the “good object.” In this weekend’s presentations and discussion we will focus on the conflict between hope and despair, love and hate, life and death. Can we as individuals and in the larger societal sense, face the hurt, the loss and hatred and resultant painful frustration to instill and maintain a sense of “mattering” in our relations. (Baraitser, 2020). How we come to develop a sense of mattering—or not, and whose lives matter- whose lives are “grievable” (Butler) ?
* Title from Jacquelyn Rose, London Review of Books, 12/7/21
Coordinator: Lynne Zeavin, Ph.D. Shelley Rockwell, Ph.D.
GUEST FACULTY: TBA