Visiting psychoanalyst awakens us to our dreams

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Dr Dawn Farber and Dr Lisa Saville Young with the masters students in professional training programme, March 2014

Last week the department was fortunate to host Dr Dawn Farber, a personal and supervising analyst and faculty member of the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC). Dr Farber presented a public lecture on Tuesday 18th March on ‘The contributions of Wilfred R. Bion to clinical thinking about Trauma’. The lecture was well attended by psychology students, staff and other humanities faculty members. In this informal lecture-discussion, Dr. Dawn Farber described the provenance of Bion's paradigm-changing clinical 'theories' in his personal traumatic experience as a 19 year-old tank commander in WW1.  When he was finally, 50 years later, able to bear this unbearable experience sufficiently, he wrote the series of works concerning theories of 'thinking', by which he always means processing our lived emotional experience. The major ideas that evolved over time are:  containment, beta-elements, alpha elements, alpha-function, waking dreaming, reverie. Among the questions considered were: why is the process of dreaming so
important, regardless of the content of dreams, and what happens when our
capacity to dream is ablated by trauma?

Dr Farber spent a further day and half with our 12 masters students in clinical and counseling psychology, discussing with them Bion’s work and its application to applied case work, specifically psychoanalytic therapy.