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DPS Lecture: Receptive Listening to the Foreign Things We Hear About Ourselves from Our Patients

Friday, May 07, 2021, 7:00 PM until 8:30 PM
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DPS Lecture

Title:  Receptive Listening to the Foreign Things We Hear About Ourselves from Our Patients: Radical Openness to Otherness with Anton Hart, PhD


Every psychoanalyst or psychoanalytic psychotherapist has had the experience of being seen by the patient in ways that are different from how the therapist sees themself. Therapeutic dialogues across the borders of racial, ethnic, or other diversities can intensify this disparity between self-perception and the perceptions of the other. It can be extremely difficult, for example, to have the subjective experience of feeling dedicated to and engaged with the patient but, in contrast, be experienced by the patient as detached or insufficiently caring. Or, similarly, we may have the challenging experience of having predominantly benevolent feelings as we strive to be of help, but being experienced, nevertheless as traumatic or malevolent. Accordingly, we often attempt to prepare ourselves for our patients' foreign or discordant experience of us in the course of the therapeutic process through bolstering our preparation for their foreignness. We do this through deliberate acquisition of knowledge about their racial, cultural or other contextual feature, or we rely on the concepts of projection and transference to emotionally protect and sustain ourselves as we attempt to manage the task of surviving the personal associated with being seen in ways that are different from the ways that we see ourselves.


This presentation offers an account of the presenter’s concept of “radical openness” as an alternative to a stance of emphasizing an orientation multicultural competence and as an alternative to interpreting the patient's apparent misrecognitions of us as transference. Radical openness will be described as a stance which seeks to receive our patients’ strange experiences, across the borders of racial, ethnic or other differences, as if they are bound to contain personal truths and insights, for both our patients and us alike, even if we at first believe that we are not implicated.