It is said that each betrayal begins with trust. Betrayal is a familiar theme in myth, legend, and in classical as well as contemporary literature. It enters our consulting rooms in various guises: the patient striving to reconcile the incest she suffered as a child, the couple relationship seeking repair following an affair, the patient who was “sold out” by a friend. We are presented with institutional betrayals as well, as when the army recruit reports being disqualified from service because of a contrived diagnosis of “personality disorder,” or the employee complains that he was let go in the face of an outstanding job review. It is there in the reading of the will, or the idea stolen from a colleague. And of course there are the betrayals that haunt our own field, as when a clinician crosses the professional boundary to have a sexual relationship with a patient. The list goes on and on. We know the phenomenon all too well, because we encounter it regularly in our work and because we live it – as the one who has been betrayed, or as the betrayer – every day. Betrayal is inescapable.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the foundational function of basic trust in human development and experience, betrayal resonates deep into the psyche. Paradoxically, it is both predictable and unexpected. During this weekend, we will explore the phenomenon of betrayal in our work as therapists and in life at large, touching on various responses to betrayal in religion and culture. Among the questions we will be asking is this: how do we, as human beings, and as therapists and writers, steady ourselves when there is a shaking of the foundation?
ELIZABETH H. THOMAS, PHD
SALMAN AKHTAR, is a professor of psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College and Scholar-in-Residence at the Inter-Act Theater Company in Philadelphia. He is the recipient of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s “Best Paper of the Year” Award. Dr. Akhtar’s extensive writing includes Immigration and Identity, the inspiration for the play “Lafangey Parinday (Rouge Birds),” recently broadcast on the BBC. He has published six volumes of poetry in English and Urdu.
LINDA HOPKINS is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst living and working in Washington DC. Her book False Self: The Life of Masud Khan, published in 2006 by Other Press and 2007 by Karnac, won the Gradiva (book) award in 2007 and the Goethe Award for Psychoanalytic Scholarship in 2008.
NANCY SHERMAN is a distinguished University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. Her most recent book is Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of our Soldiers to be published this Spring by Oxrford. Her other publications include The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers (2010), as well as numerous books and papers related to topics of ethics, history of moral philosophy, ancient philosophy, military ethics, moral psychology, and the emotions. Dr. Sherman is a research graduate of the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, and recipient of the Gary O. Morris prize for the most distinguished essay, 1999.
In October of 2005, Sherman was part of a small team invited by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to visit Guantanamo Bay Detention Center to observe and advise on medical and psychological conditions of detainees and matters of medical ethics. Her views on military ethics have been featured broadly in the media, at home and abroad.