Listening to the Unsayable

Fall 2015

This weekend will examine the complexity of the movement out of silence toward symbolization in our work with clients and in our work as writers.

Our presenters will use their experience as clinicians, writers, and poets to help us think about a language that, in its transformations – into and through silence, psychosis, and poetry – is, perhaps, better experienced than defined. The poet, psychotherapist and musician Tomas Transtromer writes in his poem “Allegro”:

After a black day, I play Haydn…
The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying,rocks are rolling.
The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.

Transtromer’s words suggest experience outside of language. Although the rocks “are flying and rolling” “straight through the house,” the glass remains “whole,” and the “house of glass” positioned precipitously “on a slope” remains – transparent, penetrated, and yet, defying the laws of the physical world, “still whole,” immutable.

Annie Rogers, one of our presenters, has observed that the language of the unsayable “signifies what is most elusive in human experience” It offers “a bridge from the known world to the unknown” and, like the unconscious, “leaps forward as a spark, and you can not guess it’s trajectory.”

Anticipate a conference weekend of sparks!



DEBORAH BLESSING, MSW, is a clinical social worker and psychoanalyst trained at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City. She also spent a year as a Clinical Associate at the Tavistock Centre in London where she was awarded a permanent post as Honorary Senior Child Psychotherapy Consultant. Ms Blessing is a Core Faculty member of the Observation Studies Program, Tavistock Method at the Washington School of Psychiatry. She is also on the faculties of the Close Attention and Psychoanalytic Studies Programs at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis and is a Co-Chair of the New Directions Writing with a Psychoanalytic Edge Program. She has published several papers on infant observation, siblings and eating disorders.

GAIL S. REED, PhD, practices psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy in New York City, in both English and French. She is a training and supervisory analyst and on the faculty at the Training Institute of the New York Freudian Society, the Berkshire Psychoanalytic Institute, and NPAP, and is an Honorary Member of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She is the author of two books, Transference Neurosis and the Psychoanalytic Experience: Perspectives on Contemporary Clinical Practice and Clinical Understanding and is an editor of and contributor to Unrepresented States and the Construction of Meaning: Clinical and Theoretical Contributions; her numerous articles include “On the Value of Explicit Reconstruction” and “Spatial Metaphors of the Mind,” both in The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, and “In the Same Way a Poem Contains the Alphabet: The Significance of Translation in William I. Grossman’s Freud,” in Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. She is President and Founding Member of the Group for the Study of the Psychoanalytic Process, Associate Editor for Foreign Books and is a member of the Editorial Boards of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytical Quarterly and of Psychoanalytic Inquiry. In 1985 she was awarded the JAPA Recent Graduate Prize for “Rules of Clinical Understanding in Classical Psychoanalysis and in Self Psychology: A Comparison,” Journal; of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

SHELLEY ROCKWELL, PhD., is a training and supervising psychoanalyst with the Contemporary Freudian Society, Washington D.C. She has studied with the London Kleinians, specifically Michael Feldman and Betty Joseph for close to twenty years. She has extensive teaching experience in  contemporary Kleinian theory and clinical practice and has presented papers locally— as well as in NYC, and at the Berlin IPA Congress and 2012 London UCL meeting. She has recently published a clinical paper regarding her work with a non-symbolizing patient in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, January, 2014, titled “Problems of Internalization: A Button is a Button is— Not” In addition Dr. Rockwell completed an infant observation with Margaret Rustin at the Tavistock Clinic in London and has a certificate in Infant Mental Health: Zero to Three from the Washington School of Psychiatry. She worked for many years as a daycare consultant at the Kennedy Institute and currently consults with the Jubilee Jumpstart Daycare Center in Adams Morgan. She is interested in literature and its interweaving with psychoanalysis, particularly poetry. She received an MFA in poetry from the New England College in 2009.

ANNIE G. RODGERS, PhD., is Professor of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychology at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and has a psychoanalytic practice in Amherst, MA. She is affiliated with the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis in San Francisco and the College of Psychoanalysts in Ireland. Recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in Ireland, a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University, and a Whiting Fellowship at Hampshire College, she is the author of A Shining Affliction (Penguin Viking, 1995), and The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma (Random House, 2006), as well as many academic articles, memoir, short fiction and poetry. As the Erikson Scholar at Austin-Riggs she is writing a book on psychosis and working on a collection of poems. Her book, Incandescent Alphabets: Psychosis and the Enigma of Language, will be published by Karnac Books in 2016.