Salman Akhtar on Love
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Salman Akhtar on Love

Salman Akhtar on Love

Mature, pathological and clinical

With Salman Akhtar

This three-part workshop focuses on romantic love between two adult partners. Starting with Freud's contributions to this realm but going farther and further to include mid 20th Century psychoanalysis, more contemporary writings and his own views Salman will offer a nuanced deconstruction of what in popular parlance is called 'love'.

The need for love and its sustaining power will be commented upon. It will be proposed that a seamless blending of affection and eroticism as well as that of libido and aggression undergird the experience of mature love which additionally warrants a mourning of primary narcissism and early symbiotic idealizations, renunciation of instinctual and moral masochism, and mastery of the tragedy inherent in the oedipal configuration. Failing this, psychopathological derailments and distortions begin to govern one's love life.

Salman offers case material demonstrating how all such experiences normal or abnormal enter the clinical situation. Here themes of affection, tenderness, and erotic desire in the transference-countertransference axis will occupy the center stage.

Throughout the presentation clinical vignettes, personal recollections, literary snippets, and evocative poetry will be presented to enliven the nosological and technical concepts.


Mature Love

The opening session is devoted to the origins and the nature of romantic love. Both the components and phases of love life shall be elucidated. In the former category, emphasis will be placed on the blending of affection and eroticism as well as upon the need to mourn the epigenetically destined 'loss' of the all good, ever-satisfying , bountiful object. Metabolism of aggression will come into focus as will the civilizing influence consequent upon the mastery of the oedipal complex. Intrapsychic and relational management of narcissism and the impact of this upon the individual's and couple's ego ideal and their capacity for humility and compassion will also be discussed. Paradoxically, the role of healthy aggression, playful teasing, retained but aim-inhibited cross-generational attraction, and even a spice-adding modicum of mild jealousy will be included in this evocative discourse.

Pathological love

This session will describe five psychopathological syndromes of love life. These include the inability to fall in love, the inability to remain in love, falling in love with 'wrong' kinds of people, the inability to feel love, and inability to fall out of unrequited love. Their phenomenological characteristics and nosological correlates in general psychiatry will be commented upon but greater focus shall be on their ontogenetic substrate and relational agendas in both the extra-transference and transference realms. Themes of
cold-hearted isolation, inconsolable promiscuity, masochistic surrender, and erotomanic stalking will also enter the discourse and highlighted with the help of social, clinical, and literary vignettes.

Clinical Love

Beginning with Freud's reference to the 'healing power of love' and to his declaration that 'our cures are cures of love', this session will focus upon the presence, that is sometimes subtle and at other times quite palpable, of love in the clinical situation. From the patient's side, this includes the spectrum of 'affectionate transference', ' benign erotic transference', and ' erotized transference' also termed ' malignant erotic transference', besides the loving and trustful element inherent in therapeutic alliance. From the analyst's side too the experiential range of 'loving' feelings towards the patient is wide. Here concepts of 'appreciative attitude', unobjectionable positive countertransference' and 'analytic love' stand on one end of the spectrum and 'erotic transference' and ' sexual boundary violations' on the other. Technical issues involving such matters will be discussed.

Q&A and Lively Discussion

Salman will offer a Q&A and lively discussion with participants. An opportunity to make comments, ask technical questions and to think further with Salman about the themes emerging through the talks.