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The Philadelphia Center for Psychoanalytic Education

The therapist’s fear of harming and the perpetuation and resolution of enactments

  • 28 Oct 2014
  • 06 Dec 2014
  • Narberth


Registration is limited to 25 and is now closed. Please contact Rachel McKay if you want to be on a wait list.
Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia (IRPP)/Philadelphia Center for Psychoanalytic Education (PCPE)

Fall, 2014


Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D. (Saturday, December 6; description of workshop below)

David Mark, Ph.D.

Rachel Kabasakalian McKay, Ph.D.


A central tenet of relational work is that the therapist is inevitably, personally drawn into enactments that are most central to the patient’s struggles. Far from a stance of composed interpretation, the challenge is for the therapist to engage from within his or her own experience, mindful of the primacy of the patient’s experience and vulnerabilities. The fear - - even the inevitability of causing pain to one’s patient, and how this leads to dissociative moves on both sides of the therapeutic relationship, has been a focus of writing from different places on the relational spectrum. In preparing for a day with Dr. Benjamin (see more detailed description below), David Mark and Rachel McKay will teach a six-week course in which these themes will be explored, as they are present in important papers by leading relational figures including Dr. Benjamin, Philip Bromberg, and Jody Davies. We will also read papers in which these theorists are in conversation with one another; and will include a new paper by Dr. Mark, elaborating on areas of overlap and divergence in comparing the positions of Bromberg, an interpersonal-relationalist, and Davies, writing from the object relational end of the relational spectrum.

Description of the day with Jessica Benjamin

The Fear of Harming and the Need for Repair -- Working with Individual and Collective Trauma Psychoanalysis has a long tradition, beginning with Klein and Fairbairn, of considering the fear of being destructive to our love objects. I want to raise the question of how the concept of reparation that grew out of that tradition fits (or doesn’t) with the idea of rupture and repair. I have tried to develop the idea of a third based on a representation of the world in which violations of expected patterns are acknowledged by caregivers and in some way corrected, a basic form of rupture and repair. I see acknowledgment as the essential element of repair. For some of our patients, the smallest demand for acknowledgment or accommodation in relation to misrecognition/misattunement is already feared to be destructive to a needed other. Asking the other to change in the slightest seems impossible; sacrifice or detachment seem to be the only options. How can there be a third when asking or needing something of the other has the imagined potential to so upset or even destroy the other? Doesn’t this mean someone has to suffer, be shamed, be hurt?  Analysts, drawn into this mental constellation, feel their own fear of harming (and why else, pace Racker, would they be trying to heal in the first place?)  I will compare the themes that arise in such clinical constellations with those that arise in sociopolitical arenas of collective violence where it appears that harming or sacrifice are the only alternatives. Encountering the extremity of such collective experiences has impressed on me a sense of the deep structure underlying the felt dilemma of harming: only one can live. I suggest that we convert Winnicott’s idea of the object surviving destruction into the idea of a moral third that survives destructiveness -- a world in which more than one (person, side), us and them, can live. I will use examples of acknowledgment from clinical work and social healing practices to show how individual healing in psychoanalysis is associated with a deeper project of repair, creating the representation of a lawful world, a moral third.

Biography of Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D.

Jessica Benjamin is a practicing psychoanalyst in New York City, where she is a supervising faculty member at the Relational Track of the New York University Postdoctoral Psychology program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis as well as a founding board member and faculty of the Mitchell Center for Relational Studies. She was a co-founder of the International Association of Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and the journal Studies in Gender and Sexuality. She is known as a contributor to the development of relational psychoanalysis and its interrelation with feminism as well as the theory of intersubjectivity. She is the author of three books: The Bonds of Love; Like Subjects, Love Objects; Shadow of the Other. Her most frequently cited article is "Beyond Doer and Done to: an Intersubjective view of Thirdness" (Psa. Quarterly 2004). She has worked on the narration of a film on members of Former Combatants for Peace (Israel-Palestine) "Moving Beyond Violence" and is currently writing a book about acknowledging collective trauma and recognizing the other based on her experiences with Israeli-Palestinian dialogues as director of The Acknowledgment Project.

Biographies of Seminar Group Facilitators

David Mark, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in the Philadelphia area. He is director of The Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia and is clinical assistant professor at The University of Pennsylvania. His articles have appeared in Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Dialogues. In 1997, he co-authored, with Jeffrey Faude, Ph.D., “The Psychotherapy of Cocaine Addiction: Entering the Interpersonal World of the Cocaine Addict” published by Jason Aronson.

Rachel Kabasakalian McKay, Ph.D. is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Philadelphia. A founding board member of the Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia, she currently serves as Associate Director for the Institute, and is on the faculty. Dr. McKay is adjunct faculty at the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University. She is a past president of PSPP, and has been on the board of the Philadelphia Center for Psychoanalytic Education (PCPE) since 2006.

Dates and Times


Tuesday, October 28, November 4, 11, 18, 25 and December 2, 2014 from 7:30-9:00 PM

Location: The Bridge, 33 S. Narberth St., Narberth


Saturday December 6, 2014, from 9:00 AM-3:30 PM

Whittier room at the Friends Meetinghouse, Swarthmore College

Readings for Tuesday evening class meetings:

Week One: Benjamin, J. (2004/2012). Beyond doer and done to: An intersubjective view of thirdness. If possible, read this version: In L. Aron and A. Harris (Eds.). Relational psychoanalysis, v.4: Expansion of theory; p. 91-130. New York: Routledge.

Original citation: Benjamin, J. (2004). Beyond doer and done to: An intersubjective view of thirdness. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 73, 1, 5-46.

Week 2: Benjamin, J. (2009). Psychoanalytic Controversies: A relational psychoanalysis perspective on the necessity of acknowledging failure in order to restore the facilitating and containing features of the intersubjective relationship (the shared third). Int J Psychoanal 90, 441-450.

Sedlak, V. (2009) Discussion. Int J Psychoanal 90, 451-455.

Benjamin, J. (2009). Response. Int J Psychoanal 90, 457-462.

Week 3: Davies, J.M. (2004). Whose bad objects are we anyway? Repetition and our elusive love affair with evil. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 14, 6, p. 711-732.

Benjamin, J. (2004). Escape from the hall of mirrors: Commentary on paper by Jody Messler Davies. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 14 (6): 743-753.

Week 4: Bromberg, P.M. (2000). Potholes on the royal road: Or is it an abyss? Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 36: 5-28.

Bromberg, P.M. case excerpt: “Roseanne”

Benjamin, J. (2013). Thinking together, differently: Thoughts on Bromberg and intersubjectivity. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 49, 3, 356-379.

Week 5: Mark, D. (2014, manuscript). Radical equality in the wake of enactment.

Week 6: Benjamin, J. (2014, manuscript). Our appointment in Thebes: Acknowledgment, the failed witness, and the analyst’s fear of harming.


Members of PSPP: $300

Some foundation in relational theory is strongly encouraged.

To register, please go to pcpeonline.org or by mail to: PCPE c/o Dr. David Ramirez; 500 College Avenue; Swarthmore, PA 19081.

Registration is limited to 25; if registration has closed, please contact Rachel McKay (see below) to be placed on a wait list.

If you have questions, please contact Rachel K. McKay, Ph.D, at rachelkmckay@gmail.com

CE Credits

Twelve (12) CE credits are available.

Educational Prerequisites:

PCPE welcomes all mental health professionals who hold advanced degrees in their fields, work with psychodynamic approaches in their practices, and have familiarity with the psychoanalytic literature. Individuals from other fields who hold doctoral degrees and who work with psychoanalytic ideas in their scholarly endeavors are also welcome to participate. PCPE does not discriminate according to age, gender, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or physical challenge.

Continuing Education for Psychologists

The Philadelphia Center for Psychoanalytic Education is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. PCPE maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Twelve (12) CE credits will be awarded to psychologists who attend the Reading Seminar in its entirety. 

Continuing Education for Social Workers

The Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors now designates APA-approved Continuing Education Sponsors like PCPE as pre-approved providers of continuing education courses and programs for social workers and clinical social workers. Twelve (12) CE credits will be awarded to social workers who attend the Reading Seminar in its entirety.

It is PCPE’s policy that one must attend at least one discussion group meeting before the workshop to attend the workshop. If only one discussion group meeting is attended, however, no CE credits will be given: APA policy.

Special Needs Policy

If you have any special needs related to your participation in our program offerings, please contact Jay Moses, Ph.D., at 267-254-0791, or at mjaymoses@gmail.com.

Cancellation and Refund Policy

We reserve the right to cancel a program if there is insufficient enrollment, at which time all fees will be refunded. Registration fees will be refunded, less a $25 processing fee, if you cancel your registration at least three weeks prior to the start of a program.



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