The Jewish philosopher Emmanual Levinas [1906-1996] said “ethics begins in apprehending the face of the Other”. For Levinas the face-to-face encounter is iconic of the primordiacy of a relational context in which ethical responsibility based on doing justice to the alterity of another person is an ethical imperative. Alterity as a term derives etymologically from the Latin ‘alter’ meaning ‘other’. Alterity refers to more than recognition of difference. It is about an attitude of awe in the midst of the ineffable mystery of another human being. Levinas felt this ethical priority had been ignored by Western philosophy, which has prioritized “the Same” (le Même) over that which is different, the otherness of the Other (l’Autre). Levinas was acutely aware of the dangers of imposing the totalizing sameness of any given theory upon a particular human being. In psychoanalysis, we are sometimes in danger of imposing a requirement that to belong we must subscribe to the same model of therapy with little ability to be open to a different perspective, a form of pathological accommodation. If we are to take seriously relational and inter-subjective moves in psychoanalysis as a true two-person psychology open our hearts and minds to the other as they are, not as we would like them to be. In this paper Dr Pickering will apply Levinas’ ethics of alterity to clinical analytic practice. She will describe the developmental aspects of a capacity for alterity, drawing on case material. She apply the ethics of alterity to collegial relations within and across psychoanalytic schools.
In therapeutic conversation there is a co-construction of text by therapist and patient. The language of this therapeutic conversation is crucial: it is both the mode and evidence of intervention. This paper explores the language of the poetic in this context, which is associated with the non-linear, analogical, right-hemispheric form of language outlined in the Conversational Model (cf. Meares et al, 2012:27). This style of conversation is associated with a change in the form of consciousness and cohesion of self (Meares, 2012; Meares et al, 2012).
This paper examines a clinical case in which Heidegger’s work took a central role, where a confluence of Conversational Model and Heideggarian ideas assisted in a current engagement in psychotherapy. In this case, Heidegger’s work functioned in two modes. Firstly, as a shared play-space between my patient and I where analogical relatedness could develop. Secondly, Heidegger’s work also functioned as a literal model for being-in-the-world that over time became integrated into the conversation. This is an example of fit, intersubjectivity and fellow-feeling. Heidegger’s concept of existential authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) derives from that which is owned. If affect is innate, then it is arguable that this is the essence of that which is owned. By engaging with the affect of our patients we are engaging on a fundamentally authentic level.
While verbal art has been regarded as the quintessential expression of what a community shares in a “collective consciousness”, equally it has been studied as the harbinger of experiential innovation. Language affords the chief source of interpersonal solidarity AND a semantic laboratory for what is incipient or even weird (outside the ken of ‘normal folk’). This polarisation of functions can in some cases be explained by changes of artistic taste – mediaeval poetry in Europe was appreciated in terms of its ensemble of standard cultural motifs – e.g. roses, blood, courtesy… Other eras, like our own (in English, at least), have given value to novelty and invention, as well as to highly marked linguistic constructions.