Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ludic Moments at Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society?

On Saturday, January 24, 2009 the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytc Society hosted Al Brok, PhD on "Ludic Moments,Serious Experiences: What can analysts learn from Charlie Chaplin?" Brok hoped to draw a parallel between the "aesthetic therapeutic contract between analyst and patient" and the artist's (in this case Charlie Chaplin) communication with his audience, and referred to the "here and now interaction" of a "two person" psychology. [Ludic, by the way, comes from Latin word for play, here, meaning playful.] He hoped to illustrate the use of play in the working alliance or relationship, and was able to give, after protracted film clips of Chap[lin movies, a helpful clinical example.

Playfulness is afforded when there is a background holding environment (including that of reality)and when the analyst does not allow into the foreground facts and theories which impinge upon the moment. Being in the moment means listening without active investment in theory, though analyst may be simultaneously matching theory from background to what emerges in the foreground as the foreground is activating what is significant. Brok spoke of discovering what one had not been looking for contrasted to finding what one expected. (He did not mention the possibility of two persons creating something new.)

Brok thought that Chaplin's seriousness in his films decreased the capacity for his audience to enjoy the films; that the potential space had been overwhelmed by the literality and concreteness. Brok cautioned that analysts must be careful not to vitiate the possibility for play with a too tenacious adherance to only what is serious, nor to obfuscate the serious by defending against it with play.

While preferring to comment on the political and social climate during Chaplin's career rather than his private life [we were referred to psychoanalyst Stephen M. Weissman's excellent, recent biography Chaplin: A Life for the latter], Brok made a very interesting point about Chaplin's move from silent film to talkies. He likened silent film to the intuitive, preverbal mother-infant interaction and talking (spoken language) to the identification with the father (ala Lacan), i.e., once Chaplin was able to identify with his father, his films took on language and seriousness.

If I recall correctly, this is differenct from Weissman's bio, where Weissman, notes that Chaplin's more serious films spoke directly to Chaplin's private life, e.g. that Chaplin might have understandably wanted to murder Joan Barry in real life -- her paternity suit and the sensationaized trial-- but that only in film, Monsieur Verdoux, could Chaplin, a lady killer, literally kill ladies. The trial in Monsieur Verdoux also allowed Chaplin's side to be heard as it was not heard in real life. Weissman saw Chaplin's identification with his father as lion comique throughout his Little Tramp portrayals, but it was with Limelight that Chaplin was able to forgive his father, and recognize his mother's participation, in the demise of the marriage and in Chaplin's own chaotic, bereft childhood, afterwhich Chaplin was finally able to become paterfamilias. Brok, incidently, saw Limelight as Chaplin's anxiety about his own marriage to a much younger woman, and both an Oedipal victory for Chaplin as well as a stepping aside (of Calvero) for a younger man to have the much younger heroine.

As an aside, Brok mentioned that, in his clinical example, he had chosen to be playful, to "go with clinical enactment...for therapeutic reasons." (I had a different idea about enactments, that they are inevitable, never chosen, and are understood only after the fact.)

I must do a better job of having TBPS allow time for discussion, for how else are we to play with the material and each other?

1 comment:

Al Brok said...

Dear Lycia,
I was pleased to read your blog and the variety of your reactions, all
thoughtful. In particular, I was glad you found the clinical example

Here are some brief comments to some of your notes:
In your allusion to the basic concepts of "Finding" and "Discovering"
you note that I didn't mention the possibility of two persons creating
something new." In fact, that was one of the reasons I chose the
example I did, in the sense that my patient and I created a new way of
relating with each other. A way of relating which served a number of
new functions.
Through the enactment we both experienced "not the expected but the
discovered relation" between us. I stress the "between," because we
both created the experience together. It allowed him a new way of
experiencing me as I can be, as well as my being in the experience with
him as he could be.

It also made poignant the Father he wished he could have had,
and paved the way towards a new sense and different relationship
with the internalized father who would now begin to allow a more varied
dimensionality to his (the patient's as well as the internalized
father's) being.
All this occurred in parallel to our process..

If you recall my quote of his reiteration - as he realized that: "we
were playing, we were playing etc". In fact, I agree with your
implication (if it is that) that one of the most important generic
tasks of analytic work is the mutual creation of a new kind of
relational capacity not severely constrained by historical memory
impinging into present experience. Unconscious fealty to historical
experience can cloud discovery of what is present and compromise what
the future can unfold. On the other hand, historical
experience where benignly relevant can add dimensionality to present

One other comment for now:
Your comment that enactments "are inevitable, never chosen and
understood only after the fact" I both agree with and disagree.
Where I am coming from is that I make a difference between "impulsive
enactments" and "spontaneous enactments - and especially
"informed unconscious spontaneous enactments" here I am referring to
such notions as unconscious intention (benign and/or malignant), the
unthought know,( a
la Bollas,) and my work on play as an experiential state which as adults
we have a sense of choice in entering as part of our emotional
repertoire. In this sense, my involvement with my patient at the
moment we engaged
in the repartee, was certainly informed by my knowledge that i had a
choice of
varied ways of relating, and that I trusted my unconscious intention
as benevolent,
because perhaps, I in some sense knew that is what was needed. Play was
available (to both of us) in the background and we were able to bring
it into the foreground at that crucial moment. I like to think that I
sensed the choice instantaneously and trusted in the process that might
evolve, (because, I knew my patient! and felt his desire/and or my
resonance to his playful attitude.) In this sense I was an audience
ready to participate in the emotional aesthetics of the moment.
Of course where this partially comes from in me, is that I recalled how
my father and his father had some similarities in my imagination, but
there were a number of very crucial differences, one in particular that
my father could enjoy a good laugh with me, - so in a sense i knew what
my patient was missing, and he knew what he needed, and I knew what I
had experienced before, and what I could offer in the moment. All
unconscious but sensed.!! Probably by both of us. So I am assuming,
that somehow I gave of a signal that it would be ok, (perhaps) though
he was indeed surprised by my response.! It certainll pu a dent into
aspect of his transference. While simultaneously kicking off other
which would emerge for working through later on in the analysis.

In short the enactment was a unconscious choice before, and reflected
upon after. - the "during". In the "during" we were just there until his
realization of the play frame and what we were doing "during" our time
in it.
In this case the play frame was benevolently intruded upon. ie he did
not ruin the
play by alluding to it, he gained the insight by realizing it. We then
went into a working
alliance from the playing alliance. I think..

As to some of your other comments, My thought remains that Chaplin used
as an analyst (but one who didn't analyze). A medioum through which he
a lot of anxiety. Limelight in this narrow sense is fascinating because
Chapllin used a lot of his family in the film. Furthermore, the
(Calvero i.e. Chaplin, ie his Father's death) is the opposite of the
Chaplin's non- celluloid life. However it does replicate his Fathers
real life.

He in effect kills off his father, but simultaneously, loses his mother
to a younger man who also represents himself - and victory over his
Actually Chaplln's son played the young hero's part in the film. Claire
Bloom goes
off with Chaplin's son in the film, while in reality Chaplin the old
continues happily with Oona - who in fact was a much healthier version
of Chaplin's mother, and who was a Claire Bloom look alike. Nothing
like a bit
of condensation!.

My goal, however, expressed via the protracted series of clips, was no
focus on Chaplin's supposed dynamics (I do that in my main book
manuscript on
Illusion, Play Trauma and Reality), but to demonstrate in a creative
way the parallels between an artist an his audience and analyst as
audience to his patient.

If you like, I will send you a hard copy of what I presented, (sans
clips) the manuscript which is for a book is quite long and hefty. and
covers lot of related topics such as, Chaplin's character, his way of
entering relationships, and theoretical differences between play, jokes
and humor. - and some further clinical examples.
Again, it was a pleasure to be in Tampa with you folks.
Al Brok
Albert J. Brok, PhD
11 Riverside Drive 8N-E
New York, N.Y. 10023
President, Section I, Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) APA