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SPSI Scientific Session: "Extreme Historical Situations and the Psyche: On the Work of Robert Jay Lifton”

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SPSI Scientific Session: "Extreme Historical Situations and the Psyche: On the Work of Robert Jay Lifton”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 7:30pm to 9:00pm
4020 East Madison
Suite 230
Seattle, WA 98112
Sponsored by: 

Presenter: Shierry Nicholsen PhD

“Extreme Historical Situations and the Psyche: On the Work of Robert Jay Lifton”

Robert Jay Lifton examined the vulnerabilities and responsibilities of professionals and others in atrocity-producing situations. These included personality changes that enabled Nazi physicians to participate in medicalized killing, the impact of the atomic blast on Hiroshima victims, and the effects of Chinese thought reform on individuals. Dr. Nicholsen will present the ways Lifton elaborated psychoanalytic theory to formulate his findings. 

Shierry Weber Nicholsen PhD is a psychoanalyst in private practice. She is interested in the usefulness of psychoanalytic thought for social criticism. She is the author of The Love of Nature and the End of the World.


Discussant: Kathy Weissbourd PhD

“Robert Lifton’s Question for Psychoanalysis”

Lifton’s work on extreme traumatic situations links psychoanalytic thought with the challenge of meaning-making in the face of trauma and mass destruction.  Shierry Nicholsen’s paper highlights the challenge that Robert Lifton poses to us as citizens and psychoanalytic clinicians. How do we symbolize not only vitality, but also vulnerability to emotional damage and even death? In this discussion, Dr. Weissbourd will explore some answers to this question. 

Kathy Weissbourd, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and psychologist in private practice in downtown Seattle. Her book, Growing Up in the James Family, is a psycho-historical study of three generations of the family of William James.


Learning objectives:

1. To become acquainted with Robert Jay Lifton’s formulations of interplay between historical situations and personality

2. To understand the vulnerabilities and responsibilities peculiar to professionals in extreme situations. 




If you have a psychoanalytic idea that you would like to present, contact Stan Case or Ron Levin.

SPSI Scientific Sessions are free to attendees, but seating may be limited.


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Peggy Swenson
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