My presidency is primarily concerned with how psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic clinicians, and our Society/Division can be involved in the sustenance of life—how we engage in supporting the vital task of life-making.
Our world has been tremendously trying, harrowing, and frightful over the past several years; the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and the most vulnerable among us are those who have had the wreckage imprinted into them. The imprint has been psychic as readily as it has been physical, has included tremendous grief and loss, increased police violence against black folks, increased violence against Asian folks, a rise in fascism with virulent antisemitism attached, a sustained attack against reproductive rights, against folks with disabilities, against trans kids who are feared to become trans adults, a crackdown on labor organizers, a regularization of Islamophobia as a fixture of our world, and, of course, climate destruction at the hands of corporations and the military.
When I indicate that my presidency is concerned with these realities, these truths of our world in service of making and sustaining life, it is to implicate us, to invite us, to rally us, to commit us. How do we sustain life, living, life-worlds, not as an aside, but as a central force of the work we do to alleviate suffering? How do we recognize the limitations of organizational space, even one such as ours, and still come together and practice, rehearse, and seize the moment when it is upon us?
To articulate my version of an answer, I lean on insights from academic and abolitionist, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, who reminds us that: “Abolition is not absence, it is presence. What the world will become already exists in fragments and pieces, experiments and possibilities…[it is] building the future from the present, in all the ways we can”. (2018)
This call is decidedly (and perhaps not surprisingly) psychoanalytic in process and concept. Imagining, articulating and contouring a world that “builds the future from the present, in all the ways we can” is expressly ours, as in for psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic clinicians, to take up, in service of sustenance. It is ours to take up because it is necessary for psychic (and sometimes physical) survival and can therefore act as a fundamental life-source.
I have also spoken to many of you one-on-one, and certainly with our board members, about the question of hospitality; not hospitality as a commodification of space and certainly not one borne out of toxic positivity. Rather, I reach to hospitality as I think of creating spaces, and namely ours in this Society, as hospitable to life, to presence.
As the president of our Society, I want to commit myself to this practice and I want to ask you to join me, and us. I want to acknowledge that this work is not easy, made even more difficult by the neoliberal demands of our world, by the untenable and unsustainable crush of late-stage capitalism, and by the continued oppressive pressures of atomization, individualism, and alienation.
My hope is that our Society can mobilize together in this practice and rely on the tremendous organizing efforts that have been happening for decades to re-member, especially as the “real world” can no longer be excised or split off. This includes revitalizing our Committees and Sections so that people can find professional solace and community as we speak to the urgency of our current global moment; it can mean creating free events so that members can think together about pressing clinical questions; it can mean creating spaces of learning and organizing beyond our Spring meetings to respond to events such as the tremendously violent anti-trans legislation that implicates us; it can mean supporting vibrant and integral research efforts that highlight psychoanalysis and psychodynamic clinical work as viable therapeutic modalities.
If this is the psychoanalysis, the field, the organization and the world you want to enact, please join me, join us; and in joining, push alongside us, rebuild, over and again, in order to sustain life.
Welcome to the SPPP—I hope you will consider becoming a member!
Lara Sheehi, PsyD (she/her)
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