Shame and evanescence: The body as driver of temporality: Hessel Willemsen

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Date(s) - 26/11/2016
10:00 am - 12:30 pm

Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ


Shame and evanescence: The body as driver of temporality

Hessel Willemsen

Hessel Willemsen

Temporality manifests in its most primal way when, according to Heidegger, past, present and future converge, in moments which he refers to as ‘ecstases’ of time, a unity of these three dimensions. In these moments shame, as a fundamental feeling reflecting the unmetabolised past, lives with us as an observer: we have an intangible sense of what we might have been deprived of, a conscious awareness which would not have been evident in a state of privation, but can only become apparent subsequently, not least because of evanescence, the changes of our bodies. Shame is a painful reminder of the finite self.

In this presentation I will discuss Ferrari who introduced the concept of affect as originating from the infant’s body. The ability to ‘be in touch’ depends on the presence of a mind, which though present in incipient form in the infant, is very rudimentary. The body carries memories of unmetabolised truths about gaps in care, what we have been deprived of, or more obviously traumatic experience.

I will also consider how Nachträglichkeit, or Après Coup, introduced in Freud’s early writings, refers to the endless, unconscious reinterpretations of affect, released by the originating body which could not be mentalised at the time of infancy. The consequent shifts of memory following these reinterpretations evoke shifts in our sense of time and its rhythms, and the perception of our body.
Against this background of reinterpretation of the past, the inevitability of death is the driver of temporality marking the ineluctability of time. When time is lived, life is also lost. The chronic sense of incompleteness and finitude creates a quality of shame. Temporality, shame and evanescence are thus strongly interconnected.

Hessel Willemsen, DClinPsych, is a training analyst of the SAP, involved in its analytic and psychotherapy training, and a member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Analytical Psychology and. This presentation is based on a chapter which will appear in Temporality and Shame: Philosophical and Psychoanalytic Perspectives edited by Ladson Hinton and Hessel Willemsen. Hessel is in private practice in Finsbury Park, London.

Chair: Suzanne Hyde

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