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Institute of CFS

The Dark Side of the Womb: Depression and Persecutory Disturbances in Pregnancy and Early Parenting

One Session Program (2.5 Contact Hours)

Presenter: Professor Joan Raphael-Leff
Date: Sunday, February 19, 2017
Location: Mt. Sinai, Goldwurm Auditorium, Madison Ave @ 98th St, NYC
Time: 10:00am-12:30pm

This seminar will concentrate on the first 1000 days (from conception to two years).  A model of parental orientations will be presented to explore the diverse range of subjective responses to the bizarre experience of two-in-one-body; and the complex feelings in face-to-face daily co-existence when an intimate beloved can rapidly turn into a persecutory stranger. We will focus on healthy ambivalence – a medley of familiarity and alterity, altruism and antagonism, both within one’s self, and in dialogue with the unknowable Other. But also on areas of ‘darkness’ in the minds of expectant parents and new mothers and fathers – sparked by the intense emotional experiences of pregnancy, birth and caregiving.

Intra-psychic and inter-personal processes are primed by the baby’s temperament, and by the carer’s unconscious representations of this infant as similar and/or different to self and fantasied baby. I argue that some parents, become vulnerable to disturbance when the exhausting demands of gestation/babycare fail to replicate their fantasies. And their own unprocessed infantile issues are contagiously aroused through engagement with the baby’s preverbal emotions and exposure to evocative primal substances (poop, pee, breastmilk, etc).

However, with good support, the experience of parenting can also be an enriching source of transformative change as new capacities emerge and opportunities arise to rework old grievances.

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