Trust scientific meeting: 'The centre cannot hold: reflections on loss of form'

Event overview

Students and alumni are welcome to attend this free meeting presented by Michael Brearley, a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society and former captain of the England cricket team.

Is it possible to speak in general terms about the slippery and elastic concepts: being on, or off, form? In my book I consider loss of form in many different fields. I suggest that an intrusion of primitive emotion, such as a sudden exclusion from a special place, may suddenly disrupt our form in physical, social and psychological ways. We may come to grief as a result of being manic, like Icarus, or depressed, as Icarus would have been had he flown too low. Moreover, good form may be lost both from a sort of formlessness, when (as Othello put it) ‘chaos is come again’ and we are overwhelmed by emotion, and from an imposed and rigid form that paralyses of freezes us, so that, like Bartleby in Herman Melville’s short novel, we respond to the manifold challenges of life with ‘I would prefer not to’. We may be unable to decide which is better, the ‘fire or the death’.

We are sometimes so afraid of failure that we lose form; we may also be afraid of success. We may be so inhibited by a crushing superego that we become ‘sicklie’d o’er by the pale cast of thought’, losing all spontaneity and self-belief. Sometimes we try too hard, sometimes we avoid defeat by not really trying. I discuss form in the psychoanalyst, and in the writer, as well as in various other professions and skills. I discuss the importance of the frame or setting, in psychoanalysis as in sport, theatre, and art.

Michael Brearley has been practicing psychoanalysis in private practice for over thirty years. He is a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society, of which he was President from 2008-2010. He is Chair of the Section for the Application of Psychoanalysis. He has also worked in a Clinic for Disturbed adolescents, and has taught and written on psychoanalytical topics. Previously he taught philosophy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and was a professional cricketer. He has written several books, including The Art of Captaincy (1985) and On Form (2017).

The Tavistock Centre, London
13 November 2017 11:30 to 12:50

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