Final Program – 2018 Arrowhead Meeting

APRIL 20 – 22, 2018

Lies, Secrets, and Self-Deception:
Truth and Psychoanalysis in the Age of Trump

“…The state has forbidden to the individual the practice of wrongdoing, not because it desires to abolish it, but because it desires to monopolize it, like salt and tobacco. A belligerent state permits itself every such misdeed, every such act of violence, as would disgrace the individual. It makes use… of deliberate lying and deception as well… The state exacts the utmost degree of obedience and sacrifice from its citizens, but at the same time it treats them like children by an excess of secrecy and a censorship upon news and expressions of opinion which leaves the spirits of those whose intellects it thus suppresses defenceless against every unfavourable turn of events and every sinister rumour…”

—Freud 1915, “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death”

The theme of this year’s Arrowhead conference is “Lies, Secrets and Self-Deception: Truth and Psychoanalysis in the Age of Trump.” Our goal is to bring together clinical psychoanalysts and academics for an exploration of the role of lies, truth, and self-deception in both the private sphere of clinical practice as well as the public arena of political discourse and media. Two broad question present themselves: 1) How do we, as psychoanalysts, conceptualize truthfulness and deception, in both clinical practice and at the level of theory? And 2) How can specifically psychoanalytic conceptualization help us to understand the proliferation of untruths, half-truths, alternative facts, and outright lies in our current political moment?

Psychoanalysis, at least in part, is based on gaining an understanding of the complex defensive compromises we each strike between truth and lies. In fact, psychoanalysis might best be described as “truth-seeking in the face of resistances to knowing.” This observation points toward the ambiguous status of lies and truths in psychoanalytic thought: The not-knowing of repression isn’t quite a lie; rather, it’s a defense against the trauma of truth. Similarly, much of our self-experience is constituted of motivated half-truths—compromise formations and benign self-deceptions—that maintain intact the contours of our experiential world. In other words, within psychoanalysis we know that truthfulness and deception are not simply epistemic categories; rather, they are emotionally overdetermined re-presentations that attempt to shape reality for self and other.

In the social sphere, however, we imagine there to be a clear separation between lies and the truth: Truth reflects mere facts, unencumbered by emotional inflection, while lies are counterfactuals, motivated by a malign desire to deceive. How might we reconcile these competing approaches to veracity and mendacity, bringing psychological nuance to the analysis of truthfulness and deception in the sociopolitical sphere? If, as Adam Phillips posits, psychoanalysis assumes that all stories are simply “histories of what we want, and how our wanting works,” then we must ask: What does the proliferation of lies reveal to us about the desires of our leaders, and those who vote for them? Must we all now conform our lives to the phantasmatic projections and narcissistic phantasies of a single leader or dominant party? If so, how should we respond? In this time of barefaced political falsehoods, both the personal and cultural application of psychoanalysis has never been more urgent.

All Participants – Download/View Readings for Sessions you plan to attend

Color Key:
Day = Red
Workshops & Sessions = Blue
Free Time/Social Activities = Green
Meals = Black



FRIDAY, April 20

4:00-5:30pm— Hotel Registration and Check-In (Check-in begins at 4pm on Friday) 

Location: Main Lobby 

5:30-6:30pm—Cocktail Hour: Wine and Cheese in the Tavern

Location: the Tavern (off the main lodge dining room)


Location: UCNCPIPC reserved area of the main lodge dining room

8:00-9:30pm—Introductions and Opening Plenary – “Lies, Secrets, and Self-Deception: Truth and Psychoanalysis in the Age of Trump”

Location: TBA
Naomi Janowitz (UCD), Jeff Prager (UCLA/NCP), Kevin Groark (Macquarie University/NCP)

Description: This opening plenary consists of a group discussion of three short “core texts” chosen to introduce the weekend’s theme and to stimulate our thinking on the topic of lies, secrets, and self-deception in the psychoanalytic, social, and political spheres.  The facilitators will say a few preliminary words about the three core texts, then open the discussion up to the group as a whole.  In order to ensure a fruitful and active discussion, please read the three “core” texts prior to the conference.

1. Freud – Negation (4 pp.)
2. Yalin-Gadot – Introduction (In Truth Matters: Theory and Practice in Psychoanalysis, 2018) + Levine “Ch. 10 Truth in Politics” (In Psychoanalysis, Society, and the Inner World, 2017) (20 pp.)

9:30-10:30—Free Time and Return to Cocktails

Location: TBA

SATURDAY, April 21

8:00-8:45am—Buffet Breakfast

Location: UCNCPIPC reserved area of the main lodge dining room

8:45-10am – Workshop II: “Trumped in the Looking-Glass: On the Accelerating Anticipation of Disaster that Attaches to the Trump Presidency” 

Location: TBA
John Cash (University of Melbourne)

Description: In this session, we explore how we can best analyse and interpret the Trump Presidency. and thereby defend creatively against its perverse psychic and cultural effects. By focussing on the ontological insecurity that the Trump Presidency has exploited, instigated, played off and intensified and drawing on psychoanalytic theory, risk society theory and some pertinent literary texts, namely Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There and Nineteen Eighty-Four, I raise the question of how we can think and write about the Trump Presidency without normalising it. Are we witnessing a virtual disaster that, on an infinite (4 year) loop, threatens to slip into any number of actual disasters? The potential for schools with teachers armed for corridor shoot-outs and the realities of ecological risks ignored, nuclear bully-boy tactics with accompanying rhetoric and war-gaming, race-baiting, further eradication of an already minimalist welfare state and, no doubt, the list could be extended. Over the past year we have witnessed and experienced several such slippages from virtual to actual while, at the same time and through these same processes, the symbolic order that we share and draw upon to make sense of our world has itself been eviscerated, poisoned and polluted. “Fake news”, “alternative facts”, constant self-serving, self-contradiction and manic narcissism are the hall-marks of the Trump Presidency. As we are already in the midst of an unfolding disaster, does a psychoanalytically-informed analysis of what is going on help us to understand the psychic and cultural processes in play and to resist their perverse effects? As an Australian from what Alice (in Wonderland) called “the antipathies”, I hope that my attentive outsider’s perspective will help draw out a really interesting discussion about how the Trump Presidency is being experienced at home in the USA. I am sure I will learn more than I can contribute from such a discussion. For preliminary reading I am recommending a short article of mine, published in Arena Magazine in December 2017 and titled “Trumped in the Looking-Glass: On the accelerating anticipation of disaster that attaches to the Trump presidency”.

1. Cash – Trumped in the Looking Glass

10:15-10:30am—Coffee Break

10:30-12pm – Workshops III & IV (Note: Workshops I-III are concurrent.  Choose which one you will attend) – Location of breakout sessions for workshops will be announced on Friday night.

• Workshop III: Clinical Presentation

Location: TBA
Bettina Soestwohner (NCP)

Description: This workshop will center on the analysis of a young man of West-Indian descent. The analysand has been grappling with the implications of living in a society which relies, for its self-sustenance, on the ongoing repression of its racist roots. The particular history and development of this patient functions in a two-fold way. While he himself is confronted with the never satisfying solutions offered to him in the social link despite extensive investments on his part, the experience he speaks about also offers some reference points for today’s analysis of the mechanism of secondary repression. Following Freud, I will argue that secondary repression imprints specific cultural norms, values and prohibitions onto all members. The analysis needs to go backwards on this imprint in order to open up some space for a patient’s own project and for the possibility to create a space for this project within the social link. The case will be an opportunity to think about the implications of straddling cultural differences and the difficulty of navigating one’s way through incompatible cultural expectations. Another challenging aspect of the treatment are the implications for moving through adolescence into an adult world where hard fought for strategies of repression fail. While clinical case presentations are usually not required to have a link with the theme of the conference, I actually think that this case would offer us the opportunity to consider questions of truth, lies and self-deception as they appear in the clinic. One of the aspects I would be interested in discussing with the group is the question whether clinical work might be a way to move beyond ideological impasses precisely because of the status of truth in the Unconscious. While psychoanalysis might not have answers it could be important to identify reference points here.  As a reading I have chosen the essay entitled “The Subject of the Quest” by Willy Apollon. I would like to refer to this text when I speak about some of the ways that guide my work. when I think about the patient.

1. The Subject of the Quest

• Workshop IV: “Affective Facts, Psychotic Scenes, and News from the Self: Remediating the Strange Situation Experiment and Antipsychotic Non-Adherence”

Location: TBA
Eric Taggert (Performance Studies – UCD), and Michael Darcy (Anthropology – UCB, UCSF)

DescriptionOne of the primary functions of the analyst, writes Christopher Bollas (1987), is to provide a “receptive space” which the patient can internalize in order to sponsor “the arrival of news from within the self.” Thirty years later, we have fake news. What counts as data in experimental scenes and ethnographic encounters? What can developmental psychology and biopsychiatry learn from psychoanalysis about the nature of discursive self-deception and disciplinary phantasy? This panel destabilizes easy distinctions between datum and artifact, fact and affect, and the classical distinction between subject and object in order to explore two hidden affective economies. Drawing upon disciplinary and theoretical commitments at the interface of clinical psychoanalysis, performance studies, medical anthropology, and science and technology studies, this panel reconfigures the Strange Situation Experiment as repetition compulsion and examines the negotiation of multiple forms of psychiatric expertise in the community mental health network of Dublin, Ireland in order to reconsider alternative facts and remediate the news from the self.

Readings: 1. Coming Soon

12:00-1:00pm—Buffet Lunch

Location: U.C. I.P.C. reserved area of the main lodge dining room

1:30-3:00pm – Workshops V & VI (Note: Workshops V & VI are concurrent.  Choose which one you will attend).  Location of breakout sessions for workshops will be announced Friday night.

• Workshop V: “A Psychoanalyst Serves on a Jury”

Location: TBA
Jimmy Fisher (UCLA/NCP)

“Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person—ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice.”—James Baldwin, 1972

“Law stories are empty stories. They take the reader to a world entirely constructed of tendentious argument, and utterly devoid of the truth of the real world, where things are allowed to fall as they may.  Trial law shares a vocabulary with science— fact, evidence proof—but it’s method is the opposite of scientific method; the experiment is always fixed. The method of adversarial law is to pit two trainer palterers against each other. The jury is asked to guess not which side is telling the truth—it knows that neither is—but which side is being untruthful in aid of the truth. No one has thought of a better system, but everyone who has participated in it—whether as defendant, defense lawyer, plaintiff, plaintiff’s lawyer, prosecutor, judge, or juror—has gained a sense of its cynicism and absurdism.”—Janet Malcolm, 1999

In this session, Fisher will facilitate a psychoanalytic discussion of jury duty service.

1. Fisher – A Psychoanalyst Serves on a Jury

• Workshop VI: Underlying States: the Political and Psychic Life of Misrepresentation” 

Location: TBA
Matt Nesvet (UCD), Ashley Teodorson-Taggart (UCD), Emily Frankel (UCD)

DescriptionRepresentational practice—image and thought—is as fundamental to the infrastructure of every day life as eating, shitting, sleeping and fucking. We are inextricably bound to representational practice, not only in language and the circulation of images, but also in the representational democracies of contemporary nation-states. And perhaps representation itself is a form of violence, both surplus and loss—not the thing in itself, but that which arrives in its absence. Always more and less than which it claims to re-present. This roundtable configures the disjunction between representation and that which is being re-presented as contested affective space. Through tracing the complicated mediations of the testimonial speech acts of Chilean ex-militants, the colonized space of labor and delivery in contemporary television, a clinical case of an adolescent who used lying to leverage new modes of self relating; and an utterance whose speaker is surprised by the unknown, this roundtable will engage the indexicality of lying and misrepresentation in various fields of meaning and power.

Readings: 1. Coming Soon

3:00-4:00pm—Business Meeting

Location: TBA
Facilitators:  Jeff Prager (NCP)
Description: UCNCPIPC Business Meeting and planning for next year’s theme. All welcome to attend!

4:00-5:30pm—Free Time


Location: the Tavern (off the main lodge dining room)


Location: UCNCPIPC reserved area of the main lodge dining room

7:45-10:30pm – Film Screening: The Manchurian Candidate (1962, directed by John Frankenheimer).  Discussion led by Tamara Beauchamp 

Location: Alumni Room
Description: Viewing and discussion of psychoanalytic themes in The Manchurian Candidate

10:30-12:00pm—Open Mic and Social Hour (open to anyone to anyone)

Location: Alumni Room
Facilitator: TBA
Description: Impromptu performances and readings

SUNDAY, April 22


Location:  UCNCPIPC reserved area of the main lodge dining room

8:45-10:00am – Workshops VI & VIII (Note: Workshops VI & VII are concurrent.  Choose which one you will attend).  Location of breakout sessions for workshops will be announced Friday night.

• Workshop VI: “A Con Man Walks into A Shrink’s Office”

Location: TBA
Facilitator: Michael Moshe Dahan (UCI)

Description: This workshop proposes that the way to make sense of Donald Trump’s disturbingly performative presidency is to consider it through the psychoanalytic encounter, particularly his (psychoanalytic) encounter with the press. If conclusions can be drawn about the volume of lies emanating from the chief executive of the United States—The Confidence Man in Chief—they might benefit by situating the President’s lies in the context of his encounters with the press. I posit these as psychoanalytic encounters in which the press occupies the position of the analyst, in which a transference emerges. There is an insistence to the question of why Donald J. Trump appears to lie compulsively, again and again, and in such seemingly theatrical ways. This workshop considers this question in relationship to the press. 

1) Dillon – “Introduction: The Performative Commons and the
Aesthetic Atlantic.”
2) Grossman and Kumar – “Chapter 11: Triple Exposure.” Portraying the President: the White House and the news media. (Only the first two pages are required, additional pages suggested)
3) Melville, Herman. The Confidence Man: Chapter 14 (pp.84-87); Chapter 43 (pp.272-280)
4) Link to Video and article (article attached): “Trump uses ‘no collusion’ 7 times in a single Russia answer”
5) Link to Video and article (article attached): “The news is fake but the leaks are real” :
Tom Batchelor, “Donald Trump: ‘The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake,’
6) Danny Hakim, ‘The Coat of Arms Said ‘Integrity.’ Now it says ‘Trump,’ New York
Times (May 28, 2017)
• Workshop VII: “Mirror Mirror on the Wall…: Bion on Arrogance”
Location: TBA
Facilitator: Afsaneh Alisobhani

Description: This workshop examines the psychotic part of the personality, i.e. the Trump in us all. In his 1957 paper, “On Arrogance” Wilfred Bion explores the psychotic part of the personality in the Oedipus myth, and describes it partly as that part of the personality that feels entitled to possess the truth for him/herself. Bion posits that when stupidity, arrogance, and morbid curiosity are “so dispersed and separated from each other that their relatedness may escape detection”, we are in presence of a “psychological catastrophe” that we need to deal with. In another paper, “The Differentiation of the psychotic from the non-psychotic personalities”, he emphasizes the importance of dealing with the psychotic part of the mind, because if we don’t and the gap between the psychotic and non-psychotic widens to a point where the non-psychotic part is completely dissociated from the psychotic part, the psychotic part dominates. Furthermore, the groups we take part in, be it social, political, or professional, is not immune from psychotic processes. In his book “Experiences in Group”, Bion argues that in the presence of uncertainties and excessive anxieties the group that once worked well together tends to regress to what he calls a “Basic Assumption Group”.  He identified three types of basic assumptions: dependency, pairing, and fight/flight. In the case of “dependency” group, the group endows the leader with magical abilities and omnipotence. The group looks for a leader to contain their anxieties and take over their need to think, relegating the thinking to the leader. In this state where the psychotic part of the mind dominates, the group members distort reality by creating fantasies and delusions about each other and the group leader. In this space, where the psychotic part of the mind is intolerant of ambiguity and not knowing, the group leader, what Bion calls the false prophet, the nihilistic mystic, exploits the vulnerability of the group. He/she offers precision and certainty, rigid rules, rules that doesn’t necessarily apply to the leader himself. He concretizes what Winnicott calls the “potential space” and restricts creativity and a capacity for pursuit of truth. In this atmosphere half-truths dominate, which for Bion are the same as telling a good lie, a means to punish one in search for truth.  Bion therefore suggests that the main metaphysics problem of psychoanalysis is not sexuality, but an unreachable truth. Bion suggests that as psychoanalysts our only solution is to cultivate an imagination for what the truth would look like if we were to reach it.

Readings:  1. Bion – On Arrogance

10:00-10:15am – Coffee Break

10:15-11:30am – Workshop VIII: “Denial, Self- Deception and American Racism”

Location: Alumni Room
Facilitator: Jeff Prager (UCLA/NCP)
Description: This session considers both 1) the capacity for entire societies to participate in the delusion of denial and 2) the profound social costs incurred as a result of this defense.  Defense against what?: The impulse for reparative apology and forgiveness.      In particular, the case of American slavery and the refusal to acknowledge both the psychic and material damages done both to those enslaved and the ongoing psychic damages to those who identify with the enslavers.  The conviction in the essential differences between blacks and whites—racism experienced palpably and phenomenological by all members of the society—describes both the original rationale for on-going segregation by “races” and the persistent effects of a social system organized on principles on white supremacy.

Readings:  Hall and Pick – Denial in History: Thinking About Denial

11:30-12:15pm – Plenary Wrap-Up Discussion

Location: Alumni Room
Facilitator: Naomi Janowitz (UCD), Jeff Prager (UCLA/NCP)

12:15-1:30pm – Buffet and Cookout Lunch / Checkout (Lodge is locked at 2:30pm Sunday, so be sure to check out before this time)

Location: Deck of the main lodge dining room (in bad weather, the reserved area inside)