Our annual conference at the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center will be held on April 20 – 22, 2018. As always, we’ll be convening at the lovely UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center and Resort in the mountains of southern California. The retreat atmosphere, the beautiful surroundings, the comfortable cabins, and the delicious meals always make for a wonderful conference.
The theme of this year’s 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 conceptualizations 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.
Below are a few questions—in no way intended as prescriptive—that give a sense of the breadth of possible themes you might choose to explore in your own contribution.
- Are psychoanalytic notions of self-deception and “not-knowing” the same as lies?
- In what way is motivated denial of truth central to psychoanalytic conceptions of the subject?
- How does affect and phantasy enter into our thinking about truth and lies?
- What is the role of truth-seeking in psychoanalytic theory and practice?
- How does secrecy function within the analytic setting?
- We know that some lies protect and some truths traumatize – how does this insight apply to the social realm?
- In what way do public lies (such as “alternative facts”) reflect social processes of repression, phantasy, and not-knowing?
- How might social lies function as conscious rationalization of unconscious passions?
- How can analytic modes of thought be brought to bear on current socio-political debates around truth, lies, and alternative facts?
- Are political lies the product of an individual or a group? How do we analyze them?
- How do we conceptualize propaganda and political misinformation campaigns?
- What role does social media play in creating “alternate reality” bubbles?
- Just as repression “splits the mind,” might lying similarly “split reality”? And if so, what is the relationship between these social and psychological splits?• And much more!
We invite the submission of workshops and panels that explore the clinical and theoretical implications of lies, secrets, and self-deception in both the psychoanalytic and social realms (call for panels and workshops available here). We seek both clinical and academic perspectives on these issues, with the goal of generating a lively interdisciplinary conversation.
NOTE: Please consider registering early so we have a better idea of attendance, how many rooms to hold, and how many graduate students we will be able to accommodate. I also want to encourage you to spread the word about UCIPC, and encourage others who have not attended in the past to consider doing so.