Dec. 7, 2016    ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING followed by:

       Working the Negative: A Study of Conflict and its Relation to Psychotherapy     

   Michael Uebel, PhD, LCSW

   Institutional and Private practice, Austin, TX         1.5 CE/CME/CEU/PDs (Clinical)

This talk, from notes rather than a formal paper as such, is roughly divided into two equal sections: the first takes up the conceptual ground for an understanding of repression, disavowal, foreclosure, and negation in the work of Freud, Lacan, and the philosophers Foucault ad Heidegger (with some attention to Hegel as well), and the second addresses the dual nature of conflict as negation and affirmation in the context of therapeutic processes and outcomes, with special attention to psychosis.  The central idea to be explored is that the experience of ourselves as subjects or agents is only achieved against the essential backdrop of loss, absence, and negation. How we interact or cope with the ineluctability of lack and the conflicts, both pathological and nonpathological (what André Green calls the “necessary no”), to which the condition of lack can give rise, is the guiding concern of this talk. Our being in the world, as Lacan insists, is already the outcome of a certain primordial choice:  the psychotic experience bears witness to the fact that it is quite possible not to choose the world.  A psychotic is not in the world; such a subject lacks the clearing (Lichtung) that opens up the world.  Thus Lacan establishes a link between Heidegger’s Lichtung and Freud’s Bejahung, the primordial Yes, the assertion of being, as opposed to the psychotic Verwerfung (foreclosure). The idea will be to approach negation both as a phenomenological condition, or set of conditions, and as an existential process, a way of being which folds into nonbeing.  In order to discuss non-being, the paper will draw upon the concept of Anatta, a Pali word meaning no-self or not-self, which is central to Buddhist psychology.  So part of the point is to come at the subject of negation (and “subject” here as both person and topic) from a perspective outside an exclusively western tradition in order to see what light can be shed in terms of how it matters for the production of being and, ultimately, the healing of being through psychotherapy.

Michael Uebel, PhD, LCSW, is a researcher and mental health practitioner in both institutional and private practice. He has published on Schreber, shame, and a wide range of psychoanalytic topics, and is currently at work on a study of spatiality and the epistemology of murder in film noir. He has been appointed Lecturer at School of Social Work at the University of Texas, and has taught as professor (Literature, Women’s Studies, and Social Theory) for over 15 years at the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, and the University of Kentucky. He serves as Treasurer of ASPP, and is particularly proud to serve as the organization’s first Sergeant-at-Arms, a duty he considers nothing less than sacred.

Learning Objectives:  At the end of the presentation, participants will be able to:

     Describe the topology of negation as it is understood in both Freudian and Lacanian terminologies.

     Delineate the relation of psychosis to the problem of negation and conflict in terms of how we define ourselves as human subjects.


Freud, S. (1925). Negation. Standard Edition (Vol. 19, pp. 235-239). London: Hogarth. Print.

Green, A. (1999). The work of the negative (Trans., A. Weller). London: Free Association Books. Print.

Hegel, G.W.F. (1807). The phenomenology of spirit (Trans., A. V. Miller). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Print.

Heidegger, M. (1966). Discourse on thinking. (Trans., J. M. Anderson & E. H. Freund). New York: Harper and Row. Print.

Lacan, J. (1955-56). The psychoses (Book 3 of The Seminar of Jacques Lacan) (Ed., J.-A. Miller; Trans., R. Grigg). New York: Norton. Print.

Loy, D. (1996). Lack and transcendence: The problem of death and life in psychotherapy, existentialism, and Buddhism. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press. Print.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software