The Power of Phenomenology

Psychoanalytic and Philosophical Perspectives

Meeting Time: Sunday 8:30- 11:00

Meeting Dates: September 22, 2019, November 3, 2019, December 8, 2019, January 26, 2020, March 29, 2020, May 3, 2020

Hours of Instruction: 2.5 hour sessions x 6 meetings = 15 hours

Instructor:        Peggy DuBois, R.D., M.F.T., Psy.D.   (

Course Description

Authors Stolorow and Atwood have painted their masterpiece. The primary medium is phenomenology as it relates to emotional understanding. Their evolving theory creates multicolored dimensions that penetrate a much needed “reciprocity between the philosophy of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalysis of philosophy.”  The development of each discovery, throughout a fifty year process was nourished by the relational crucible of Atwood and Stolorow’s loving friendship; shared with us in each chapter, through dialog. This course will begin by reading the THE POWER Of PHENOMENOLOGY, chapter by chapter, to discover for ourselves our own experience of Dr. Atwood and Dr. Stolorow’s primary tenets. Each student will be welcomed into dialog with each other. Students will be asked to write up a short paper, between classes and share their writing with me and/or class members. Throughout this class I will be pointing to: phenomenology as starting point of the clinical encounter, the intersection of metaphysical illusion in day to day living, the breakdown of the use of psychiatric diagnosing, emotional dwelling, the power of human understanding, the calling out for expanding knowledge of traumatic shattering of emotional worlds and making a relational home in our clinical work as authored in this book accompanied by my own interpretations; an inevitability. I will offer vignettes from my clinical/personal work/use of depth psychology and power of emotional phenomenological expressions.

Course Objectives

The overall objective of this course is to experience, understand and identify the ways post-Cartesian phenomenology deepens and widen psychoanalytic practice. The clinician will identify the destructive components of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, protecting their patients from further trauma. Clinicians will be identifying their own emotional understanding as well as siting their patient’s phenomenological expressions. We will analyze and discuss the metaphysical impulse, a necessary part of surviving deep trauma. Candidates will discuss these objective:

Session # 1: 9/22/2019

  1. Explain the healing power of psychotherapy as learned by Dr. Atwood and shared with us as a part of human intervention.
  2. Explain different ways Atwood and Stolorow use the Heideggerian term being.

Session # 2: 11/3/2109

  1.   State the concept of the situation of the lost child as Atwood relates this to the clinician, especially the clinician who works with extreme trauma.
  2.   Differentiate phenomenological contextualism from the varieties of phenomenology in philosophy  discussed in the text.

Session # 3 12/8/2019

  1. Explain the difference between phenomenological psychopathology and phenomenological contextualism as these concepts relate to psychoanalysis.
  2. Explain the phenomenological contextualists perspective to metaphysical realism.

Session # 4  1/26/2020

  1. Explicate and expand on Heidegger and Dilthey’s undertaking that named the metaphysical impulse as a means to make something universal; making something real into the real a reified vision of the REALLY real.
  2. Evaluate the concepts of collective trauma and resurrected ideology versus ‘siblings in the same darkness.’

Session # 5   3/29/2020

  1. Compare emotional dwelling with the classical analyst point of view as neutral observer.
  2. Explain the kind of attention needed for clinicians can stay on the emotional tightrope between the vastly different worlds of analyst and patient.

Session # 6   5/3/2020

  1. Explain the way Sandor Ferenczi thought and worked with extremely traumatized patients, specifically in a painful and ‘bloody’ treatment by remaining a validating human being and taking ownership.
  2. Evaluate the names that enumerate intersubjective-systems theory and psychoanalytic phenomenology.


The Power of Phenomenology Psychoanalytic and

      Philosophical Perspectives, Robert D. Stolorow and George E.

            Atwood Routledge, N.Y., 2019.

            chapters 1 thru 12, pgs. 1-130.


Session #1 9/22/2019

The pervasiveness of Cartesian isolated mind in psychoanalysis pervades early psychoanalytic theories and is applied in current psychotherapy processes throughout the world and is whipped throughout clinical psychiatric training and practice. Classical psychoanalysis propagated the idea of the analyst as neutral and this concept was coupled with the theoretical concept that the outside world is a stable, external reality. Students will become familiar with this practice and is harmful to the understanding subjective experience.  By contrast and gazing into the mirror of many philosopher’s life histories Atwood and Stolorow found their own demons and personal context and sources that organized as well as assisted them in naming their mutual interests in developing and embracing phenomenological contextualism. Most powerful was the impact of personal trauma including experiences of shattering loss, of tyrannical invalidation, and personal annihilation. Most influential philosophical phenomenological influence was Heidegger and his ideas in Being and Time.   We will discuss Heidegger’s specific contributions of being and finitude extending being and finitude to include trauma and finitude.

Reading assignment:  chapters 1 and 2, pages 1-35.

Session # 2  11/3/2019

Phenomenology has been a part of philosophy since Aristotle. He took up the conversation of form; the shape of beings that become. Hegel claims there is phenomenal knowledge of objects. Husserl’s phenomenology is a study in the theory of intuition and the structures of consciousness from a presuppositionless inquiry which will be refuted by Heidegger. Merleau-Ponty is the study of the phenomenology of perception. But it was Martin Heidegger’s phenomenological writing about sense and meaning with the understanding of being that was what Atwood and Stolorow were completely blown away by. We will take up conversations in this session regarding the inclusion of phenomenology as an important process for psychoanalysis. Phenomenology itself is always trying to start over again, to find the requisite starting point from which to approach the task of describing and understanding subjectivity. Therapists who take up treating deeply traumatized, according to George Atwood, is the situation of the lost child of the therapist.

 Reading assignment chapters 3 and 4. pages 37-69

Session # 3  12/8/2019

In our session we will discuss how phenomenology is used to communicate psychopathology. The harm of this method of phenomenology contributes to the breakdown in communication all together as it obstructs phenomenological investigation by fixing our attention on departures in our patients’ experiences and behaviors from an imagined ideal of normality. “Recent research has called into question the most recent DSM’s creation of new diagnostic entities and categories that are scientifically unsubstantiated and that over pathologize vulnerable populations. It will be illustrated by clinical discussions, the harm pathologizing can create. I will also begin to speak about metaphysics. Kant spoke of timeless forms of perception and categories of cognition through which the world becomes intelligible to us. Of course, metaphysics is explained as a human desire by various thinkers including and especially Martin Heidegger whose aim metaphysics takes to escape finitude. Stolorow expands on Heideggerian’s ideas to include trauma and finitude.

Reading:   Chapters 5 and 6   pages 71 – 98

Session # 4  1/26/2020

This session we are going to attempt to distinguish and make clearer metaphysical entities and the phenomenology of emotional worlds. According to Dilthey, a German thinker, predating Heidegger,  metaphysical illusions as transformations of historically contingent nexuses of intelligibility,—worldviews, into timeless forms of reality. The contextuality of metaphysical illusions avoids the tragic realization of the finitude of life according to Dilthey. These concepts as they relate to our clinical work, metapsychology asks “how” questions and seeks answers in terms of the non-experiential realm of impersonal mechanisms and causes. Clinical psychoanalysis asks “why” questions and seeks answers in terms of personal reason, purposes, and individual meanings. These distinction can be seen in Kohut’s use of the word “the self,” where self is reduced to an entity and selfhood describes experience.

Reading Chapters 7 – 8 pages   91  thru  103

Session  5    3/29/2020

Keeping with finitude, a powerful theme of being, we, in this session will capture the finitude of knowledge and attempt to understand this very important variation on finitude. The authors speak about prereflective structures that shape our perceptions and understandings. If you agree that all perception and understanding is perspectival in nature than it follows that truth can only be dialogic, taking form in the interplay among many eyes and many interpreters. Understanding can take place as a kind of fusion of horizons in which each perspective becomes enlarged by features of the other’s.

We are going to look at the meaning the authors use to describe emotional dwelling. Dwelling, is a human participating, not just understanding but undergoing the situation with the patient. One leans into the other’s experience and participates in it, with the aid of one’s own analogous experiences. Emotional dwelling (therapeutic comportment) recognizes the embeddedness of all experience in constitutive intersubjective contexts, including the one created by the act of dwelling itself. There is this assumption that we all are already connected to one another in virtue of our common humanity (including our common finitude and existential vulnerability) and our co-disclosive relation to a common world.

Reading  chapters 9 and 10  pages 105—118

Session #6   5/3/2020

This session will investigate the nature of emotional dwelling. George Atwood describes serious psychotherapy as hand-to-hand combat and there is always blood that is shed. In this ‘battle’ that unfolds, it is not the patient that is the adversary. It is a world, one generally rooted in trauma and dominated by the solutions that have been found or constructed long ago. These same ideas were expressed by Sandor Ferenczi and illustrated in his Clinical Diary as he describes his own work. He spoke of the analyst as undertaker. This war is exhausting, this war of the worlds, so much pain, often for the therapist as well as the patient. My own childhood was especially filled with extreme trauma. I visualize myself crawling along the floor only able to use my toes to develop and move psychoanalytically, my arms and hands bloodied, unusable as a representation that George Atwood makes regarding his very traumatized patient: “Mount Everest was taken down—with a spoon.” The dialog that takes place between Dr. Atwood and Dr. Stolorow includes the genesis of trauma when Dr. Stolorow experienced the tragedy of his wife’s death. He talked about time travel through a portkey and experiencing numbness with mental paralysis.