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Seminars, conferences and online resources on psychotherapy and human relationships
Working with Repetition Compulsion
The re-enactment of unconscious childhood trauma

A one-day seminar with Dr David Celani

Saturday 14 September 2019 - London

The superordinate need of the child is not for pleasure or need gratification, but for an intense relationship with another person… If only painful experiences are provided, the child does not give up looking for pleasurable experiences elsewhere, but seeks pain as a vehicle for interaction with the significant other. It is the contact, not the pleasure which is primary... Painful feelings, self destructive relationships, self-sabotaging situations, are re-created throughout life as vehicles for the perpetuation of early ties to significant others. Mitchell, 1988 (p:27).

One of the most perplexing psychological problems faced by psychotherapists is the apparently normal patient who seeks out one abusive partner after another. This common phenomenon, an attachment to "bad objects", is at the very core of the analytic model developed by W.R.D. Fairbairn (1889-1964). Fairbairn recognised that the child is absolutely dependent on their parents for all of their physical and psychological needs. The child raised in an uncaring family cannot tolerate "knowing" that they are being neglected or abused as this would endanger their emotional attachment to the desperately needed parents. One psychological solution that they have is to dissociate memories of abuse or neglect, thus preserving the attachments and creating a sense of security. Unfortunately, as we will see, such early dissociated interpersonal experiences - quite unknown to the conscious ego - lie dormant, often to resurface with sexual partners in adulthood in the form of dysfunctional relationships.

Fairbairn also noticed that abused children often create unrealistic fantasies about the possibility of future love from their neglectful parents. These imaginings may create a soothing, temporary reality for the child. However, such hopes inevitably co-exist with repressed memories of abuse - memories that can suddenly emerge from the unconscious. We will see how such children may develop two separate centres of agency in their personality, quite unknown to each other: one hurt and enraged and the other full of hope. Painfully, these sub-egos seek out partners who simultaneously hurt and offer the illusion of love. We will consider how psychodynamic psychotherapy can help someone with the deeply challenging task of integrating a full awareness of their childhood reality in order to, at last, become free from repeating it.


Dr David Celani
David P. Celani, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who practiced for more than twenty-five years in Burlington, Vermont. In treatment, he focused on his patients' "attachment to bad objects", which manifested through their inability to separate from parents, friends, or marital partners who demeaned, criticized, or abused them. Celani now presents workshops throughout the United States on Object Relations theory. His books with Columbia University Press include Fairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical Setting and The Illusion of Love: Why the Battered Woman Returns to Her Abuser... More >>


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Handouts and lunch included
Early bird: £100 (SOLD OUT)
Self-funded: £120 (SOLD OUT)
Self-funded x 2: £200 (SOLD OUT)
Organisationally-funded: £200 (SOLD OUT)
Psychotherapy trainee: £80 (SOLD OUT)
This event + the online module Fragile Selves: £225 (SOLD OUT)
CPD Hours

Certificates of attendance for 6 hours will be provided at the event

6th Floor
Foyles Bookshop
107 Charing Cross Road

09.30 Registration and coffee
10:00 Start
11:15 Coffee
13:00 Lunch break
15:30 Tea
17:00 End