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Patrick Casement

Learning from Life: the acquisition of psychoanalytic wisdom

Online Event
  • This event includes 2.5 hours of video
  • Discussion forum
  • A Certificate of Attendance through which you can acquire up to 3 hrs of CPD on the basis of a multiple choice questionnaire assessing your knowledge of the module (additional £20)


In his fourth and most personal book Learning from Life Patrick Casement gives us a fascinating insight into fundamental questions concerning the acquisition of analytic wisdom and how personal experiences shape the analyst's approach to clinical work. In this 3-part recording from a one-day seminar delivered in London he talks to us about how the psychoanalytic self comes into being, and how our own emotional truths consciously or unconsciously shape our practice and theory. These presentations will have a fresh and emergent quality and viewers can expect to hear inspiring, personal insights that illuminate the practice of psychoanalysis.

Event speaker

Patrick Casement obtained his degree at Cambridge University, in anthropology and theology. He then trained to become a social worker, subsequently becoming an analytical psychotherapist and then a psychoanalyst and training analyst with British Psychoanalytical Society. His first book On Learning from the Patient (1985) became an international best seller in the field of psychoanalysis. A later book, Learning from Our Mistakes (2002), was awarded a Gradiva Award in America for its contribution to psychoanalysis. His last book Learning from Life: becoming a psychoanalyst (2006) is partly autobiographical - an unusual step for an analyst but one he felt able to take since retiring.

Resources in this online event

Video Learning from Life: The shaping of the psychoanalytic self

In this lecture, Patrick Casement explores connections between psychoanalytic theory and practice, and the personal passage of our own lives. Recounting family history and childhood memories, he traces the origins of his journey to psychoanalysis, and the importance of attachment patterns in defining that route. In particular, he describes the anger he felt as a young man and the enactment between himself and his first analyst that enabled this to be creatively engaged with. Casement suggests that the 'bad' must be allowed into the analysis, and that it is the practitioner's responsibility to facilitate this; that to foreclose on anger with pseudo-parenting is a clinical mistake.

Video lecture - 44 mins

Video Experiences that bring psychotherapeutic theory to life

Here Patrick Casement reflects on the importance for the distressed child of being able to communicate their terrible feelings to a parent who can bear them. If the parent cannot, the child is likely to receive back the unmanageable state of mind, but in a more insoluble state than before. These unshared affects are then stored as a "nameless dread" (Bion, 1962). Casement refers to trauma as "that which we cannot bear alone" and the analyst's task as being alongside the distressed person and their nameless dread, experiencing whatever we can of their suffering. If we can survive their anguish or anger without collapse or retaliation, he suggests, we can offer the transformative experience of being emotionally with another in their pain. This talk is illustrated with case examples.

Video lecture - 50 mins

Video Ways in which learning from life can help how we work with patients

Bion used to remind us that we don't know the patient of today - only the patient of the last session. Casement proposes that preconception is alien to analytic insight and that we should approach the psychoanalytic intervention not with a sense of knowing, but simply with curiosity. Touching on theories of projective identification, transference and interpretation of the unconscious, he suggests that the most vital skill is in allowing oneself to be used, and in positively choosing to remain non-certain. He cautions us against imposing theory and suggests that the work is not in making the connection, but in seeing if we can find it with the patient. Connections are not made, he says, they are found because the past pain is found to be alive in the present.

Video lecture - 50 mins