The Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia

Dr. Jessica Benjamin - Paradox and Play: the Uses of Enactment

  • 22 Feb 2020
  • 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM (EST)
  • First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia 2125 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103


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Dr. Jessica Benjamin

Paradox and Play: the Uses of Enactment 

2 CE Credits offered

This paper discusses the difference and movement between play and enactment as dramatic interactive forms. Play allows meta-communication and the performance of recognition while sustaining paradox between opposing propositions (real and not real; repetition and repair) in the position of the Third. The paradoxical aims for repetition while repairing sustained during play become opposed and dissociated in enactment. Nonetheless, in this dissociated form, the parts that need to be understood appear. But they are difficult to “work,” that is play with because there is a breakdown of the Third, the paradoxical tension that allows what is painful or frightening to be experienced rather than dissociated. In using the terminology of the Third I am suggesting that the co-created movement between “Us”  needs to be experienced as such, as a joint venture, involving both rhythmic and differentiating aspects of recognition between self and other. A basic part of therapeutic action is to recouple  rhythmic and differentiating elements of thirdness, in this way moving from dissociation to shared feeling and connection. In clinical work, the idea of meta-communication serves to describe a form of reflecting or creating difference without disrupting rhythmicity, performing recognition in action. The relational emphasis on resolving enactments through meta-communication of acknowledgment will be discussed.

Learning Objectives:

1.      Understanding the function of enactment in psychoanalytic therapy, with particular reference to the dynamic tension between repetition and repair.

2.      Using the conception of co-created thirdness as both differentiating and rhythmic connection to understand how we move from dissociation to connection with self and other.


Jessica Benjamin has been part of the relational psychoanalytic movement from

its inception, and is known for her integration of clinical psychoanalytic and

development theory with social thought, particularly feminist theory. She is best

known as the author of The Bonds of Love (1988), which is translated into many

languages, as well as Like Subjects, Love Objects (1995); and Shadow of the Other

(1998). Her new book Beyond Doer and done To: Recognition Theory,

Intersubjectivity and the Third has recently been published by Routledge. Her

article “Beyond Doer and Done To: An Intersubjective View of Thirdness” is the

second most frequently cited article on PEPweb.  She is a supervising faculty

member of the New York University Postdoctoral Psychology program in

Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and at the Stephen Mitchell Center for

Relational Studies where she is a founder and board member and in private

practice in New York City. In 2015 she was awarded the Hans Kilian prize at the

University of the Ruhr in Bochum, Germany, the largest European award for work

that joins psychoanalysis with the humanities. From 2004-2010 she initiated and

directed “The Acknowledgement Project” together with Dr. Eyad el Sarraj of Gaza

involving Israeli and Palestinian mental health practitioners and international

dialogue leaders. She also participated in editing and narrating the video film

( on the Israeli-Palestinian Combatants for Peace, an

organization committed to opposing the Occupation and creating cooperation

non-violently to establish conditions for peace. Her current interest in the

psychoanalytic theory of relational repair joins with the question of

acknowledgment in relation to reparations in the United States.

This program, when attended in its entirety, is available for two continuing education credits. IRPP is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities. IRPP is also committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles for Psychologists. Participants are asked to be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality throughout the program. If program content becomes stressful, participants are encouraged to process these feelings during discussion periods. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns and any complaints to Dr. Valerie R. Wilson at (267) 634-1719.  There is no commercial support for this program nor are there any relationships between the CE Sponsor, presenting organization, presenter, program content, research, grants, or other funding that could reasonably be construed as conflicts of interest. Participants will be informed of the utility/validity of the content/approach discussed (including the basis for the statements about validity/utility), as well as the limitations of the approach and most common (and severe) risks, if any, associated with the program’s content. 

IRPP is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. IRPP maintains responsibility for the program and its content.  

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