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Slochower, J. (2011). Out of the Analytic Shadow: On the Dynamics of Commemorative Ritual. Psychoanal. Dial., 21(6):676-690.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 21(6):676-690

Out of the Analytic Shadow: On the Dynamics of Commemorative Ritual

Joyce Slochower, ABPP

This paper explores the dynamics of commemorative ritual as it is embodied and enacted outside the consulting room. While the function of lifelong acts of memorial in marking traumatic loss has been well documented, psychoanalysis has given short shrift to the value of these ongoing commemorative rituals in instances of “ordinary” (i.e., less traumatic) loss. Historical and sociological writers have explored their functions, but commemorative rituals have tended to evoke resistance within psychoanalysis, perhaps because of their collision with the termination ideal and the value of relinquishment. Here, I build on previous essays concerning Jewish mourning ritual (shiva) by addressing the function of several acts of commemoration including that of Yizkor (Jewish memorial ritual). Enacted across the lifespan, commemorative rituals serve multiple functions. They allow us to mark absence and create “presence” as we access and sometimes reshape personal memory. Such rituals can create a sense of linkage to “like mourners.” At their best, these acts—in their multiple incarnations—mimic aspects of psychoanalytic work by helping us deepen emotional connectedness and facilitating integrated remembering in a way that enriches and frees rather than binds us.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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