The Reel Deal Film Series Presents: The Sessions (Post your comments!!!)

April 14, 2013 1 Comment

The Reel Deal  finished its 2012-2013 program with director Ben Lewin’s evocative film “The Sessions”.

Director’s chair discussant  Brian Murphy asked the audience an intriguing question: how can a movie about the profound limitations of a man (Mark O’Brien)  stricken with polio at age 6 and forced to live  most of his life in the mechanical isolation of an iron lung machine provide an uplifting experience????   Toni Sanchez Murphy and Susan Orbach explored the psychological impact of  O’Brien’s struggle to exist with physicality in an able-bodied world, claiming the right to experience himself as a sexual being.   Boundary crossings and violations were defined and discussed throughout the afternoon in  panel-audience discussion that was lively and thought-provoking.  What is the role of a sexual surrogate?  Should such relationships be encouraged as therapeutic?  Was Mark OBrien’s relationship with a sexual surrogate essential or just good copy?  Are there boundaries in such a relationship?

Brian Murphy helped orient the audience to the evolution of  the Hollywood conception of psychotherapy/psychoanalysis with a discussion of film clips from Hitchcock’s classic “Spellbound”, starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck (including a fascinating dream sequence designed by Salivador Dali) and the recent international film “The Intouchables”.  Tony and Susan provided thoughtful comments about the possibilities for growth under even the most dire circumstances.  A clip from Jessica Yu’s award winning documentary “Breathing Lessons” (which of course features the real Mark OBrien) reinforced the marvel of this man’s story.  Comments from the audience ranged from bold questions about the  definition and clarification of the motivations and justifications  of boundary violations to thoughtful acknowledgement of the power of poetic language to create meaning.

This was a powerful program and participants were encouraged to continue the discussion here.  Susan Orbach’s paper will be downloaded here so that others can read (or re read) it and expand some of the points that began in the discussion.

The Bloomfield Library once again provided an ideal venue for our Reel Deal programming.

What a wonderful season!

Thanks to all who participated!

See you at the opener on Sunday, September 22, 2013:  Michael Haneke’s masterpiece:  Amour!!!!

Jolyn Wagner

Reel Deal Past Seasons
One Comment to “The Reel Deal Film Series Presents: The Sessions (Post your comments!!!)”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Boundary violations and transference:

    I propose the following accounts of a boundary violation and the nature of transference. I do it to spark discussion. Please respond and tell me if you think I’m mistaken and why.

    An activity is NOT a boundary violation if and only if it is in the best interests of the patient/client and it is not exploitative of that patient/client.

    An emotion or feeling (such as fear, anger, love) in person, P, involving another person A is an instance of transference if and only if that emotion or feeling is based on a perceived similarity by P between A and some other person B (or persons B, C, D, etc.) and the perceived similarity is the cause of the relevant emotion in P.

    This account of a boundary violation can be used to conclude that some activity is NOT a boundary violation if the conditions it specifies are met. It can also be used to conclude that some activity IS a boundary violation if those conditions are not met. Applying this definition to the film The Sessions, I’d say that Cheryl, the sex surrogate, does not commit any boundary violations because all of her actions are in the best interests of Mark and they are not exploitative. If a therapist sleeps with his patient simply for sexual pleasure, then that action would be a boundary violation on this definition because it is exploitative, and probably not in her best interests.

    On this account of transference, not all emotional reactions by a patient/client will be instances of transference. If Mark falls in love with Cheryl, but not because of her resemblance to some other person he has encountered in his past, his love is not an instance of transference. Similar remarks apply to Cheryl’s love for Mark: if it is not based on Mark’s resemblance to past people she loved, it is not a case of (counter) transference.

    Note, too, that on this definition of transference, emotions in therapy by either the therapist or the patient/client need not be instances of transference and emotions with people not associated with the therapy can be instances of transference. Note, also, that on this account not every love relation need be an instance of transference. You could fall in love with a person because they are nice to you, treat you well, even though no one else from your past has treated you that way and even though this person is unlike anyone from your past.

    Finally, note that there is no moral or evaluative property that is necessarily attached to transference, so understood. Two people could meet, their love for each other could be the result of transference, and it could be perfectly fine, nothing wrong with it.
    When understood in the way I am proposing, “transference” is simply a descriptive term that carries no moral or evaluative implications with it. Of course, some instances of transference will not be good, but that will be a function of some other property attaching to them in addition to the fact that they are instances of transference.

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