Body and Soul - Kenneth Wright


Friday 14th June

The Guild of Psychotherapists, 47 Nelson Square London SE1 0QA, 18:00 - 20:00

Entrance fee: £20 (£10 concessionary rate).  See booking form for further details

In his famous poem, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, Yeats deplores the ravages of old age on the body. He tells us that ‘an aged man is but a paltry thing/a tattered coat upon a stick/unless soul clap its hands and sing/and louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress’. He seems to be saying that the body must be transformed, transmuted, into some more immortal substance if the core of the person is not to be utterly extinguished. And almost in desperation, he calls out to the sages of his imaginary city, Byzantium, to come to his aid: I need you, he says, to ‘be the singing masters of my soul’.

In this paper, I use the ancient and quasi-religious categories of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ to explore the nature of psychic transformations. I discuss how these depend on external media for communicable form, as in artistic creativity (Langer), and how such created forms bestow on the raw material of living experience a protection against the depredations of time. With a minor excursion into Bion’s work on transformations in K and O, I link such transmuting and re-presenting processes to the mirroring, attuning mother delineated by Winnicott and Stern. And finally, I offer a view of psychotherapy in which the psychotherapist can be seen in this maternal guise as a transmuting medium and contemporary singing master of the soul.   

Kenneth Wright is a psychoanalyst in Suffolk and a patron of the Squiggle Foundation.  He is a well-known commentator on Winnicott and has lectured nationally and internationally. He has published papers on psychoanalysis, the creative arts and religion.  He is the author of ‘Mirroring and Attunement, Self -Realisation in Psychoanalysis and Art.’ His book ‘Vision and Separation: Between Mother and Baby’ [1991] was awarded the Margaret Mahler Prize in 1992.