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|Symposium Watch 2008 - Page 2|
In his keynote about facing death, the distinguished psychiatrist and author Irving Yalom evoked no feel-good visions or grand rhetoric about vast planetary outreach. Here was a man who's applied existentialism to contemporary psychotherapy and come to a stark conclusion: it's best to live and die without illusions.
As mature adults confronting the reality of death, what we should hope to be able to do, as therapists, is simply to bring up the matter with clients (like everybody else, therapists are scared of the subject). To die with dignity, and to know that something good and wholesome is left in the wake—that's what Yalom thinks is the best vision we can offer our clients, our families, and ourselves. His pronouncements may not have been as beguiling as some New Age nostrums, but his humility and integrity were deeply moving.
If the Symposium is, in fact, a highly evolved form of communal theater, Richard Schwartz's final keynote, discussing the diversity of our inner selfhood, offered a perfect conclusion. For Schwartz, our inner lives—with our internal lions and gladiators, perpetrators and victims regularly doing battle—are the psychic colosseums out of which much of the world's struggles and tragic dramas emerge. But, he proposed, if we can learn to honor and listen to the parts of ourselves we've exiled and refused to acknowledge, perhaps we can bring peace and compassion to this most tumultuous of arenas.