Plenary Session

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Intervening in Meaning: New Directions in Grief Therapy
Plenary Address: Robert Neimeyer, PhD

Viewed from a constructivist perspective, a central process in grieving is the attempt to reaffirm or reconstruct a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss.  As research with bereaved young people, parents and older adults indicates, both natural and violent death losses can leave mourners struggling to process the event story of the death and to make sense of its implications for their lives, and to access the back story of their relationship with their deceased loved one in a way that reaffirms their sense of secure attachment.  In this presentation I summarize our group’s recent studies of the psychological and spiritual struggle to make sense of loss, outline several validated measures of meaning-making processes and outcomes, and describe current research to evaluate the impact of narrative and expressive arts interventions to help people find growth through grief.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Dissociation and Global Trauma: Souls Lost and Found
Plenary Address: Edward Tick, PhD

Dissociative disorders are of utmost clinical concern in our increasingly traumatizing world.  But beyond the clinical, our education, socialization, military and political lives and our divorce from the natural world all evidence severe dissociation from those humanistic and social forces that should be naturally aligned.  We live in an epoch in which dissociation is a major force affecting all our lives. 

We will consider the ways and degrees to which individuals around the world are increasingly exposed to traumatic events of numerous kinds and how dissociative adaptations are on the rise.  We will look at how “normative dissociation” is fostered in all of us by our social systems.  We will compare these to the severe dissociative disorders we encounter in clinical work.  We will consider what this reveals about our collective social and spiritual lives.
For solutions and hope, we will focus on integrating the psychological, communal and spiritual in treating violent trauma.  We will consider dissociation vs. soul loss and chronic grief vs. despair.  Psychological and spiritual fields talk about the same phenomena but their language and interpretations lead us in different directions.  We will seek to understand and respond to the moral and spiritual dimensions of dissociation.  We will explore how to respond to it as an inevitable manifestation of trauma offering potential psycho-spiritual revelation.  And we will examine the differences and similarities between the psychological and spiritual interpretations and how to integrate them into a truly holistic understanding and practice that restores oneness to our broken selves, institutions and societies.  And we will visit the spiritual gifts and opportunities that may be discovered in the depths of dissociation. 

Monday, 26 March 2018

Dignity:  The Role It Plays in Our Lives and Relationships
Plenary Address: Donna Hicks, PhD

What is the motivating force behind all human interaction – in families, in communities, schools, in the business world, and in relationships from the personal level to the international level? DIGNITY. It is the desire to be treated well. It is an unspoken human yearning that is at the heart of all conflicts. When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance; the human connection is the first thing to go.  On the other hand, when people treat each other with dignity, they feel their worth is recognized, creating lasting and meaningful relationships. Surprisingly, most people have little understanding of dignity, yet it is our highest common denominator. While a desire for dignity is universal, knowing how to honor it in ourselves and others is not—it needs to be learned. The talk will present a definition of dignity—what it is and what it is not; the basic elements of dignity; and how to put it into practice in everyday life.

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