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A Psychodynamic Approach to Grieving the Loss of Relentless Hope and Evolving Towards Acceptance

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Workshop Description:

“Pretending that it can be when it can’t is how people break their hearts.” Elvin Semrad
Relentless hope is a defense to which clients cling in order not to have to feel the pain of their disappointment in the object – the hope a defense ultimately against grieving. The refusal to deal with the pain of their grief about the object (be it the infantile, a contemporary, or the transference object) fuels the relentlessness with which such clients pursue it, both the relentlessness of their hope that they might yet be able to make the object over into what they desperately want it to be and the relentlessness of their outrage in those moments of dawning recognition that, despite their best efforts and most fervent desire, they might never be able to make that actually happen.


Psychotherapy offers these clients an opportunity, albeit belatedly, to grieve their early-on heartbreak – in the process transforming their defensive need to hold on into the adaptive capacity to relent, to forgive, to accept, to “internalize” the “good that had been,” to separate, to let go, and to move on. Realistic hope will arise in the context of surviving their disappointment and heartbreak. In truth, it could be said that maturity involves transforming the infantile need to have one’s objects be other than who they are into the healthy capacity to accept them as they are.


With an eye always to the translation of theoretical concepts into clinical practice, I will be focusing my 2-hour presentation on the actual “working through” of grief as the client begins to confront the painful reality of the object’s limitations, separateness, and immutability. I will demonstrate the powerful impact of using optimally stressful, growth-incentivizing “disillusionment statements” that have been strategically designed to juxtapose what the client “had hoped” with what the patient “is coming to realize.” The ultimate goal will be translation of the client’s relentless hope into sober, mature acceptance of the heartbreaking reality that it “was what it was” and “is what it is.” Sadder perhaps, but wiser too…
“True happiness is not about getting what you want but coming to want and appreciate what you have.” Japanese Saying