"Ghosts in the Nursery" in Contemporary Clinical Work and Culture

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Forty-five years after this classical psychoanalytic paper was first presented at BPSI, our panelists will share with us their reflections on the "ghost story", and its continuing relevance in today's world.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

BPSI, 141 Herrick Road

Newton Centre, MA 02459

"Ghosts in the Nursery" in Contemporary Clinical Work and Culture


“In every nursery there are ghosts. They are the visitors from the unremembered past of the parents; the uninvited guests at the christening.” So begins the 1975 classic paper by Selma Fraiberg, et. al., “Ghosts in the Nursery: A Psychoanalytic Approach to the Problems of Impaired Infant-Mother Relationships.” The authors proceed to pose a crucial question: “What is it that determines whether the conflicted past of the parent will be repeated with his child” such that “the baby becomes a silent partner in a family tragedy?” Through extensive and beautifully rendered clinical material of their seminal work with two families where the ghosts of the past had “invaded the nursery with such insistency and ownership as to claim their rights above the baby’s own rights,” the authors discovered that when parents remember and re-experience their own childhood anxiety and suffering in the therapy, “the ghosts depart and the afflicted parents become the protectors of their children against the repetition of their own past.” Thus, they hypothesize that the “key to our ghost story appears to lie in the fate of affects in childhood: access to childhood pain becomes a powerful deterrent against repetition in parenting, while repression and isolation of painful affect provide the psychological requirements for identification with the betrayers and the aggressors.”

This classic psychoanalytic paper was first presented as the Beata Rank Memorial Lecture at BPSI on May 23, 1974. The therapeutic work was carried out in home visits yet based on the same basic principles that we employ in our offices, “the method which Freud developed for recovering the events of the past and undoing the morbid effects of the past in the present.” What remains unspeakable for some are not the brutal facts of their childhood experience, but the associated and unbearable affects; unbearable affects that are elicited in therapeutic work and also in various cultural genres – such as fairy tales, operas, movies, and video games. Our panelists will comment from different vantages, reflecting on contemporary cultural paradigms and implications for contemporary clinical work. Forty-five years after it was first discussed at BPSI, they will share with us their reflections on the “ghost story,” and its continuing relevance in today’s world.


James Herzog, MD (Panelist) is an adult and child psychiatrist, a training and supervising psychoanalyst, and a child and adolescent supervisory analyst who has been a part of BPSI for 48 years. His research, publications, and international collaborations have focused on exploring the role of the father, trans-generational trauma and trans-generational recuperation and repair, the creation of meaning between minds and within a child’s mind, and the ways in which the analyst becomes a safe-enough object to gain access to a mind and learn of its meaning-making processes. Formerly he was the director of Training in Child Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital, Boston, and the Child Psychiatry and Child Analysis Scholar at both Children’s and Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. He has a private practice in Brookline.

Stephen Seligman, DMH (Panelist) is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and Training and Supervising Analyst at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California. He is a Clinical Professor of the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and on the faculty of the Infant Mental Health Certificate Programs at UC-Davis and University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of Relationships in Development: Infancy, Intersubjectivity, Attachment (Routledge, 2018) and is Joint Editor-in-Chief of Psychoanalytic Dialogues. He is also associate editor of Studies in Gender and Sexuality, and was a member of the founding board of the Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy. Overall, Dr. Seligman continues the project of bridging psychoanalysis and infancy intervention and research. He has authored over 75 papers, chapters, reviews, and other publications.

Maria Tatar, PhD (Panelist) is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and the chair of the Program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University. Her teaching and research interests include fairy tales, folklore, children’s literature, Weimar Germany, German Romanticism, and cultural studies. She has published dozens of scholarly papers and books in these areas, including Lustmord, which explores sexual violence in the literature, film, and art of the Weimar period in Germany, Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood, and Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood. She is the editor of Classic Fairy Tales, as well as of The Annotated Brothers Grimm and The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen. Her most recent book titles include Annotated African American Folktales (2017, W.W. Norton), Beauty and the Beast: Tales about Animal Brides and Grooms from around the World (2017, Penguin), and The Cambridge Companion to the Fairy Tale (2015, Cambridge). She is a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Society of Fellows.

Ann Epstein, MD (Moderator) is a child psychiatrist and adult analyst. She is on the BPSI faculty and is a Harvard supervisor at Cambridge Health Alliance. Dr. Epstein has a long-standing interest in early development, attachment theory, and the origins of intersubjectivity. She is a founding faculty member of the Infant Parent Training Program at JF&CS (a community partner of BPSI), a two-year training program in parent-infant psychotherapy..

Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of this program, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe three implications of the Fraiberg paper’s hypothesis about the fate of affects from childhood for clinical work with adults;
  2. Identify three manifestations of the concept of “ghosts in the nursery” in literary and cultural genres;
  3. Trace the history of the development of parent-infant psychotherapy models;
  4. Explain the application of parent-infant psychotherapy interventions to individual clinical work.


Fraiberg, S., Adelson, E., & Shapiro, V. (1975). Ghosts in the Nursery: A Psychoanalytic Approach to the Problems of Impaired Infant-Mother Relationships. Journal of American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 14(3): 387-421. [Available from the library, on request.]
Herzog, J.M., & O'Connell M. (2007). Children are Being Murdered: How do People Live and Play in the Aftermath of Atrocity, in Migration and Persecution, ed. by Bell, Holder, et. al., Psychosozial Verlag, Giessen, pp.87-105.
Herzog, J.M. (2010) Fathers and Play, Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18, 1, pp.106-113. PEP Web Link

Seligman, S. (2018).  Relationships in Development: Infancy, Intersubjectivity, and Attachment.  New York and London: Routledge. [Available from the library, on request.]
Seligman, S. (1994).  Applying psychoanalysis in an unconventional context: Adapting "infant-parent psychotherapy" to a changing population.  Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 49:481-500. PEP Web Link
Tatar, M. (1994) "Is Anyone Out There Listening? Fairy Tales and the Voice of the Child." In Infant Tongues: The Voice of the Child in Literature. Ed. Elizabeth Goodenough et al.   Detroit: Wayne State University Press, Pp. 275-83. [Available from the library, on request.]
Tatar, M. (2018) Classic Fairy Tales, 2nd edition. New York: W.W. Norton.
Warner, M. (2014) Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale. Oxford: Oxford UP. [Available from the library, on request.]

9:00am - 9:15am: Welcome and Moderator’s Introduction; 9:15am - 9:40am: Panelist #1 Presentation; 9:40am - 10:05am: Panelist #2 Presentation; 10:05am - 10:20am: Break; 10:20am - 10:45am: Panelist #3 Presentation; 10:45am - 11:00am: Panelists Interactive Dialogue; 11:00am - 12:00pm: Discussion with Panelists and Audience.

This program is made possible by the generous support of BPSI Members and friends.
Your gift to BPSI supports interdisciplinary programming.  
To make a gift, please visit www.bpsi.org.


BPSI’s Community Partner, the Infant-Parent Training Institute at JC&FS’s Center for Early Relationship Support invites you to join them for a Spring Master Class: “Coming to Life in Time: Early Deprivataion and the Sense of a Lively Future” with Dr. Stephen Seligman on April 26, 1:00-3:30 pm. For more information, contact ipti@jfcsboston.org or 781-693-5652.
This program will be of interest to the general public, graduate students in the areas of psychology, social work, and the humanities,
and mental health clinicians at all levels of training. 
FEE: $65 Early Bird (use code: EB2019SKN); $75 Regular (as of 4/13/2019)
The fee is waived for Early Career Clinicians, and BPSI Members, Trainees, and Partners.
Scholarships available upon request.
Continuing Education 
Physicians: This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education through the joint providership of the American Psychoanalytic Association and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. The American Psychoanalytic Association is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The American Psychoanalytic Association designates this Live Activity for a maximum of 3 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION FOR ALL LEARNERS: None of the planners and presenters of this CME program have any relevant financial relationships to disclose. 
Psychologists: The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This program fulfills the requirements for 2.5 hours of CE. 
Please note: Per APA requirements, psychologists must attend 100% of a course in order to be eligible for continuing education credit.
Social Workers: Application for social work continuing education credtis has been submitted. Please contact us at office@bpsi.org or 617-266-0953 for the status of social work CE accreditation.
Please noe: Per NASW requirements, social workers must attend 80% of a course in order to be eligible for continuing education credit.
Licensed Mental Health Clinicians: The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6913. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. This program offers 3 NBCC Clock Hours.


Event Cancellation Policies & Procedures
Any program participant requesting their individual program registration be canceled, must submit their request in writing via email to Drew Brydon at dbrydon@bpsi.org. For fee-based events, a request for cancellation (and refund using the original form of payment) must be received no later than 48 hours in advance of the event. Requests received later than 48 hours prior to the event will not be processed or accepted. All approved refunds are subject to a $10.00 administrative fee. If BPSI cancels and event, all registrants will receive a full refund of fees paid (no administration charge) no later than two business days following the scheduled date of the event, using the original form of payment.

Grievance Policy
Please address any questions or concerns about your experience at this or any program or event you have attended at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute to the Program Chair, via the Senior Administrator/Continuing Education Administrator, BPSI, 141 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459; office@bpsi.org; 617.266.0953.

The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, Inc., 141 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459, does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, national origin or handicap in the admissions, administration of its educational programs, scholarship programs or employment.





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