Evocations of Absence: An Interdisciplinary Encounter with Void States

August 11, 2007 - August 17, 2007

A commonly encountered experience of both analyst and analysand is that of the void. It is spoken about at different stages of therapy and refers to experiences that have different origins. But the apprehension of the void is not limited to the psychoanalytic process and it may be evoked in many different ways. Commonly these ways are verbal or visual as in literature or art but they may also be simply from sound or its absence or from the ‘sensori-motor’ domain. One way of dealing with the sense of absence or meaninglessness that is felt as The Void is to construct meaning about it and many philosophies and religious systems have been developed to ward off emptiness by substituting “knowing” in its place. Others systems seem to fearlessly enter and explore the vastness of that space.

The void, frightening as it is, is not something that can or should be obliterated, as that would lead to stagnation with “eyes wide shut.” Rather, we feel that hidden behind the “clouds of unknowing” that shroud the void, lie enormous possibilities for growth and transformation, and an increasingly strong connection with the objective other. The topic thus lends itself too to something on the spiritual dimension.

Our panel will address the topic of absence; that which is evoked, how it is evoked, what is absent, even what is present, and by extension where the feeling is coming from and where it may lead. Presentations will include analytic implications of void states from the perspective of neuro-psycho-biology, mysticism, art, music, movement and poetry to better understand the experience of, meaning, and potential transformation of these states.

A book of the collected papers is available, edited by Paul Ashton: Evocations of Absence: Interdisciplinary Encounters with Void States. New Orleans, Louisiana: Spring Journal Books.

For more information visit: http://www.iaap.org/


Paul Ashton is a Jungian analyst and Psychiatrist in private practice in Cape Town with an interest in sand-tray and play therapy with children. He has been an active member of the South African Association of Jungian Analysts (SAAJA) serving on the Curriculum Committee, Exco and as a sub-editor of their in-house journal Mantis. He is the author of articles and lectures on aspects of the Void and on Art, as well as review articles.

Stephen Bloch is a Jungian Analyst and Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Cape Town. He is an active member of SAAJA and has served on the Curriculum and Assessment and Review committees. He has a deep interest in music and has recently delivered a paper on the interrelationship between minimalist music and psychoanalysis.

Peter Hodson is a Jungian Analyst and Psychiatrist in private practice in Cape Town. He has been active in SAAJA, serving on the Curriculum Committee and EXCO where he is now Vice-President. Active in teaching, he has lectured to Psychiatric, Analytic and Lay audiences and published articles in Mantis.

Tina Stromsted Ph.D., ADTR, is a Dance therapist and teacher of Authentic Movement and Somatic Psychotherapy at a wide variety of Institutes, Universities and healing centers in the USA and internationally. Her background is in theatre and dance, she is a published author of numerous articles and book chapters and she has had thirty years of clinical practice. She is a Candidate at the G.G. Jung Institute in San Francisco where she is in private practice.

Stephen Watson: Stephen Watson is a South African poet and essayist who has published many collections of poems and other books. He is currently the head of the English Department at the University of Cape Town, as well as the director of its Centre for Creative Writing.