POTENTIAL SPACE: ELIZABETH BRADSHAW, M.SC., M.A.
DELUSION AND PLAY: NEIL TALKOFF ON LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
On February 18th, NCSPP's Prelicensed Clinicians Committee presented a screening of Lars and the Real Girl (2007), an off-kilter comedy that follows an endearing yet socially awkward young man as he introduces his new girlfriend, Bianca, to his small local community. Bianca is a wheelchair-bound Brazilian-Danish missionary on sabbatical to experience the world. She also happens to be an anatomically correct silicone doll ordered from the Internet. Lars, family, friends, and extended local community ultimately respond with surprising love and compassion as they struggle to accept Bianca as a "real girl," while Lars psychically grapples , with the help of a local psychologist , with his delusional solution to issues of abandonment, loss, and lack of early parental containment.
During a lively and thoughtful post-screening presentation, local analyst Dr. Neil Talkoff, Ph.D. led a discussion that explored the intersubjective and "delusional" quality of reality, what happens to one's internal state when the parental container explodes, and the necessary death and forgetting that occurs through one's transition into health. Dr. Talkoff questioned how, taken to its furthest extremes, Lars, delusion and the community's response to it are any different from what we do with patients. Like Lars, we all construct and live in our own subjective realities. The challenge becomes how to collaborate and build something new, playful, and alive from our coming together. Engaging in psychoanalysis, as Dr. Talkoff noted, is to say, "I love you enough to respect your reality, to give you my reality, and to play together to create something alive."
The audience was engaged and reflected together about how the film, described as a "Winnicottian dream," provides a poignant metaphor for psychoanalysis. Throughout the course of this rainy February evening, we too, like Lars, community of family and friends, were able to come together and create a potential space in which to play, build, and make meaning. In particular, we considered how the ideas of transitional phenomena, the witnessing third, and the containing environment can aptly be applied to Lars, relationship with Bianca, his therapist, and his community. We further questioned how in the process of our patients, psychic birth, the mental representation of a loving object is internalized, and how, like Bianca or any transitional object, we as therapists are necessarily forgotten once our function is finished. The task then becomes to continue holding the love necessary to let go, to be let go of, and to say goodbye.
Elizabeth Bradshaw, M.Sc., M.A.
Impulse Staff Writer