Psychoanalytic Approaches to Addiction: Discussion

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Organised by:

Hallam Institute of Psychotherapy

18 May 2024

Time: 11:00 - 13:00

Price: 20

Location: online


The Hallam Institute of Psychotherapy is delighted to invite you to our first psychoanalytic film discussion morning, led by Dr Eric B. Litwack.

You are invited to view the above-named film in your own private space before joining the Zoom discussion. It is possible to rent or buy the film on video streaming, Blu-ray and DVD.

Film: The Lost Weekend (1945)

Billy Wilder’s classic and intense study of one man’s struggle with alcoholism and helplessness remains one of the best films ever made on addiction. Based on an equally powerful 1944 novel of the same name by Charles R. Jackson, the film is set in New York.

The protagonist, Don Birnam, is masterfully played by Ray Milland. Don is a writer who seemingly has much going for him, and who nonetheless descends in a weekend spiral of desperation, trauma, and unethical behaviour. All of this due to his overarching craving for a drink.

The damage caused by his addiction, both to himself and to those who are genuinely concerned for him, is made powerfully clear. The Lost Weekend’s representation of 1940s New York represents the metropolis as a place of both dynamism and potential loneliness, a world in which Don struggles against himself.

As such, the film merits psychoanalytic treatment itself, in terms of both classical Freudian models of addiction and more recent analyses inspired by attachment theory and the self-medication hypothesis. Understanding Don’s struggle involves a journey into the conflicts and complexities of a creative young man’s mind.

The film was a winner of four Oscars (of seven nominations), and it broke new ground as part of a wave of then daring social problem films made by Hollywood in the 1940s. In addition to alcoholism, it deals, discreetly, with prostitution, and with the American class system. Certainly, a great American classic.

Dr Eric B. Litwack is a psychotherapist and philosopher. He has also worked as an ethics consultant to the private sector, as well as to the British and Canadian governments.

Eric trained and qualified as an attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist at the Bowlby Centre of London, where he also taught psychoanalytic theory. He has also been a BACP counsellor, and he is currently a UKCP member. He can work in both English and French.

Eric is currently an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Sheffield, and he teaches philosophy and information studies at Syracuse University London

Eric is a Fellow Registrant of the International Association for Psychology & Counseling (UK) – FIAPC (UK) Accred – and serves on the Curatorium of the UK Chapter of IAPC.

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