Where live our most cherished (or painful) memories? Where do our beloved (or dreaded) exist when departed? In the gray zone between our self and our world, they can exist as internal reminiscences for some and striking images for others; individually or collectively perceived and interacted; vividly or as tenuous presences.
This book familiarizes us with six examples of individuals and families in therapy who live and interact with the presence of their absent, pivotal people in their lives who either died or disappeared, but are still there. It familiarizes us with their plight in a tender, compassionate style, describing in detail interviews and therapeutic transformations and, in several cases, follow-ups as well as echoes of those processes. It teaches us to respect those presences as well as how to help families and individuals treasure them…and in many cases to let them go.
Written in a vivid, intense language, The Presence of the Absent offers a marvelous insight into these processes that may prove transformative for the therapist (both family and individually-oriented), as well as enlightening to the general public.
Table of Contents
Foreword Salvador Minuchin 1. Ethereal Presences 2. Forbidden Words, Forbidden Thoughts: Semantic and Somatic Effects of Political Repression in a Family with a Hole in its Center 3. Rekindling the Experience of Freedom: Ghosts of a Dictatorship and Reverberations in a Liberating Process 4. House Taken Over: Culture, Migration and Developmental Cycle in a Moroccan Family Overtaken by Ghosts 5. The Ancient Cult of Madame: When Therapists Trade Curiousity for Certainty 6. The Naming: The Awakening of Two Ghost Children 7. Saudades at the Edge of the Self and the Merits of "Portable Families" 8. Wrap Up
Carlos E. Sluzki, M.D. is Professor Emeritus of Global and Community Health and of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, and Professor (Clinical) of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine. He is an internationally renowned psychiatrist and family therapist who trained in both Argentina and the United States.
"It would be a mistake to pass this book over, thinking it only has relevance for family therapists; the ghosts are equally alive in all our therapy rooms." —Chris Rose, group psychotherapist, writer and Therapy Today Reviews Editor
"Gripping, inspiring and poetic, this groundbreaking book is a rare combination of theory, practice and enchantment about the mysteries of grieving processes seldom addressed before. Sprinkled with fascinating and self-reflective illustrations, Sluzki’s brilliant work with traumatic losses masterfully offers creative and culturally respectful clinical practices for professionals at all levels." —Celia Jaes Falicov, PhD, clinical professor in family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego and author of Latino Families in Therapy.
"A brilliant, creative, deeply touching gem of a book—clear and simply told, but not oversimplified. Sluzki is a genius at the delicate intervention. A master therapist dealing with complex cultural disruption, traumatic loss and the presence of ghosts, he offers a remarkable challenge to himself and others to remain open to possibilities. We see him challenging cultural assumptions and behaviors in gentle and non-abrasive ways, intervening with humble and tender precision in complex clinical situations. His book is affecting, thoughtful, subtle and wise." —Dr. Monica McGoldrick, MSW, PhD (hc), director, Multicultural Family Institute and adjunct associate professor, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
"In The Presence of the Absence, Carlos Sluzki shows across decades of consultations with families in distress that it is the still swirling relationship with a family member that shapes other family members’ lives, even though that family member may be long deceased. Carlos so keenly discerns the political contexts of patients’ problems that his family interventions have the impact of human rights declarations and are acts of liberation."—James L. Griffith, MD, Leon M. Yochelson Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The George Washington University.
"Carlos Sluzki invites us into the heart of his brilliant and inspiring work in this amazing volume. In every chapter, his wisdom and humanity shine through, from his courageous engagement with clients who are suffering deeply to his broad systemic perspective illuminating social, cultural, and political injustices. His inspiring clinical stories reveal both the haunting pain of traumatic loss and the resilience that can be forged in accompanying clients wisely on their journey of healing and growth." —Froma Walsh, PhD, Mose & Sylvia Firestone Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago and co-founder & co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health.