The Paternal Function in Anorexia Nervosa
Presenter: Dr. Tom Wooldridge
Saturday, May 27, 2023
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST
An online virtual presentation via Zoom videoconference.
ABOUT THIS PRESENTATION
The role of the father, both flesh-and-blood and symbolic, is explored in a subset of families of patients with anorexia nervosa. In these families the mother’s narcissistic investment in her child makes separation-individuation difficult. A factor potentially influencing whether the child goes on to develop anorexia nervosa is the strength of the paternal function, which optimally helps the child learn how to appropriately deploy his aggression in the service of separation-individuation and as a means of developing “the experience of agency”: the phenomenological experience of oneself as having an intentional impact. The role of the paternal function in developing the experience of agency is illuminated by the metaphor of rough-and-tumble play, which encapsulates the kind of experience with early objects that facilitates or forecloses the child’s capacity for experiencing agency. In the families of these patients, the father is frequently described as passive or absent and the paternal function as compromised, which arguably leads the anorexic-to-be to relegate his experience of agency to his body, which he subjugates through omnipotent control.
ABOUT THE PRESENTER
Tom Wooldridge, PsyD, ABPP, FIPA, CEDS-S is Chair in the Department of Psychology at Golden Gate University as well as a psychoanalyst and board-certified, licensed psychologist. He has published on topics such as eating disorders, masculinity, technology, and psychoanalytic treatment. His first book, Understanding Anorexia Nervosa in Males, was published by Routledge in 2016 and has been praised as “groundbreaking” and a “milestone publication in our field.” His second book, Psychoanalytic Treatment of Eating Disorders: When Words Fail and Bodies Speak, an edited volume in the Relational Perspectives Book Series, was published by Routledge in 2018, and has been well reviewed. His third book, Eating Disorders (New Introductions to Contemporary Psychoanalysis), will be released in 2022. In addition, Dr. Wooldridge has been interviewed by numerous media publications including Newsweek, Slate, WebMD, and others for his work. He is on the Scientific Advisory Council of the National Eating Disorders Association, Faculty at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC) and the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology (NCSPP), an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF’s Medical School, and has a private practice in Berkeley, CA.
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