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Anxiety and the Not-Knowing Stance: Lessons from Winnicott

Faced with overwhelming anxiety— both internal and external— people cling to certainty as a form of protection. But ironically this certainty only serves to make us more disconnected from each other. We miss the opportunity to grow and change by moving through misunderstanding to understanding.

Listening for Ghosts and Angels in the Nursery

In my clinical experience I have found that far and away the most powerful agent of change is the process of grieving loss. When I open myself up to what I call "playing in the uncertainty" allowing the visit to unfold without setting an agenda, I'm consistently surprised and amazed that the process takes parents through feelings of profound sadness to powerful moments of connection with me, with their child, and with themselves.

My Year of Dying: Lessons Learned

Not only with the glorious birth of my own two children, but also as a pediatrician who has attended many a middle of the night deliveries, I can attest to the profoundly transformative power of witnessing a new life enter the world. In what I have come to refer to as my year of dying— when in less than 9 months I saw my father, mother-in-law, and mother make the transition in the other direction —I learned the deep sense of love and connection that can come with the end of life. Or not.

A Necessary Mourning

Our world today appears locked in the iron grip of what many refer to as generational trauma. I wonder if a more apt and descriptive term might be unprocessed and unintegrated loss. A psychoanalyst colleague often said, “All emotional suffering is about loss, and all healing is about mourning.”  The Persian poet Rumi expressed a similar sentiment in the aphorism "The cure for the pain is the pain."

My Father’s Story: Before the Holocaust

While I hadn't yet mentioned the movie, my father told me of the radio announcers' frequent refrain of "all quiet on the Western front" while "hundreds young men were slaughtered every day." His voice trembled: his face contorted in an effort to contain the flood of emotion. He repeated the phrase in the original German."Im Westen Nichts Neues" or "Nothing new in the West." When I shared that we had just seen the movie, tears ran down his cheek. He opened himself to expression of feelings so deeply hidden for so long.

Getting to Know You: Babies and the Origin of Negative Capability

Practicing in the time before hospitalists, my on-call duties included examining all babies shortly after birth. In the room with parents and their newborn time melted away: all the outside routine pressures of my life disappeared. The inconvenience of sleep disruption when called to a middle-of-the night c-section paled in comparison to the power of riding the elevator from the first floor OR of our small hospital to the third-floor nursery with a new father gazing in wonder at his baby in the isolette. I saw again and again how a newborn baby brings us into the present moment like nothing else. For them there is only “now.”