Here is a Broken Word: Psychosis and Ethical Accompaniment

09/28/2023 12:00 PM - 01:30 PM ET


A narrative-theoretical performance by Dr. Erin Soros on the importance of listening and ethical accompaniment in psychosis


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We speak of “triggers”—those stressors that lead to psychotic symptom, but what of the potential triggers that lead in the other direction, toward connection, repair, a shared experience with another? When someone is in a psychotic state, how might we speak to them in a way that will provide a kind of holding? And perhaps more importantly: how can we listen?

My talk addresses my experience of being heard by a friend over a series of days when I was experiencing hallucinations and delusions. I explore how my friend’s intricate listening enabled me to wake up from my symptoms and begin grappling with the complex grief that inspired them. I narrate psychosis not simply as a pathology but also as a way of communicating what cannot otherwise be expressed. In particular, I examine psychotic language as a response to ethical abandonment—those moments when we confront atrocity but are made to feel alone in our witnessing—and how delusions and hallucinations can themselves become a form of testimony. Psychosis here both requires and provides a form of ethical accompaniment. When we listen intently to what a psychotic person is trying to tell us, helping them encounter what is too frightening to bear alone, we might find ourselves rooted too in our own pain and fear and longing. Mad speech is cry and gift.

This event will run from 12-1:30pm Eastern time. Can't make it live? Don't worry a recording will be emailed to all those who register.

About the presenter(s)

Dr. Erin Soros

A mad settler living in Vancouver, Dr. Erin Soros writes fiction, nonfiction, poetry and theory. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University and a visiting writer at Cambridge. She researches psychosis and the psychiatric and police response to it. Recent articles have appeared in Topia and Sociologica. Her poetry received The Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, inclusion in Best Canadian Poetry, silver at the National Magazine Awards and was a finalist for the CBC Literary Award. Her lyric essay “Cord” received gold at the National Magazine Awards for “One of a Kind Storytelling.” Her fiction received the CBC Literary Award and the Commonwealth Award for the Short Story.