ON DEMAND – Letting go: My Proposal of ‘Detachment Theory’

Online talk by Salman Akhtar MD

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1 January, 2022 - 31 March, 2023


With Salman Akhtar, MD, Professor of PsychiatrySidney Kimmel Medical Center, Thomas Jefferson UniversityTraining and Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia.

While theoretically well-founded and technically useful, enthusiasm about ‘attachment theory’ has led to the neglect of the fact that intrapsychic and interpersonal ‘detachment’ is also of great significance in personality development.

Much psychopathology can result when the function of ‘letting go’ is ill-developed or hypertrophied. Allusions to the resulting maladies are discernible via terms like ‘adhesive libido’, ‘retentiveness’, ‘merger states’ and ‘injustice collecting’ on the one hand and ‘narcissistic withdrawal’, ‘contact-shunning personalities’, ‘temporal discontinuity’ and ‘attacks on linking’ on the other hand. In clinical technique too, the stoically aloof patients and those divorced from their inner lives bring up the issues of detachment.

This presentation will address such matters and will also delineate (a) defect-based, (b) disappointment-based, (c) development-based, (d) dignity-based, and (e) divinity-based types of detachment. Clinical significance of these ideas will be highlighted.

As a result of attending this presentation, the attendee shall become able to:

1. Enumerate various types of detachment.

2. Understand the role played by detachment in normal development.

3. Empathize better with patients struggling with inadequate or excessive detachment.


Salman Akhtar is a distinguished psychoanalyst, poet, and writer living in the United States. He is the author or editor of 96 books. These include eleven collections of poems: Ku-ba-ku (1976), Doosra Ghar (1986), Nadi ke pas (2004), Ghazal @ Englishjunction (2011), Soch Samajh (2015), and Teesra Shahr (2017) in Urdu, and The Hidden Knot (1985), Conditions (1993), Turned to Light (1998), After Landing (2014), Blood and Ink (2016), and Freshness of the Child (2018) in English.

For his distinguished contributions to psychoanalysis, he received the prestigious Sigourney Award in 2012. Dr Akhtar was a Visiting Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School in the early 1990s. Currently, he holds the rank of Professor of Psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and Supervising and Training Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. He is also a Scholar-in-Residence at the Inter-Act Theater Company in Philadelphia.



Broadcast: 1 November, 2021

Duration: 1h 25m

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1 January
31 March, 2023
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