Sunday 1 January 2023

1920s-born existential therapists. 2. Peter Lomas. Anthony Stadlen conducts Inner Circle Seminar 280 (5 March 2023)


Existential therapists born in the 1920s

Centenary seminars

2. Peter Lomas

27 February 1923  12 January 2010

The extraordinary ordinary

Peter Lomas

Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 280
Sunday 5 March 2023
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Peter Lomas was born on 27 February 1923 and died on 12 January 2010 aged nearly 87. His central thought, that psychotherapy is ‘ordinary’, made him, paradoxically, an extraordinary figure in the history of psychotherapy. By ‘ordinary’, he meant that psychotherapy deals with decency, love, kindness, goodness, creativity, courage, and truth – and their absence or negation; and that it is therefore best described in ordinary language. This he did, with great sensitivity, in ‘ordinary’, but very good, English. Well versed in psychoanalytic and existential literature, he valued their authentic findings but disliked their pretentious jargon. A respected Member of the British Psychoanalytical Society and founder in 1973 of the Guild of Psychotherapists, he resigned from both because of what he thought they had become. He then founded in 1980 a training scheme and network for provision of psychotherapy known as the ‘Outfit’ (officially, the Cambridge Society for Psychotherapy), which has survived him.
Today we shall discuss some of Peter Lomas’s books and papers, psychoanalytic and existential. He is perhaps best known today for his writings on individual psychotherapy: Psychoanalysis – Freudian or Existential’ in Psychoanalysis Observed, edited by Charles Rycroft (1966); True and False Experience (1973); The Case for a Personal Psychotherapy (1982), revised as The Psychotherapy of Everyday Life (1993); The Limits of Interpretation: Whats Wrong with Psychoanalysis (1987); Cultivating Intuition: An Introduction to Psychotherapy (1994); and Doing Good? Psychotherapy Out of its Depth (1999). But he was also deeply concerned with family relationships and their relevance for the individual: he edited and contributed to The Predicament of the Family: A Psychoanalytic Symposium (1967); and his own papers on the family were collected in Personal Disorder and Family Life (1997).
Lucy King has edited a book, Committed Uncertainty in Psychotherapy: Essays in Honour of Peter Lomas (1999), containing interviews with Lomas by Sian Morgan and Peter Rudnytzky (who will both attend todays seminar); and contributions by, among others, John Heaton, David Holbrook, and Paul Roazen. Rudnytsky includes another interview with Lomas in his book Psychoanalytic Conversations: Interviews with Clinicians, Commentators, and Critics (2000).
R. D. Laing, in his paper Mystification, Confusion, and Conflict’ (1965), acknowledges Lomas as one of three investigators (the others were A. Russell Lee and Marion Bosanquet) who collaborated with Laing and Aaron Esterson in the research they reported in their book Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics (1964). But the book itself, while thanking various colleagues for their participation, does not mention Lomas. Perhaps this is because, as Lomas explains in his interviews with Morgan and Rudnytsky, he withdrew from the research as he disliked Laing’s narcissistic attempts to dominate. However, as the original tape recording shows, it was Lomas, named merely as Interviewer in the book, who, for example, gently asked the supposedly ‘schizophrenic’ Ruth Gold: ‘But do you feel you have to agree with what most of the people around you believe?’ He was rewarded with her immortal reply: ‘Well if I don’t I usually land up in hospital.’
This straightforwardness and simplicity, going to the heart of the matter, epitomises Lomass way of speaking and relating. And, as Thomas Szasz wrote to Anthony Stadlen a month after Lomass death (email, 10 February 2010): Honesty shines through his writing.
This quiet ordinariness and honesty constitutes an existential revolution in the technocratic, alienated world of psychiatrised psychotherapy. 
Today we shall explore this extraordinary ordinariness. Your contribution to the discussion will be most welcome, whether this is your first encounter with the work and thinking of Peter Lomas, or whether you were his client, supervisee, colleague, or friend.
Peter Lomass daughter Sally Lomas, Peter Rudnytsky, Lucy King, and Sian Morgan are all participating in this unique seminar.

This will be an online seminar, using Zoom.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £140, others £175, some bursaries; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 7809 433250

For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

No comments: