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Existential Ethics: Recovering from Narcissism is a Course

Existential Ethics: Recovering from Narcissism

Apr 5, 2023 - Jul 22, 2023

$100 Enroll

Full course description

Friday, July 14, 2023 | 1:00-4:00PM (ET) | Fully Online Workshop

Eligible for 3 CEUs for psychologists and social workers. Application for CEs for LMHCs has been submitted for review to the respective credentialing body.


This summer workshop explores what it means to be ethical, specifically as a mode of being with otherness. From this perspective, ethics will be considered as care for the other or how to be in otherness. This aspect of being in and with otherness will be explored in relationship to the notion of “recovering from narcissism” as a matter of philosophical and psychological process. Historically, ethics has been conceived in terms of self vs. other. This leads toward a selfish-selfless dichotomy. We are interested in developing ethics outside this reductive binary, leaving unanswered whether human beings are inherently selfish as that question leads us down the wrong path. Instead, we want to reconceptualize ethics as a path or way to be— ethics in terms of what informs and animates action amid survival-based responses and reckonings with human finitude. This reconfiguring of ethics moves away from a set of moral or legal rules and toward living ethics as what we use to make the most vital and difficult choices situated in existential threat and relational possibility.

From this perspective, ethics can then be understood and lived in terms of:

  • Disciplined openness
  • Resistance to the culture of narcissism (closed-off-ness)
  • Resoluteness in taking a stand and revising that stand – Nietzsche’s resolve to become who one already is, as differently as possible
  • Knowing differently and understanding differently – Gadamer and hermeneutics
  • Relationality – Benjamin and feminist ethics
  • Not knowing – Butler and queer ethics
  • Relationality involving dialectical tension and hermeneutic movement toward mutuality

Considering cultural and clinical moments, we will emphasize dialectical tension and hermeneutical movement as essential to ethical thinking and action. We will demonstrate that ethics emerges as a set of paradoxes; ethical approaches involve taking a stand yet simultaneously calling upon the ability to change one’s stand. Hermeneutically, ethical activity moves forward by way of returning. Ethical knowledge will be understood in terms of the modesty of a not-knowing rather than a rightness of knowing. As such, ethics will be explored as a continual movement through orientation, disorientation, and reorientation – a complex dialectical and hermeneutic process. This will be demonstrated psychologically through the presenter’s work concerning their ongoing recovery from narcissism. Philosophically, this will be explored through a critique of the narcissism inherent in the history of ethics.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of this presentation, the participant will be able to:

  1. Describe ethics as a disciplined openness.
  2. Discuss how the history of western philosophy tends toward an ethics grounded on a narcissistic understanding of human relationality and that other understandings are possible.
  3. Identify that relational ethics involve working with dialectical tensions and hermeneutical openings, which move toward mutuality.

Timeline and Requirements:

The workshop will take place on Friday, July 14, 2023.  This workshop is presenter-led and is a fully online experience. This will be conducted synchronously online via Zoom from 1:00 pm-4:00 pm (ET). 

CE Sponsorship: 

This program has been approved for 3 Social Work Continuing Education hours for relicensure, in accordance with 258 CMR. NASW-MA Chapter CE Approval Program Authorization Number D91896.

The Lynch School of Education and Human Development is providing sponsorship for CEUs for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC). Participants will be eligible to receive 3 CE units. These credits are accepted by the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (Category I contact hours in Content Area I).

University Counseling Services of Boston College is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. As a co-sponsor of this program, University Counseling Services of Boston College maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Participants will be eligible to receive 3 CE units from University Counseling Services of Boston College. 

Participants must attend the workshop in full and complete the post event survey to be eligible to receive CEs.

This workshop does not offer CEs for other clinicians not listed above. 

Fees & Policies:

Payment is due by credit card at registration. Registration closes July 14 at 1:00PM. Refunds will be granted only up until the start of the workshop. No refunds will be granted for registration or technical errors on the participant's part (such as incorrect name/email, login failure, etc.).

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. If you need to request an accommodation or ask a question about accessibility, please contact

Additional offerings from the Lynch School Professional & Continuing Education Office can be found on our website


Robin Chalfin is a practicing psychotherapist of 25 years, teaching, training, and writing from feminist and queer disciplines, trauma studies, and existential-psychoanalytic praxis. As adjunct faculty at Lesley University Graduate Division of Counseling & Psychology and board member at the New England Center for Existential Therapy, she is devoted to developing embodied and liberatory modes of human understanding and relatedness. Writing contributions include “Being Broken and Unbroken: Trauma, Heidegger and Befindlichkeit” in In the Wake of Trauma (Duquesne), “Identity-as-disclosive-space: Dasein, Discourse, and Distortion” in Race, Rage, and Resistance (Routledge), “The responsive order, oppressive order, and disorder in human growth: challenging and carrying forward postmodernism” (Routledge), and the recent essay “The Entanglement of Being: Sexuality Inside and Outside the Binary in Studies” in Gender and Sexuality (Taylor & Francis).