Isca Wittenberg, the world's oldest living Child Psychotherapist is turning 100 today! Isca we salute your life force and your incredible contribution to the field of mental health.
When I interviewed Isca she told me about being a refugee from Nazi Germany and being one of the first to train with John Bowlby and Esther Bick (as well as her experience of being in analysis with Wilfred Bion no less!) What really resonated with me was not just how impactful she had been during the course of her 70 year career on mental health services for young people or how her psychoanalytic ideas have impacted on a wide range of child professionals but her capacity, even urgency, to reflect upon difficulty.
And as Isca has approached her centenary of birth, this capacity to face one of the most difficult things we all have to face, our ending, she has done with characteristic vigour and insight:
Isca says, "What makes it possible to accept the transience of life, to bear increasing losses, face the loss of one’s own life, and yet go on growing, gaining, or at least maintaining emotional and spiritual strength?"
Ricky Emanuel, her friend and colleague says, "Isca has always been interested to find out more, to learn new things and to develop her mind. She has deep-seated conviction about the value of connection, and she lives her life this way. She is still wanting to connect and share her ideas with others as well as hear from them what is happening “out there”. Her last book on Experiencing Endings and Beginnings has been republished, she felt she wanted to add to it about her experience of the last years of life. How this is managed is so dependent on early beginnings and other endings throughout the life cycle. Despite everything she has gone through and witnessed she says she never has given up hope and this quality is so evident even in these last years of her life. Bion‘s maxim is that the purpose of development is to enhance the person’s capacity to experience experience. Isca is still developing in this sense, experiencing endings and beginnings as fully as she can. She is an inspiration to all of us.”
You can watch our interview with her here: