About this Blog

A Contemplative Pause-Button

Few trends today concern me more than the fragmentation of American society (and Americans) alongside the deterioration and faltering business models of professional journalism, the conflation of journalism with “media,” and the trivializing impacts of the Twitterverse and the 24-hour news cycle. These cultural fault-lines have deepened to fissures with the painfully corrosive 2016 election, its aftermath, and the chaotic first year of an unprecedented kind of U.S. presidency.

As both psychologist and journalist I believe our participatory democracy regularly (desperately?) needs to apply a pause-button: To slow down reactivity, quiet shouting voices, calm both individual and collective nervous system. That needed pause can be found via depth psychology’s characteristic contemplative discipline, reflective-observing stance, and many of its core concepts – such as shadow, blind spots, projection, archetypes, individuation, and all that we know about the human body-mind from neuroscience, to name a few.

Surviving the Alt-Fact Age

The original meaning of “to have a vocation” is “to be addressed by a voice.”

C. G. Jung (1954/1977 p. 176)

Inspired by Jungian Edward Edinger’s 1997 essay on the archetypal roots of depth psychology as a vocation, the newShrink©  responds to a new call to draw sense, meaning, and conscious action from what journalist-scholar Jack Lule (2001) of Lehigh University has termed the “daily news, eternal stories” of contemporary American life.

Whether we are clinicians or patients, scholars or students, authors or readers, voting citizens or simply concerned humans, we grapple daily with the polarized politics, 24-7 punditry, and reactive cacophony of social-media trolls that dominate popular culture. Two decades have passed since Edinger celebrated depth psychology as “arising out of the modern discovery of the reality of the psyche” (1997, p. 8). Yet attending to the unconscious today is largely absent, lacking even a common language or norms, in discourse regarding contemporary affairs – and arguably at an historical moment when most needed.

One-dimensional debates about real-versus-fake factoids abound, where thorough journalism and the transcendent, broadening lens and context of strong scholarship are needed. Psychiatric jargon and ego-soothing attempts to “diagnose” public figures from afar are, at best, irrelevant distractions from the deep wisdom and insight these human mirrors for our projections can offer about our collective unconscious (Jung, 1951/1969) and the cultural complex (Singer, 2004).

This blog aims to find, develop, and share a system – a survivor’s guide of sorts – for coping with this often crazy-making culture.

As Hillman (1975) and others have observed, it is often in the gaps or margins of our focus that new archetypal patterns and vocational voices emerge. Across such a gap the newShrink© of the title arises out of the author’s dream imagery and long, dual devotion to both professional journalism and depth psychology.

The Journalist, The Scholar, The Depth Psychologist

In the newShrink© process  we practice engaging the archetypal Journalist, the Scholar, and the Depth Psychologist in response to any issue, news event, or public figure. First, as Journalist we ask, what are the “official” (persona- and ego-level) facts, the answers to journalism’s classical “Who, What, When, Where, How, How Much?” questions. The Scholar then widens the lens, asking what other fields of study – for example, neuroscience, medicine, history, sociology, religion – belong at the table, in the conversation, to offer essential breadth and context? And then the Depth Psychologist honors the reality of the unconscious to apply its wisdom for the many otherwise inexplicable dimensions to the story, examining  such elements as shadow, blind spots, projection, affect, individuation, typology, transference, and archetypes.

As the newShrink© blog evolves, these elements of the process are systematically applied as a deep, broad, and psychological analysis of articles related to such pivotal news issues as the #metoo and #timesup movements regarding sexual harassment, assault, and abuse.

What You’ll Find Here

In simplest terms each newShrink.net blog post will be re-reading and re-imagining news stories, issues-of-the-day, and the work and activity of public figures through the lenses of both scholarly inquiry and depth psychology. This is to be a living, evolving process that becomes more defined as it unfolds. But here are a few things you can expect to see:

  • A few, fully cited direct quotes that capture the gist of the story or analysis piece. In depth psychological terms this corresponds to the “persona,” the intentional publicly presented “official version”.
  • Full citations (APA style) of directly quoted material and attribution of paraphrased ideas.
  • Direct link(s) to journalistic article(s), broadcast(s), and other materials where relevant and useful.
  • Material quoting unnamed sources to be cited only from news and publishing organizations that define and adhere to specific standards regarding when, why, and how anonymous sources are needed and used.
  • Tips for navigating, distinguishing among, and making best use of today’s chaotic array of journalistic, media-punditry, social media, blogosphere, and even “fake news” marketplace.
  • Facts and a solid factual basis for ideas being argued or discussed.
  • Application of relevant depth psychology concepts such as the Reality of the Unconscious Psyche, Shadow, Persona, Projection, Affect, Holding the Tension of the Opposites/Transcendent Function, Projective Identification, Archetypal Patterns, the Collective Unconscious, the Cultural Complex, Individuation.
  • Some learn-more links to references and additional resources.
  • Access to the newShrink© Facebook page, where relevant, respectful comments and reactions are welcome – and readers are encouraged to engage with one another in discussion if desired.

What You Won’t Find Here

  • Because newShrink© is primarily a research-and-development tool for the author’s ongoing scholarly research and writing, there is limited time and opportunity for my also using the site conversationally, for chat and debate in this venue.  This means author responses and replies are necessarily limited in number and for streamlining are directed solely through the Facebook page.
  • The newShrink© focus is on how the news, events, and public figures of our culture directly express and reflect upon who we are as individuals and collectively based on what we know from depth psychology and other fields of study. This is not a site for medical or psychiatric diagnoses, prognoses, or prescriptions.

References 

Edinger, E. (1997). The vocation of depth psychotherapy. Psychological perspectives, A semiannual journal of Jungian thought, 35, 8-22. Los Angeles, CA: C. G. Jung Institute.

Hillman, J. (1975). Revisioning psychology. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Jung, C. G. (1951/1969). The concept of the collective unconscious. The archetypes and the collective unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, and W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed.,Vol. 9i, pp. 42-53, Para. 87-110). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1951)

Jung, C. G. (1977). The development of personality. In H. Read, M. Fordham, Adler, and W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung. (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 17, pp. 167-186). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1954)

Lule, J. (2001). Daily news, eternal stories: The mythological role of journalism. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Singer, T. (2004). The cultural complex: Contemporary Jungian perspectives on psyche and society. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.

Brain & behavioral research: What’s the best way to take notes and retain info?

Borrowing some habits and practices from scholarly research and neuroscience can widen our news-following lenses for better decision-making – even on a mundane topic like this one that affects about every person and family at some point:  “laptops vs pen-and-paper for classroom note-taking.”

This piece in The New York Times illustrates an important point as we try to make sense of the massive worlds of information available today: how we take in and process material is as important as what we think of as “content.”

 

Toward a Balanced News Diet

NPR is surely not the first or only news organization to emphasize quality and “nutritional value” of the “diet” it serves to its “news-consumer” listeners. And ever since the days of Freud and Jung, it’s a well-known depth psychology idea that often our most clichéd metaphors are clichés precisely because they point us to the most basic, universal, and mundane solutions to complex problems.

With this in mind, newShrink© will be on the lookout for good ways to become more aware of:

What news outlets we we are reading, following, watching, “digesting,” and relying on in daily life

How (and how intentionally and knowledgeably) we are choosing those sources, and

How to determine and improve the veracity, balance, and “nutritional value” of the fare served up by these sources.

This is where the excellent tool below comes in. I’ve found it so good in previous renditions and updates shared on Facebook that I’m passing along the link to it not just as a blog post, but as one of the permanent resource pages on this site.

So big thanks and kudos to Vanessa at allgeneralizationsarefalse.com for the latest (11/8/2017) update of The Chart, an at-a-glance analysis of the veracity, fairness, and stated or unstated left or right political leanings of the news outlets we are reading, watching, and following. According to her site, she’s a lawyer and obviously a fellow lover of real journalism. Take a look at her site for a lot of good guidance on becoming a more informed and intentional selector of resources for news and information.

War Between the Scouts? Say It Isn’t So!

Many responded to recent headlines with resounding “Bravo, Boy Scouts.”

By adding scouting opportunities for girls to its increased inclusiveness regarding all dimensions of gender, sexual orientation and identity, the BSA is making structural changes to a long ultra-closed organizational culture that all too easily kept abuses under the radar. (Here’s a Washington Post story about the announcement.)

The expansion opens to girls the prospect of developing the skills and achieving the Eagle Scout milestone so valued in adult careers across the spectrum. At the same time, younger scouts and individual troops retain flexibility and choices via single-gender scouting and age-appropriate safeguards. Meanwhile, many girls also thrive in the tremendously successful programs and skill development available through the ever-evolving Girl Scouts USA. As with all organizations, to remain relevant both must respond with strategy and business models such ongoing challenges as growing their markets, responding to societal change and diversity, financial viability as well as acknowledgement and correction of organizational

On this news from the Boy Scouts, I hope the Girl Scouts of USA will soon shift its reactivity and focus toward what’s good for the most kids and families — and away from its inflammatory tone – and harshly competitive stance thus far on the evolution of BSA. Here’s a sample of the rhetoric, cited by David Crary of The Associate Press.

The Girl Scouts of the USA have criticized the initiative, saying it strains the century-old bond between the two organizations. Girl Scout officials have suggested the BSA’s move was driven partly by a need to boost revenue, and they contended there is fiscal stress in part because of past settlements paid by the BSA in sex-abuse cases.

In August, the president of the Girl Scouts, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, accused the Boy Scouts of seeking to covertly recruit girls into their programs while disparaging the Girl Scouts’ operations. On Monday, Latino civic leader Charles Garcia, just days after being named to the Girl Scouts’ national board, wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post calling the BSA’s overture to girls “a terrible idea.” The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” Garcia wrote.

From the perspective of counseling psychology in today’s complex American society, it would be hard to argue on behalf of more limitations/fewer options for parents and children. It is definitely true that for some children, at some times in their developmental years a traditionally defined, single-gender environment can be nurturing and productive. But for other children and adolescents these are stifling, demotivating boxes from the start. In the therapy room and everyday family life, even multiple siblings within the same family system have vastly different needs, interests, and goals around scouting prospects.

The continued strong traditions of the Girl Scouts, added to the various new options for both genders in Boy Scouts, provide parents and their potential scouts with an enriched range of choices. (A helpful history and model to consider and compare here might be the longstanding YMCA and YWCA models. Both began as single-gender movements more than a century ago to serve the needs and values of rapid urbanization during their post-Victorian era.)

And depth psychology can further inform a positive view of the expanded options in scouting. It’s no secret that we depth psychologists tend to hang out a lot in the margins of 21st Century industrialized culture. In our recognition of the unconscious we put a particular value on paying attention to what, (and who) isn’t seen, acknowledged, heard, or empowered by the always-in-charge, conscious ego of the individual. This is true on the cultural level as well, consistent with Jung’s view that the unconscious psyche is not only individual but collective across all human experience. Also in the depth psychology point of view, the vast range of archetypal patterns that express and enrich the full range of adult personality is equally apparent in earliest childhood and adolescence.

So a depth psychology perspective on scouting points to consistent (and ongoing) raising of awareness around exclusion and marginalization and then tangible correction, new options and opportunities.

There’s plenty of room and ample market need for the venerable brands of both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. The Boy Scout expansion isn’t a panacea. But it’s also not a declaration of war. It’s a worthwhile step.

 

 

‘Taking the Knee’ and the Body’s Inherent Symbolism

More basically than all the words, politics, interpretations, and reactivity around the process of “taking a knee,” this embodied gesture has symbolic meaning and power both in and beyond our own culture. Off the football field, even a cursory look or Google search turns up rich context for this profoundly simple movement in such varied venues as the depth psychology of C. G. Jung, practices and teachings of Yoga, rites of the world’s great religions, coronation and knighthood ceremonies among the world’s monarchies, and rituals of indigenous peoples. It’s even a recurring motif in popular culture through all seven seasons of the most popular and award-winning show on television, the HBO series Game of Thrones!

In all of these diverse venues the taking of a knee shares a universal and (at least until now) a readily understood meaning: an expression of humility, deference to a higher authority/higher good, even reverence.