Hold on, Mr. Brooks: “Privilege” has a shadow side, too

I’m often a fan and follower of moderate conservative NYT columnist David Brooks’ measured and thoughtful voice in today’s frenzied public forums.

His “praise of privilege” column here makes some needed and excellent points. But they are points I wish he could make without the unfortunate condescension that weakens them and seems tone-deaf. For example, with this column’s description of March-for-our-Lives student speakers as “grandiose and pretentious” like “most of us were at 18,” Brooks effectively dismisses the youths in a damming-with-faint-praise. This sets him up up to sound like a grumpy-grandpa and pretty darned grandiose and pretentious, himself, for the rest of the piece!

(Full disclosure here: As a near age-contemporary of Mr. Brooks I really hate it when we sound that way and strive hard not to.  So my reactivity to that surely colors my take on this column.)

That said, I also differ (strongly) with Brooks’ distinction between the Parkland kids’ embodiment and embrace of “good” kinds of American privilege while he disdains and disregards the very dark shadow sides of privilege in our culture. I just don’t think we get to cherry-pick only the pleasant, comfortable, and self-flattering dimensions of privilege and declare the rest irrelevant. The greater public good demands that we face and wrestle with both, and these kids are showing us how.

Ironically, as I listened to the DC March speakers from start to finish, I found most compelling that many of these young people – and this entire movement and program – so fully and bravely owned and named their own inherent privilege relative to so many others. Over and over they embraced and included many other, mostly publicly invisible, youths from around the country whose lives have long been devastated by gun violence — without attention or action. And these other student-speakers’ stories and voices were important, moving — and quintessentially American.

Among world powers America has long been an adolescent nation, and that in many ways has been our strength. Now, our overdue need to grow up seems increasingly apparent.

Maybe it is appropriate, even uniquely American, that it takes the teens to lead the way.

Truth Matters

Here’s a handy guidebook on separating truth from fake news in today’s environment, from Capitol Hill veteran, media commentator, and author Bruce Bartlett.

Check out the easy-save highlight pages of good tips at the start of each chapter. Topics covered in clear, concise language include critical thinking skills, choosing trusted sources, using fact-checking resources, and a lot more in a small package.

A Campaign FOR Neuroscience = AGAINST Violence

Amid the thorough and thoroughly heartbreaking journalistic reporting in the aftermath of the latest mass shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, here’s a bit of expanded context through a scholarly lens: the highly relevant field of neuroscience, reactivity/self-regulation and violence.

From today’s The Takeaway program on Public Radio International station WNYC, this interview departs from the endless loop of polarized gun-violence debate.

According to the summary from WNYC: “Neuropharmacologist Dr. Jeremy Richman and his wife Jennifer Hensel, also a scientist, lost their daughter, six year old Avielle Rose, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Shortly afterwards, they moved to create a foundation in her name that would take a scientific approach to understanding and preventing violence. As a parent who lost a child in a school shooting, Dr. Richman reflects on the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and discusses what violence looks like in the brain — and how we can treat it. The Avielle Foundation funds extensive research in every aspect of neuroscience and brain functioning in order to prevent violence.”



Introducing the NewShrink Blog

The Journalist, The Scholar, The Depth Psychologist

For me newShrink is an effort to develop a survival tool– a way to cope rationally in a crazy-making current culture by becoming a little like journalists, a little like scholars, and a little like depth psychologists.

In the newShrink process  we call on the skills of what depth psychologists think of as the archetypal Journalist, the Scholar, and the Depth Psychologist in response to issues, news events, public figures, and pop cultural trends. First, like journalists we ask, what are elements of the  factual story, answers to journalism’s classical questions such as: “Who, What, When, Where, How, How Much?”

Then, as scholars do, we widen the lens, asking things like 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 finally, like depth psychologists we recognize the reality  of the unconscious and apply understanding of its dynamics to shed light on many otherwise inexplicable dimensions to the story – such elements as shadow, blind spots, projection, affect, individuation, typology, holding the tension of opposites, and archetypes, for example.

As the newShrink blog evolves, these elements of the process will be systematically applied as a deep, broad, and psychological analysis of articles related to such pivotal news issues as the #metoo and #timesup movements as well as to cultural phenomena such as film, television, and books.

Surviving the Alt-Fact Age

Whether we’re therapists or patients, scholars or students, writers or readers, voting citizens or just concerned humans trying to make sense of things,  we grapple daily with the polarized politics, 24-7 punditry, and reactive bombardment of social-media trolling that dominate popular culture. Two decades have passed since the Jungian Edward Edinger celebrated depth psychology as “arising out of the modern discovery of the reality of the psyche” (1997, p. 8). Yet paying attention to or considering 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 that these human mirrors for our projections can offer about us, collectively and individually.

 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 since 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 regularly and intentionally slow down reactivity, quiet shouting voices, calm both individual and collective nervous system. I believe that needed pause can be found via an intentional commitment to the principles and discipline of professional journalism, scholarship, and the depth psychologies of Jung (1951/1969) and Hillman (1975).

Inspired by 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.

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

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

What You’ll Find Here

Some newShrink.net blog posts will begin as and remain a short and simple comment to add another dimension to a story or public thread that’s underway about a topic in the news. I imagine some of these will grow and develop into longer, more complex pieces over time as the story unfolds.

Other newShrink.net posts will be more structured, more like essays for publication in professional or scholarly journals.

All will be a re-reading and re-imagining of news stories, issues-of-the-day, pop culture items, 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 from original sources that capture the gist and “official versions” of the story or analysis piece.
  • Full citations (APA style) of directly quoted material and attribution of paraphrased ideas within posts themselves – plus a growing, comprehensive alphabetical Resources tab on the site’s homepage.
  • Direct link(s) to journalistic article(s), broadcast(s), and other materials where relevant and useful.
  • Selection from a range of journalism outlets, where relevant including shared rationale for how/why they are (or aren’t) selected.
  • Strong preference for published content that cites primary sources by original reporting/research.
  • Material quoting unnamed sources 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.
  • Some ideas and 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.
  • A factual basis for ideas being argued or discussed, including known facts about the theoretical orientation of information sources.
  • 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 the newShrink.net blog site is primarily a research-and-development tool for the author’s ongoing scholarly research and writing, there is limited time and opportunity for discussion in this venue. Please follow the newShrink Facebook page and direct comments, reaction, and discussion there.
  • 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. The newShrink process is not about medical or psychiatric diagnoses, prognoses, or prescriptions.


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 The development of personality. 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. 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.


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.”