10 November 2013

The other day I was sitting in my car overlooking Venice Beach, awaiting a meet-up with old friends.  I was early so I sat in my car and watched the ocean.  While watching, I saw a lot, there were families and tourists enjoying the water and the pier, beautiful waves, lots of birds…and there were two young homeless men who were screaming at each other, jumping around, and inches from a fist fight for over half an hour.

Summerland beach, new year's day 2013I sat boxed in my car, windows up mostly because of the chill in the wind.  The trashcan on the beach near me was checked at least every ten minutes for cash-value recyclables.  When I saw how many people checked the can, I was surprised; but it was when the relatively well-dressed man, the one in running shorts and shoes much like the ones I wear, when he checked the can, that is when I noticed my alarm at my surroundings.  Until that moment I didn’t feel connected to where I was, I was simply an observer.  Somehow the similarity, that I perceived in the man with the running gear to myself, stirred in me, or rather woke me up to, the feelings of how close I was to danger.  The glass windows of my car were all that separated me from this outside world, of Venice Beach, whose harshness was revealing itself in greater magnitude the more I looked at what I saw.

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Pet Therapy

1 October 2010

First of all, you may be wondering, what is pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy?  It is any kind of therapy that includes the addition of a pet to further facilitate healing.  There are many, many organizations that include pets as part of the therapy team such as hospitals, youth centers, and nursing homes, and most of them work with agencies that certify the animals such as Therapy Dogs International, the Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association (EAGALA), and the Delta Society to name a few.

The field of pets as therapists is really expanding, for example dogs can be trained to smell cancer and other forms of tumors and recently Psychiatric Service Dog Society, a newly formed organization to focus specifically on how dogs can support the mental health of humans, has worked with dogs trained to alert their owners to hypomanic episodes (the symptom experienced by people with bipolar illness that is the opposite of the depression and can have serious consequences).

Studies have been done to show that interaction with a pet can alleviate anxiety, increase survival rates for heart attack victims, reduce blood pressure, and increase self-esteem (I read this in Marc Bekoff’s, The Emotional Lives of Animals, but these studies are widely available).

As you have likely experienced, there is a lot happening in the field of interaction, or “Space” as I discussed in my last blog, between you and the animal, and in my opinion there are probably lots of connections occurring between the right-brains (that part of the brain that processes nonverbal communication among others things) of each. continue reading »

The Space

24 September 2010

What is happening in the space between two people?

This is one of the psychological topics which fascinates me the most.  It is of interest to the field of psychology because as you can imagine, and likely have experienced, that space is where interactions occur and therein lies the material for all of our life experiences, where we find love, pain, happiness, sadness, where we project our fears and realize our dreams.  The “space” between me and another, or for that matter me and my dreams, is where life really happens.  And as such, this space has been marveled at long before the invention of psychology and many poets, composers, and visual artists can evoke a sense of it better than any psychology construct will ever decipher.

Yet, it still bears understanding in psychological terms.  One psychologist, D.W. Winnicott, called it Potential Space, so named because the first experience of that space is between mother and child and within it the child’s ‘potential’ can be realized.  Another, a Jungian Analyst named Nathan Schwartz-Salant, calls it the Interactive Field.

Schwartz-Salant said that between two people there can be a “union” that is “characterized by the creation of something new that is often only glimpsed” by the participants and experienced as a “fleeting” moment where one can feel that space and time have been “suspended” for the moment because a “sense of expansiveness had appeared.”  Wow!  What a place this potential space, or interactive field, is, where I can I find it? continue reading »


18 September 2010

You cannot listen to the news these days, or pick up the phone and talk with a friend and not hear about endings.  From natural disasters to personal losses of loved ones, to an unusually high national unemployment rate, it seems that everywhere I turn I am hearing about (or discussing my own) endings.  I suppose this is always true, but to me it seems much more prevalent than it ever has before.  Perhaps I am maturing, perhaps there is something going on globally, perhaps both of those and more.

There is pain associated with endings, and one of my favorite quotes from the movie, The Princess Bride, explains it well:

“Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something”

I have spent many years with this quote, or ones like it, trying to decipher the hidden message within it that would make it all OK, that would take the sting out of this statement, something that I could think about, if only I could understand it better, to make it make sense.  All the while I was asking my head to process it, to guard against it with rational thought because I was afraid it was too painful for my heart to feel. continue reading »

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Travelin’ Notes

29 January 2010

One of my favorite things to do is to travel.  I like traveling abroad, I travel for work and for school, I even take a wrong turn intentionally sometimes to travel around other neighborhoods near my home.  And my navigational skills are such that I often take wrong turns unintentionally, too.  So I have lots of opportunities to feel like I do not know exactly where I am or which steps to take next.  I like the way it feels to be rushed into the moment per setravel, with mundane questions such as ‘am I traveling in a direction that takes me ultimately where I would like to be?’  What I mean by “rushed into the moment” is that at that moment, the moment of making a decision while traveling, many other things to think about fall away and I am stuck in the primacy of staring up at a street sign, or walking down a corridor in a train station.  All the meaning of life questions, urgent priorities, mistakes and regrets, aspirations and plans take a back seat to the immediate need of determining a next move.  That is what I like about traveling. continue reading »

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Roads, and their Travelers

25 October 2009


Two roads diverged in a yellow woodroads

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet, knowing how way leads onto way

I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence

Two roads diverged in a wood

And I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference

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A Stone’s Throw

11 October 2009

Emerging monarch To me, it always seems like there are times when we want change, and times when we don’t, and yet often those two timeframes coincide more than we think.  As a child I used to get terribly frustrated with the local news anchors who would complain to the weatherman, “Larry, when is it going to warm up for spring?”  And it seemed like not two weeks later those same anchors would say, “Larry, it’s too hot!  When is it going to cool down?”  The weather is just one thing that isn’t predictable, and I suppose that is where sayings arise such as, “The only sure things in life are death and taxes.”  But, there must be more than death and taxes, mustn’t there?  As humans, we are fascinated with the loss and gain of things.  All the way back to Greece there were plays and now we have movies of course, mostly concerned with the loss and gain of love, fortune, life, health, soul- you name it, you can find an audience who is interested in knowing whether it is lost or gained.  And, the reason we are so curious is because the struggle is something we all face, and so the watching of the saga unfold time and time again somehow doesn’t get old.

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Re-Invent, with Music

7 October 2009
Regensburg: Walhalla: Ludwig van Beethoven
Image by bill barber (very sporadic) via Flickr

Where does that inner wellspring of creativity live and how can one touch it? In continuing on with our interview of Dr. Allen Bishop, I’d like to discuss his views of how music can become a way for getting in touch with one’s internal essence, or beauty.

Dr. Bishop stated about the way children develop through music and art offerings in school, “mainly it’s a vehicle for developing your interiority, and not your external, social, compliant self.”

He explained his views on how music can be therapeutic personally by giving the example of Beethoven’s transformation. “I’ve used music as a therapeutic modality for myself at different points in my life. I use Beethoven as a model of an individual who has triumphed over adversity and some limitations. Also an individual who shows us that, as Bion says, is always possible to bring beauty to difficult circumstances. Beethoven brought the energy of his deafness in 1802 in the midst of suicide and depression, to reinvent himself. As a composer and musician, his greatest music emerged out of that struggle. I think he points to a kind of a psychology based on a certain kind of acceptance, or what he would call, resignation. He had to resign himself to this loss. Once he could do that, then all the energy was freed and came back in this beautiful way. I think that’s what human beings have to do.”
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Can You Hear It?

7 October 2009
Vincent Van Gogh (1854 1890)
Image via Wikipedia

As Rashin mentioned, we recently interviewed Dr. Allen Bishop, who is one of our professors at Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as a musician.  Further in the interview (from what is written in Rashin’s post last week), we discussed the archetypal qualities of music.  By using the term archetypal in this way, we’re talking about things are universal in human experience- not only across cultures, but also across time.  Jung used the archetype term to describe a pattern of human experience that is consistent.  For example, there are some events like love, loss, birth, death that we all experience at some point.  When we experience these events, we feel a connection to a larger human realm.  For example, new mothers often report a feeling of being connected to all mothers, to motherhood, to the Great Mother, Mother Earth, etc.  In Jungian psychology, we call this the mother archetype and regardless of gender, each human will typically have an experience of it.

With Dr. Bishop we discussed how music can be a form of an invitation to that archetypal, mysterious experience that somehow invokes a desire for connection, and yet it is difficult to articulate why this is so.  We discussed how in making music, composers create a gateway to this experience.  In our discussion we started talking about those pieces of music that transcend time, and wondering about the composers who created them. continue reading »

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Spring Bear

7 October 2009

With all this talk of Spring Cleaning, I just would rather hibernate.  I think bears have a good idea to skip the whole winter wonderland and just sleep for months at a time.  Can you imagine eating so much that you wouldn’t need to eat for a few MONTHS?  What an amazing process.

In some sense, the bear’s symbol is related to Artemis, the Goddess of the Moon.  As such, the bear is associated with lunar qualities, and as a result of its magnificent strength and lethal capabilities, Carl Jung connects the symbol of the bear with the dangerous side of the unconscious.  Note: these symbol associations are from the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. continue reading »