I just finished re-watching the sixth episode of the first season of the original Star Trek (if you count the pilot.) It does a fair job of illustrating the basics regarding the dangers of non-acceptance and non-integration of the shadow-self with the persona. These are terms Carl Jung used largely to replace Freud’s terms, “conscious” and “subconscious.” (The persona being the self we tend to show the world- often our “best” attributes- while the shadow-self is largely unconscious and comprised of aspects of ourselves that society, culture or family have told us are “bad.”) If explored, accepted and integrated the shadow-self provides us with much of our creative energy and power. In this particular episode, an alter ego of Kirk is sent back with the original Kirk to the SS Enterprise when the transporter malfunctions. Continue reading
For many years I have been speaking to the increasing shift in traditional gender roles and the ways in which this shift is altering the power differential between the sexes. In my practice, I see these changes manifest in a variety of new and interesting ways, both adaptive and maladaptive. My work is primarily with men and this latest New York Times article gives a comprehensive overview of the very real and immediate need to foster and accept emotional vulnerability in men for the sake of their health and success.
“Last semester, a student in the masculinity course I teach showed a video clip she had found online of a toddler getting what appeared to be his first vaccinations. Off camera, we hear his father’s voice. “I’ll hold your hand, O.K.?” Then, as his son becomes increasingly agitated: “Don’t cry!… Aw, big boy! High five, high five! Say you’re a man: “I’m a man!”
Our lives and careers are filled with examples of inauthentic behavior. We feign interest in meetings or laugh at our boss’s bad jokes in order to be positive team members, build relationships, and accomplish shared goals. This is how we get along—and it is how some of us get ahead.
Anger is a topic that comes up a lot in conversation with my clients. Specifically, the concern around the inability to effectively express anger is what comes up. It’s a question of not being able to express anger and frustration at all until it reaches the level of blind rage at which point it comes out in all manner of destructive ways. Or at least there’s a fear that expressing anger at ALL will result in irreparable damage. The image that comes to mind is one of a pressure cooker without a safety valve. It eventually just blows.
I have to confess, as much as I like to pride myself on being pretty straightforward even in the face of conflict, I often find myself at a loss as to how to express negative feelings to those around me. Continue reading
Of all the books I have read recently, these are my favorites.
What I liked most about Coming Apart is the author’s framing of “failed” relationships not as failures but as developmental tools which promote growth and awareness.
Patience, kindness and the simple act of our LISTENING can mean the difference between unbearable suffering and a life worth living for many people around us. In listening to this episode of This American Life recently, I was struck by the positive transformation of an adopted child diagnosed with an attachment disorder that was likely the result of abuse or neglect as an infant.
I came across this article on shame by Robert Karen in the bibliography of a presentation on narcissistic wounding and the part it plays in addiction. In his article, Karen includes the historical and social aspects of shame as well as the individual experience. He draws a distinction between “normal” and “pathological” shame. “Pathological shame is an irrational sense of defectiveness, a feeling not of having crossed the boundary but of having been born there.”
Karen Horney’s book is like a road map of the human psyche, detailing the ways in which we compensate for damage to the self. Her explanation of avoidance, which I’ve included below, is probably the best I’ve come across. It can apply to work, relationships, social situations and thoughts and can go unrecognized or be felt as life threatening as in the case of phobias. I recommend this book to both clients and colleagues.
Emotional pain can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some of the more familiar are depression, addiction, anxiety and anger. I am addressing the topic of anger because, like addiction, it can mask shame, vulnerability and depression and, because it presents as the polar opposite of these issues, it is often viewed, and dealt with, as something else entirely. Continue reading