Welcome to Psychotherapy & Culture

Welcome to what I hope will be an informative, stimulating, and possibly even provocative series of exchanges about the relationship between psychotherapy and culture. My intention is to provide background to this topic, along with reviews of books, films, and other representations of the way psychotherapy impacts culture and culture – in turn- impacts psychotherapy – particularly in the U.S. I will be including some of my own experiences as both an anthropologist and a psychotherapist. I will also be including some interviews I have done with a number of leading psychotherapists throughout the world. I will be investigating and interrogating a variety of different psychotherapy “tribes” and “lineages”, such as psychoanalysis , cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, Jungian depth psychotherapy, humanistic and existential psychotherapy, as well as a number of indigenous therapies in other cultures. I invite you to comment on my posts. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you.

Robert McAndrews, Ph.D.



I will be posting occasional reviews of books, articles, films and television programs about psychotherapy. These reviews will be in random order and not in time sequence – in other words, some reviews will be about books from many years ago, while others will be very current. An example of a current review will be of the book by Catherine Clay (2016), “Labyrinths: Emma Jung, Her Marriage to Carl, and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis”.



During the last 25 years I have interviewed more than forty leading psychotherapists around the world. I will be sharing parts of these interviews along with some of my commentary. I contacted each therapist ahead of my arrival for the interview with a summary of the three essential questions I would be asking them. So they were somewhat prepared in advance with the direction  the interview might take. Of course there were follow-up questions and some of my interviews were more like dialogues or conversations than straight interviews. The three essential questions were: 1) What were your background influences in your decision to become a psychotherapist and develop your particular approaches and contributions to psychotherapy?

2) How would you describe the distinctions between what you have developed and written about from any other approaches to psychotherapy?

3) What do you anticipate your legacy to be? How might your work be continued and who might be your heirs? Also, what do you believe will be the future of psychotherapy?

I have included in this post a list of the therapist I interviewed. I will share parts of the interviews in future posts.

Voices of the Elders in Psychotherapy


Jung and His Contributions: Part Three

The Collective Unconscious

My previous post considered the influence of Jung’s concepts of psychological types, animus and anima, and archetypes. Underpinning each of these concepts, particularly archetypes, is his concept of the collective unconscious. This is how Jung explains the distinction between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious in “Four Archetypes” (1973):

“A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal. I call it the ‘personal unconscious’. But this personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the ‘collective unconscious’. I have chosen the term ‘collective’ because this part of the conscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals.” (pg.3) “The contents of the personal unconscious are chiefly the feeling-toned complexes, as they are called; they constitute the personal and private side of psychic life. The contents of the collective unconscious, on the other hand, are known as archetypes.”(p.4)

Jolande Jacobi, in “The Way of Individuation” (1967) explains Jung’s notions of personal and collective unconscious: “He distinguishes the ‘personal unconscious’, whose contents are ontogenetically acquired, and the ‘collective unconscious’, whose contents are derived from phylogenesis. These latter are specifically human, typical modes of action and reaction, irrepresentable propensities which he terms ‘archetypes’. They become perceptible to consciousness under definite constellations in the form of archetypal images, symbols, or processes. On the one hand they are ‘reflections’ of the instincts, on the other they express ideations. Hence Jung distinguishes between the non-perceptible archetype per se and the perceptible archetypal image. The ego is conditioned not only by the unconscious psyche but also very largely by the ‘collective consciousness’. By this term Jung means the sum total of traditions, conventions, customs, prejudices, rules, and norms of the environment in which the individual lives, and the spirit of the age by which he is influenced.” (p.150)

My own take on Jung’s and Jacobi’s descriptions is that we are aware of the existence and contents of our personal unconscious but if there is such a thing as a “collective unconscious”, it is an “irrepresentable propensity” – an “archetype”, and it is “non-perceptible”. What we may experience of the collective unconscious or archetypes are tracings or symbolic representations (ideas, images). We then extrapolate or interpret these tracings as signs indicating that they do indeed come from a universal source. This notion links Jung’s research into alchemy to his ideas about transformation and individuation. While Toni Wolff warned Jung not to move deeply into alchemy, he obviously ignored her warning. She believed he was leaving science and becoming more occultist. This was, of course, what Freud had warned of. I suspect that some of the attraction to Jung’s ideas has to do with the “spiritual” flavor of his investigation into alchemy and the collective unconscious, though Jung himself did not claim a particular creation designer. Jung was an indefatigable investigator of the unknown. He was willing to risk his reputation as a scientist to dive deeply into the occult.

In my research about the human journey process, I identified representations of individual journeys through mythology, literature, films, memoirs, spiritual quests, travel journals, anthropological ethnographies, and these representations followed a definite pattern – one which elaborated the basic departure-initiation-return pattern identified in Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces”. This pattern could be a “non-perceptible archetype”. Only the tracings or representations are perceptible. The relationship Jung saw between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious, I saw in the individual journey pattern and the “universal” journey pattern. The individual is the synchronic and the universal is the diachronic. The individual “hero’s journey” plays out the universal pattern , but with individual and particular style.


I believe Jung’s ideas about the individuation process may be among his most significant contributions. A complete explanation of what Jung intended with his conception of the individuation process would likely include some explanation of many of his other concepts, such as archetypes, the personal and collective unconscious, anima and animus, the function of the shadow. Jolande Jacobi (1967) explains the core of what Jung intended with his development of the individuation process:

“When Jung speaks of an individuation process that characterizes a possibility of development immanent in everyone and that culminates in rounding out the individual into a psychic whole, his conception, though following the same line as other philosophical definitions, is both broader and deeper, since it takes account not only of the conscious but also the unconscious components of the psyche in their delicately balanced and creative interaction with the conscious mind.”(p.13.) In her chapter on “The Two Kinds of Individuation”, Jacobi says: “Fundamentally, individuation is a natural process immanent in every living organism. The individuation process can either take place unconsciously, or it can be made conscious in various ways and brought to a high degree of differentiation. It goes without saying that there are any number of intermediate stages. Two main forms may be distinguished:

  1. The natural process, occurring more or less autonomously and without the participation of consciousness, and
  2. The ‘artificial’ process, aided for instance by analysis, developed by definite methods, and consciously experienced.

In both forms the same power is at work, striving for maturation and self-realization from the seed to the fruit, to the invisible goal immanent within them. But the two forms are as different as, say, a wild fruit and a highly cultivated one. In the first case everything is left to the natural process; in the second, this is assisted, intensified, and consciously realized by the application of a special technique”. (p.15)

Two main phases of the individuation process:

Both the “natural” and the “artificial” variants are divided into two main phases, essentially the first half and second half of each person’s life. While this is to some extent arbitrary, Jacobi (1967) states, “their duration, the kind of task that has to be solved in them, and the depth and intensity of the experience vary with each individual.”(p.21) While most developmental psychology theories focus on the first half of life, Jung was particularly interested in the transition from the first phase to the second and how one can shape the second half of their lives.

Possible stages in the individuation process:

While there are a number of sources which refer to “stages” in the individuation process, it is not clear to me that Jung mapped specific stages and even though Jacobi titles a chapter, “Stages” in her book (1967), I was hard pressed to notice any clearly delineated stages. Jacobi refers to “four functions of consciousness” These are the ones I mentioned in my post on psychological types: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. She refers to the two attitudes , also mentioned in my previous post: introversion and extroversion. She argues that the development of the relationship between the attitudes and the functions is part of a natural process and acts as criteria for “the successful course of the individuation process.”(P.37) A possible first stage would then be the shaping of “persona”. “By ‘persona’ Jung means that segment of the ego which is connected with relations to the surrounding world.” (p.37) Jacobi says, “An elastic persona that ‘fits well’ belongs to the psychic wardrobe of the adult man, and its lack or its rigidity is an indication of psychic maldevelopment.” (p.37) She warns about a danger in over identifying with one’s persona, such as a professor with his textbooks or a general with his rank. In relating the functions, attitudes and persona, Jacobi says, “The development and differentiation of the predominant ‘attitude’ and main ‘function’ as well as the persona generally go hand in hand with experiences and conflicts which are indispensable for the maturation of the psyche.”(p.37)

A possible second “stage” could be the “shadow”. Jacobi says, “The shadow is the sum of all the qualities conforming to our sex that were neglected or rejected while the ego was being built up. The growth of the shadow, like that of the persona, keeps pace with that of the ego; it is, as it were, the ego’s mirror-image, and is compounded partly or repressed, partly of unlived psychic features which, for moral, social, educational, or other reasons, were from the outset excluded from consciousness and from active participation in life and were therefore repressed or split off. Accordingly the shadow can be marked by both positive and negative qualities.”(p.38) According to Jung there is a personal shadow and a collective shadow. Working through shadow content in mythology and dreams is part of the individuating process. Jacobi says: “Conscious realization of the shadow, the disclosure of its qualities, and the integration of its contents always have a therapeutic effect because this is a step on the way towards man’s wholeness.” (p.40)

Along with working with shadow material a possible third “stage” in the individuation process may be encountering and working with one’s anima or animus. Jacobi says: “one of the main tasks of the second phase of the individuation process is a confrontation with the unconscious feminine features of the man, which Jung calls the ‘anima’, or with the unconscious features of the woman, the ‘animus’. Both are archetypal powers and besides personal elements also contain collective ones. Being so constituted they form the natural bridge to the deepest layers of the psyche.” (p.44) The figures of anima and animus are projected on persons, such as mothers and fathers, and also in dreams and fantasies. Jacobi says: “In the first half of life it is natural and logical that these intrapsychic figures should appear in projection and that we are thus attracted to the men and women who are their carriers, and fall in love with them. It is the task of the second half of life to withdraw the projections. It belongs to the second phase of the individuation process, when a man must learn to stand by himself, to discover the contrasexual element in himself and to fecundate it, thus rounding out his personality without impairing for relationship as such..”(p.45)

If there is a fourth “stage”, it is likely when the ego has been strengthened sufficiently through the previous “stages” to be able to confront the “Self”. The term “self” or “Self” is, of course, loaded with every psychologist’s, philosopher’s, and religious theorist’s interpretation. I may delve deeply into this in a future post, but for now, Jung’s notion of “Self” is seen as the objective of the individuation journey. Jacobi says, “The confrontation with the shadow and its integration must always be achieved first in the individuation process in order to strengthen the ego for further laps in the journey and for the crucial encounter with the Self.” (p.47) Further, “The aim of the individuation process is a synthesis of all partial aspects of the conscious and unconscious psyche. It seems to point to an ultimately unknowable, transcendent ‘centre’ of the personality, which – paradoxically – is at the same time its periphery – and is of the’ highest intensity’, possessing an extraordinary power of irradiation. The centre and periphery Jung calls the ‘Self’, and he terms it the origin and fulfillment of the ego.” (p.49) “The Self is always there, it is the central, archetypal, structural element of the psyche, operating in us from the beginning as the organizer and director of the psychic processes. It’s ‘a priori’ teleological character, it’s striving to realize an aim, exist even without the participation of consciousness.”(p.50)

In addition to Jacobi’s explanations and interpretations of what Jung intended by the individuation process, I found Elie Humbert’s explanations in his “C.G.Jung” (1984) to be the clearest of all I surveyed. He says, “Individuation can then be seen as an unconscious process that underlies the flow of life and is transformed when it becomes conscious, that is , in Jung’s view, when the ego experiences the collective unconscious. The ego experiences the collective unconscious when it encounters the shadow or when the anima and the animus are differentiated from the external images upon which they were originally projected. Individuation always takes the form of a conflict by which the subject is transformed. Individuation presupposes that the ego has recognized and come to terms with the unconscious center of the personality. Jung was referring to that center when he used the phrase ‘being whole’. Wholeness results from the coordination of the ego with the Self, whatever may be the subject’s wounds and lacks.”(p.117). Humbert continues, “The individuating psyche is indivisible -that is, integrated – because it holds opposites together. the psyche becomes more itself by becoming more centered, but it does so without isolating itself from others. The differentiation of the individual from the collective, in the sense that the differentiation was defined by Jung, connects human beings to their environment rather than severing them from it. Individuation is the opposite of individualism.” (p.118)

There are obvious parallels between explanations of the individuation process and the journey process, as depicted in my own research. Jacobi says, “not for nothing is the individuation process said to be an analogy of the ‘quest of the hero’, or the dangers which he must overcome before he can gain the king’s throne.” (p.47) The hero journeyer in mythology sets out to discover new territory or accomplish some challenging objective, such as defeating an enemy or finding a cosmic egg. A successful journey will likely result in a personal transformation, and include a boon or reward which can be shared with his community upon his return. The boon, be it a cosmic egg or holy grail, is analogous to wisdom or knowledge.

According to Jung, Jacobi, and Humbert, a successful individuation process will include a “departure” from one’s ordinary existence by beginning to grapple with one’s persona, anima or animus, shadow material, and whatever one’s unconscious offers up. This long struggle phase might be considered the “initiation”. Once the ego has “recognized and come to terms with the unconscious center of the personality” the “subject is transformed”, and becomes whole, and the “return” phase is accomplished. The individuation process can occur “naturally” (and unconsciously) or “artificially” (via analysis and consciously). The questing journey can also occur unconsciously and unintentionally or with obvious conscious intention. Jung himself has characterized his own individuation process as something like a hero’s journey, which included his diving deeply into his own unconscious and dream material and involving an emotional breakdown as part of his “initiation” and his arrival-return as the maturing of his ego and Self encounter.

Jung and His Contributions: Part Two

“Americans are Jung and Easily Freudened” – James Joyce

“Americans Are Afreud and Want to be Jung Again” – Robert McAndrews

Carl Jung’s ideas have been considerably more influential than those of any other followers of Freud. Alfred Adler was the first follower to split with Freud and his influence has continued to some extent, both directly with Adlerian psychology and psychotherapy, but also indirectly through some of family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. I will cover this later when I post about Adler. Other significant early followers include Sandor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, Hans Sachs, Ernest Jones, Otto Rank, none of whom have left much of a lasting influence. Anna Freud, who would also be considered a follower of her father’s theories and practices, was likely the most influential after Jung. Jung’s early research with psychological types and his interests in parapsychology, mythology and alchemy stimulated his thinking beyond his commitment to Freud’s sexual libido theory.

Psychological Types

While Jung sought ways to organize his understandings of symbols he encountered in dreams of patients and his own dreams, and his research into myths and religions of the world, he also was aware of the ways any of his category constructions could be misunderstood and /or taken as easy and simple ways to characterize and identify people and their behavior patterns. He made specific cautionary comments in some of his late writings, particularly in the Introductory chapter in “Man and His Symbols” (1972 ) which includes essays by several other key followers of Jung, and he edited, and which was intended for a general audience.

Nevertheless, Jung’s terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, as well as ‘anima’ and ‘animus’, and ‘archetypes’ have become widely incorporated into almost everyday language around the world, much as Freud’s terms ‘ego’, ‘id’, ‘superego’ have become our universal reference to self dynamics. Jung wrote his book, “Psychological Types” in 1921. His typology developed over some years through exchanges with his friend Hans Schmid and Sabina Spielrein, with whom he also had an intimate relationship. Bair (2004) says: “Jung saved his own typology for the last chapter, which comprised the final 150 pages or so of his text. To the ‘attitudes’ of introvert and extravert, he added four further differentiations called functions. To ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking’ he now adopted Schmid’s and Toni Wolff’s suggestions and gave equal status to ‘intuition’ and ‘sensation’. Feeling and thinking he grouped under the rubric ‘rational’ while sensation and feeling became ‘non rational’. Two attitudes and four functions thus permitted a grand total of eight possible psychological types. In the years following the 1921 publication,Jung was asked repeatedly why had proposed a system composed of two types, four functions, and eight possible types. ‘That there are exactly four is a matter of empirical fact’ was his consistent response.” (pgs. 287-288)

This response of Jung suggests that he has assumed some scientific credibility of the categories he has developed, yet my own critique of our tendency to classify people into types, which I will mention below, is actually echoed by Jung in this statement by Bair(2004 ): “Few persons, it seemed, read the book as Jung intended. By the time it had gone through multiple printings in many languages, he felt compelled to address the ‘regrettable misunderstanding’ that had turned the book into ‘nothing but a childish parlour game’. He complained that even within the medical profession his typology was used to slot patients into his system and give them corresponding ‘advice’. He insisted that his ‘typology is not in any sense to stick labels on people on first sight: it is not physiognomy and not an anthropological system, but a critical psychology dealing with the organization and delimitation of psychic processes that can be shown to be typical'”. (p.288) “Nothing but a childish parlour game”. This has, indeed, been part of the legacy of Jung’s typology terms. We casually refer to others as extroverts and introverts as if there was some credibility in these characterizations. My own concern about any kind of psychological typing, to include the diagnostic labels in the DSM, is that the process reinforces our inclination to fix others with particular characteristics and identify them only with these characteristics. Jung characterized himself as an introvert and he characterized Freud as an extravert, yet they were likely both in some combination – as are many people. Jung added thinking, feeling, intuition, sensation as “functions” possibly to give more flexibility and breadth to introversion and extraversion, but these function terms simply multiply the tendency to fix people in more categories. An example of the kind of influence Jung’s typology has had would be the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was constructed as an adaptation of his typology and has been employed in various organizations as a tool for enhancing psychological insights. My position is that all humans express all of these characteristics( thinking, feeling, intuition and sensation) and we express them to varying degrees and rates at various times under various contextual situations. A typology of any kind does not capture context, duration, or variations in circumstances. I suspect that Jung might agree with me on this.

Anima and Animus

I can be accused of using anima and animus rather loosely to refer to female and male energy or female and male principles or elements. According to Jung we each have both anima and animus elements. As he wrote in “Man and His Symbols” (1972): “In the Middle Ages, long before the physiologists demonstrated that by reason of our glandular structure there are both male and female elements in all of us, it was said that ‘every man carries a woman within himself’. It is this female element in every male that I have called the ‘anima’ (p.16). And likewise, Jung refers to the male element in every female as the ‘animus’. Marie Louise von Franz devotes chapter three in “Man and his Symbols”, about the individuation process, to analyzing the dynamics of anima and animus through the unconscious processes via dreams and mythology. She states: “The male personification of the unconscious in woman – the animus- exhibits both good and bad aspects, as does the anima in man” (p.198). von Franz borrows images and stories primarily from Western mythologies to identify what I consider rather stereotypical characteristics of female and male personalities and behaviors, according to standard cultural constructs. None of these characteristics are necessarily based in biology. The various symbols of anima and animus as interpreted in dreams by an analytic psychotherapist may assist in a depth therapy process, but otherwise the utility of these abstract types is limited.


Story: A number of years ago I was giving a talk to a Jung Society group in Colorado about the Hero Monomyth and male journeys. I discussed the hero’s journey as an archetype and went on to say that archetypes were abstract concepts. Quite a number of people in the audience were extremely upset with my characterization and argued that archetypes were actual “things”, as if Jung had “discovered” them and not “invented” them. It was not clear to me at the time why they believed this and I was not familiar enough with what Jung actually had written about archetypes. I have since come to realize that some followers of Jung’s writings have treated them as biblical and they have interpreted certain terms and concepts in a doctrinaire fashion. This is what Jung says in “Man and His Symbols”(1972):

“My views about the ‘archaic remnants’, which I call ‘archetypes’ or ‘primordial images’, have been constantly criticized by people who lack a sufficient knowledge of the psychology of dreams and mythology. The term ‘archetype’ is often misunderstood as meaning certain definite mythological images or motifs. But these are nothing more than conscious representations; it would be absurd to assume that such variable representations could be inherited. The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif – representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern. My critics have incorrectly assumed that I am dealing with ‘inherited representations’, and on that ground they have dismissed the idea of the archetype as mere superstition.” (pgs. 57-58) Further on he says: “Here I must clarify the relation between instincts and archetypes: what we properly call instincts are physiological urges, and are perceived by the senses. but at the same time, they also manifest themselves in fantasies and often reveal their presence only by symbolic images. These manifestations are what I call archetypes. they are without known origin; and they reproduce themselves in any time or in any part of the world – even where transmission by direct descent or ‘cross-fertilization’ through migration must be ruled out.” (p.58)

Jung has written other descriptions/ definitions of archetypes elsewhere, but since this quote is from the essay chapter he wrote in the last year of his life, I believe it best represents his thinking. I believe he is stating that archetypes are symbolic representations of universal human motifs or themes and can be manifested through dreams, mythologies, fairytales, and so on. Themes such as the child or wise old man or wise old woman or the hero’s journey are found universally, because all cultures have certain essential experiences. Fathers and mothers and the roles of fathers and mothers, as well as children and other human relationships are at base universal and the representations and metaphorical images can be found throughout history and across all cultures. These representations can be understood as archetypes. Perhaps some confusion arises when Jung states that archetypes are “at the same time both images and emotions” and he further explains in “Man and His Symbols” (1972), “But since so many people have chosen to treat archetypes as if they were part of a mechanical system that can be learned by rote, it is essential to insist that they are not mere names, or even philosophical concepts. They are pieces of life itself – images that are integrally connected to the living individual by the bridge of the emotions. That is why it is impossible to give an arbitrary (or universal) interpretation of any archetype. It must be explained in the manner indicated bu the whole-life situation of the particular individual to whom it relates.”(p.89). Jung seems to be saying that archetypes are not simply symbolic representations or images – that these images are directly connected to essential human experiences and that they are expressed individually, though within a “collective” context. I have thought of this as a synchronic event within a diachronic frame. In my own analyses of the hero’s journey (as an archetype), I identified a journey pattern which seems universal in form, yet individualized in expression or manifestation.

Jung wrote “Four Archetypes: Mother/Rebirth/Spirit/Trickster “(1973), (taken from his 1934 paper, “Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious”), in which he summarizes his thinking about archetypes and the collective unconscious. Since his notions about archetypes are directly connected to his ideas about the personal and collective unconscious, I will take this up in my next post.

“Jung: A Biography”(2004) by Deidre Bair

I have wanted to begin some posts on the life and theories and practice of Carl G. Jung for some time, and decided to begin with what may be considered the most thorough and balanced biography by Deidre Bair. While she is not a psychotherapist or analyst, she has won awards for her biographies of Samuel Beckett, Anais Nin, and Simone de Beauvoir. I will refer to some other biographies and Jung’s inimitable autobiography, “Memories, Dreams and Reflections” , as I consider the life and theoretical ideas of Jung as represented by Bair.

Bair addresses fairly the most controversial aspects of Jung’s career and life, particularly his break from Freud, his role in possible support for the Nazis and anti-semitism, and his relationship with Toni Wolff, while not allowing these topics to dominate her treatment of Jung’s ideas and contributions.

Some other biographies and books about Jung’s ideas which I may refer to briefly are: Jolande Jacobi’s ” The Way of Individuation”(1967); Colin Wilson’s “Jung: Lord of the Underworld” (1988); June Singer’s “Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology” (1973); Richard Noll’s “The Jung Cult”(1997); Don McGowan’s “What is Wrong with Jung” (1994; and “Lingering Shadows: Jungians, Freudians, and Anti-Semitism”( 1991), edited by Aryeh Maidenbaum and Stephen A. Martin.

I do not intend to survey a series of biographies of Jung as I did with biographies of Freud, but I have noticed that a similar phenomenon which I referred to as “who’s or whose Freud?” is also evident regarding biographies of Jung. A few biographies tilt toward hagiography, while a few , such as Noll’s and McGowan’s tilt toward “Jung bashing”. Bair’s treatment is basically a favorable one and her explanations of Jung’s more controversial ideas or behavior can at times seem too protective of Jung’s reputation.

I am not particularly interested in Jung’s and Emma’s relationship with Toni Wolff other than the fact that their arrangement of an informal polygyny was particularly unusual during their era and relied on Emma’s incredible forbearance. Toni Wolff may be worthy of her own biography, as she was also a successful analyst. And I posted a brief review of Catrine Clay’s biography of Emma Jung, who was also a successful analyst as well as wife to Carl and mother of his children.

I am also only moderately interested in Jung’s supposed anti-semitism and involvement with the Nazi party. Much has been written about this already and there is not a clear cut case to be made. I will comment about this later. I am most interested in what distinguishes Jung’s analytic psychotherapy from Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and approach and how Jung’s ideas have influenced others and evolved over time. Some of Jung’s ideas which seem to have continued to influence other analytical psychology advocates and which set him apart from other theorists are: the collective unconscious, psychological types, the influence of archetypes, synchronicity, anima and animus, individuation, and active imagination. I have commented elsewhere that I have observed a few different groups of Jungian “followers”. There have been a number of mostly women who were part of the Jungian inner circle (the Psychological Club): Toni Wolff, Jolande Jacobi, Marie-Louise von Franz, M.Esther Harding, Barbara Hannah, Aneila Jaffe, and Emma Jung. There were also those who formed the Jung Institute for education and training in Zurich, as well as the many Jungian analysts throughout the world, many of whom were trained at the Jung Institute. There are also a considerable number of Jung Society groups around the world. These are not typically analysts, but people who are interested in Jung’s ideas. Many of these groups meet and discuss ideas from Jung’s Collected Works. Some of this is the topic of Noll’s “The Jung Cult”.

I am also interested in Jung’s ideas about narcissism and how his ideas may be similar in some respects to those of Heinz Kohut’s. For this I will be referring to Mario Jacoby’s excellent “Individuation and Narcissism: The Psychology of Self in Jung and Kohut”(1991). This will likely act as a segue to a review of Charles B. Strozier’s biography of Kohut, “Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst”(2001).

Bair treated each of the ideas Jung innovated within analytic psychotherapy in an adequate manner. Her attention to some events, such as the evolution of Jung’s “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”(1961) and the various interpersonal conflicts around it’s development and eventual publication seemed to me to be obsessive. For me the most important part of the story is Jung’s struggles in the process and the significant role played by Aniela Jaffe, who is listed in the publication as “secretary, collaborator, editor”.

Regarding Jung’s split from Freud, most sources, including Bair report the rationales given by Jung which he wrote about in “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”(1961), in the chapter, “Sigmund Freud”. Jung wrote much of this memoir during his 81st year, so his memory of the details and even his unconscious reshaping of his rationale may be questioned. Nevertheless, Jung justified his split based on his need to have his own independent theoretical freedom and because he had challenged for some time, and on several public occasions, Freud’s insistence on the sexual libido drive theory. Freud had earlier asked Jung not to “abandon” the libido drive theory and this caused some internal turmoil for Jung, because he was still somewhat in awe of Freud. The split with Freud definitely affected Jung strongly for years, and I detect in reading “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” that it continued to affect him all his life. In the “Sigmund Freud” section in his memoir, Jung frames his criticism of Freud in somewhat respectful terms, though he clearly points to where he believes Freud’s fixation on the sex drive was an incomplete idea and that Freud was unwilling to consider any alternative theories. Jung writes, “He (Freud) considered the cause of the repression to be sexual trauma. From my practice, however, I was familiar with numerous cases of neurosis in which the question of sexuality played a subordinate part, other factors standing in the foreground. Later I presented such cases to Freud, but he would not grant that factors other than sexuality could be the cause.”(p.147)

I suspect that Freud’s responses were more nuanced than Jung remembers them. Jung then suggests that Freud may have been fixated on sexuality for his own subjective issues: ” I could see that his sexual theory was enormously important to him, both personally and philosophically. This impressed me, but I could not decide to what extent this strong emphasis upon sexuality was connected with subjective prejudices of his, and to what extent it rested upon verifiable experiences.” (p.149). Jung’s unwillingness to carry forward unquestioningly the sexual drive theory was one of two key reasons Jung gives for his falling out with Freud. The other was Freud’s alleged criticism of “occultism”. Jung writes, “I can still recall vividly how Freud said to me ‘My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon sexual theory, That is the most important thing of all. You see we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark.’ In some astonishment I asked him ‘A bulwark against what?’ To which he replied ‘ Against the black tide of mud – of occultism.’ This was the thing that struck at the heart of our friendship. I knew that I would never be able to accept such an attitude. What Freud seemed to mean by ‘occultism’ was virtually everything that philosophy and religion, including the rising contemporary science of parapsychology, had learned about the psyche. To me the sexual theory was just as occult, that is to say, just as unproved an hypothesis, as many other speculative views.”(p.151) Jung knew that Freud was suspicious of Jung’s interest in parapsychology and various spiritual aspects of human behavior and had cautioned Jung about not becoming swayed by these “occultisms”. Jung continues to distance himself from Freud in his memoir by suggesting that Freud was blind to his own numinous unconscious influences:”Although I did not properly understand it then, I had observed in Freud the eruption of unconscious religious factors. Evidently he wanted my aid in erecting a barrier against these threatening unconscious contents.” “One thing was clear: Freud, who had always made much of his irreligiosity, had now constructed a dogma; or rather, in the place of a jealous God whom he had lost, he had substituted another compelling image, that of sexuality.” (p.151) I doubt that Freud would view his concerns about “occultisms” this way. I will consider Freud’s reflections on this soon.

Jung claims that Freud could not see the spiritual aspect of sexuality: “If Freud had given somewhat more consideration to the psychological truth that sexuality is numinous- both a god and a devil- he would not have remained bound within the confines of a biological concept. ” (p.154) I doubt this claim. I am reasonably certain that Freud considered sexuality as more than simply a biological concept, yet he was convinced of the sex drive as a biological imperative, and as an imperative, we are forced to negotiate it as it influences our behavior. Whether we agree with Freud’s essential theory or not, even Jung had to admit the critical importance of the sexual drive. He imputed his notions of spirituality as a way to incorporate his own extra-biological thinking. Freud continued to argue that psychoanalysis was a science and biology , to some extent, is destiny. He was suspicious of speculative theories which either ignored biology or assumed to be more important than biology. His very early concerns about Jung’s interest in parapsychology and other “occult” ideas, were materialized when Jung began distancing himself from the sexual drive theory and claiming he had enhanced Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis by including notions such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, synchronicity and alchemy.

Freud also recounted his interpretation of the reasons for the split with Jung in his 1914 paper, “On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement”. Freud was greatly disappointed in Jung because he had hoped Jung and the Swiss psychologists who followed Jung would act as missionaries for psychoanalysis beyond the Vienna and Jewish group. At one level Freud considered Jung’s theoretical defection as a betrayal – perhaps of a son wanting to kill the father in an Oedipal conflict. Since Jung was 19 years younger, there was something of a father-son relationship between them. Others have commented on this and Freud himself referred to it a number of times. But Freud also saw the danger in how his particular theory in psychoanalysis was being distorted and misrepresented by Jung and others.

Freud compares how Adler and Jung tried to change the essential theory of psychoanalysis. Regarding Jung he says: “Jung’s modification disconnects the phenomena from their relation with impulse- life; and further, as its critics (Abraham, Ferenczi, Jones) have pointed out, it is so unintelligible, obscure and confused that it is difficult to take up a standpoint in regard to it.”(p.93) Karl Abraham, Sandor Ferenczi, and Ernest Jones, are, of course, at this time (1914) the most solid followers of Freud. Freud continued this line of critique and when referring to Jung, he also generalized to “the Swiss”: “I did not admit the innovations of the Swiss to be legitimate continuations and further developments of the psychoanalysis that originated with me. Outside critics had already before this perceived the state of things, and Abraham truly says that Jung is in full retreat from psychoanalysis.” (p.93) Freud then levels a point by point critique: “All the changes that Jung has wrought in psychoanalysis flow from the ambition to eliminate all that is disagreeable in the family complexes, so that it may not evidence itself again in ethics and religion. For sexual libido an abstract term has been substituted, of which one may safely say that it remains mystifying and incomprehensible to fools and wise alike. The Oedipus complex was intended merely as something ‘symbolic’; the mother in it means the unattainable, which one must renounce in the interests of civilization; the father who is killed in the Oedipus myth is the ‘inner’ father, from whom one must become free in order to be independent. Other ideas of the material of sexual ideas will undoubtedly undergo similar reinterpretation in the course of time.” “Thus a new religious-ethical system was created, which, just like the Adlerian system, must necessarily lead to new interpretations of the actual results of analysis, or else distort or ignore them.” (p.95)

My reading of Jung’s and Freud’s explanations of why they split would suggest that they each had their ambitions to create a movement, to which Freud would admit and Jung would claim he only wanted the “truth”. Jung, in his old age in the memoir, presents himself as a humble truth seeker, yet his split from Freud and his later exploits belie this presentation. Jung’s ego was a match for that of Freud. He was not the first or the only Freud follower to break with Freud, but he was likely the most influential.

I will continue to investigate Jung’s conceptual contributions in my next post.

New Comments on “Freudian Studies”

A New York Times , April 24, 2022 obituary of Peter Swales, written by Neil Genzlinger, raises some old issues about Freud and his relationship with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays. Swales might be included with some of the “Freud Bashers” I have referred to in previous posts. He was not part of any professional or academic group or program, but did independent research on Freud and his personal life. In my review of the many Freud biographies I wrote about in previous posts, none gave much credence to the suggestion Swales had made in the early 1980s about Freud’s alleged sexual affairs with Minna. Unfortunately, Genzlinger’s obituary does not mention this fact and he refers to several other “Freud Bashers”, such as Jeffery Mousaieff Masson and Frederick Crews, to provide possible support for any of Swales’s claims about this relationship and other aspects of Freud’s personal life.

While an obituary may not be the appropriate place for a balanced and well researched article about such a contested topic as Freud’s life and practice, I fear that this obituary gives a false impression that Swales’s writings about Freud have greater credibility than they, in fact, have. My own research and posts in the blog pose the proposition that different researchers and biographers seemed to find whatever Freud they were looking for. This is why I titled the post “Who’s Freud?” or “Whose Freud?”. Several critics of Freud made quite a profession( particularly Swales and Crews) of finding whatever faults they may have been looking for and writing about these in rather popular publications. Most of these critics were not psychoanalysts or psychotherapists and some were not even scholarly researchers. Whether there has been some veracity or not in some of the critical arguments about Freud’s private life or his theories and practice, needs to be fairly evaluated in the light of a thorough analysis of his writings and of his various biographers and other psychoanalysts who have written about psychoanalysis.

This can act as a segue into my next few posts which will dive into a few biographies of C.G. Jung.

Ecological Intelligence: Going Big, Going Small.

As part of my explorations into the relationship between psychotherapy and culture, I have used some of Gregory Bateson’s conceptual work to help explain a systems understanding of addiction and his idea about the double bind theory. I have also studied his ideas about ecology of mind, which includes notions of a difference that makes a difference and patterns which connect. My contribution to these ideas is included here in a paper I presented at a Human Science conference. I am exploring how understanding systems, large and small can foster an ecological intelligence. This is how I conceive of the relationship between psychotherapy and culture as well.


Insider: Galit Atlas and “Emotional Inheritance: A Therapist, Her Patients, and The Legacy of Trauma.”(2022)

Galit Atlas, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst in New York , who has just published a new book about emotional inheritance. She has brilliantly and elegantly shared stories of various types of intergenerational trauma of her therapy patients mixed with some of her own life experiences, particularly growing up in Israel and being part of the Israeli army. I have written about case studies or case stories as part of my post on “fictive healing”. I have also posted reviews of Irvin Yalom’s work, some of which include “Love’s Executioner”(1989) and “Momma and the Meaning of Life” (1999), and Lori Gottlieb’s “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” (2019). There are also plenty other collections of case stories by other therapists. What distinguishes Atlas’s book from others is that she has followed the thread of intergenerational trauma throughout her patients’ stories while sharing an intimate glimpse into a psychoanalytic therapeutic process and the relationship between a therapist and her patients. She does this without obvious use of analytic jargon. And she shares her own experiences not to highlight them but to help contextualize how she works to help her patients move through their dilemmas. I had written about Lori Gottlieb’s clear explanation of therapy terms, such as transference and countertransference. Atlas has explained what these terms mean without ever using the terms but telling the story of each therapy session and the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship. Another distinction between Atlas’s book and most others, to include those of Gottlieb and Yalom, is that she keeps the focus on her patient’s stories without displaying the cleverness of her analytic interpretations or interventions. She almost always supports her patients in their interpreting and moving through their own conflicts.

During a time in the U.S. when psychoanalysis has been falling out of favor for several decades (though as I have written elsewhere psychoanalysis is still popular in Argentina, Israel, France, and possibly a few other countries), Atlas has been able to sneak into her stories the depth and effectiveness of a psychoanalytic process without announcing it as psychoanalysis, and any particular school or approach of psychoanalysis. Her own approach is relational psychoanalysis and she mentions this but only briefly. I believe she has done a great service to the psychoanalytic community by featuring the process in an engaging storytelling manner to a general audience. Along the way there are a number of terrific, almost throwaway, comments with profound meaning. Here are some examples:

Summarizing one of her patient’s journeys as an illustration of emotional inheritance, she states “In the end, we come to realize that it is the unexamined lives of others that we ourselves end up living” (p.262).

“Sex and money are two topics that people usually try to avoid, not only in their lives, but in therapy too.” “Any unwelcome feeling can be expressed through sex or money: aggression, hostility, the need for domination and power, as well as fragility, narcissism, and trauma.” (p. 243).

“Unprocessed abuse keeps the intergenerational cycle going”. “Healing – breaking the cycle of abuse- is often filled with resistance to the possibility of change. That possibility intensifies the conflict between the part of the self that strives for future liberation and the part that is connected to the past and to previous generations.” (p. 223).

“Paranoid thoughts are a result of our aggressive feelings, feelings that we couldn’t tolerate and needed to get rid of by attributing them to another person. the more aggression is disowned and projected onto others, the more frightened we become of those people.” (p.215).

“Confusing the therapist with intense feelings, evoking fear, or even presenting intense erotic fantasy can serve as a defense strategy to make sure the therapist is unable to think, and therefore unable to know anything real about the patient.”(p.209)

“Heterosexual culture often overvalues solidness, which is associated with erection, masculinity, independence, and activity, while it devalues fluidness, which is associated with femininity, vulnerability, passivity and even contamination.”(p.164).

“A dynamic communication evolves that includes moments of mismatch and potential misunderstanding, followed by moments of re-attunement and repair.”(p.142)

“When our minds remember, our bodies are free to forget.” (p.119)

Referring to Freud’s writing about melancholia and mourning, Atlas says: “melancholia, according to Freud, is an unconscious process in which, instead of detaching and withdrawing the emotional investment from the lost person, the melancholic preserves and keeps that person alive inside them through identification with the dead. If the person is me and I am them, then there is not loss. Keeping the lost person caged inside denies the loss, but at the same time it holds the melancholic person forever captive to it. As a result she loses parts of her own investment in life and vitality.” (p.75)

All of the above quotes are imbedded within case stories, thus they relate directly to what is going on between the therapist and her patients, yet, as can be gleaned from each quote they convey significant insight into the various conflicts, issues, insights, and possible resolutions of the knotty human behavior conundrums we can all relate to.

For various reasons, trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a topic in its many manifestations, has become almost too familiar to a general population. One of the benefits of this is that those who have suffered from PTSD or other related trauma symptoms are more likely to seek help from therapy, since social stigma about this and other psychological illnesses has been somewhat reduced. A possible downside of such broad social references to trauma and PTSD is that there may have become an over interpretation about what trauma is and who has been traumatized by whom. There is ongoing debate among psychologists about what might constitute trauma, PTSD, types of trauma, various treatments for various types of trauma symptoms, etc. Current research indicates that one size (trauma and treatment) may not fit all (types of trauma and types of treatments). As more people who have experienced various types of trauma in their lives share their stories in memoirs, documentary films, fictional representations, and in undergoing serious therapy, such as that of Atlas’s psychoanalysis or other treatment modalities, we will likely be able to parse particular kinds of trauma which will be responsive to particular kinds of therapy. As in some of my other posts, I have indicated that a systems approach will be the most successful in the long run. Allopathic drugs have not been particularly helpful, and certain CBT treatments are not the answer, but MDMA (Ecstasy) has shown some promise and a combination of careful clinical use of MDMA plus various alternative healing modalities, such as yoga, meditation, and so on, plus talk therapy (psychoanalysis) may be the most effective.

Atlas has helped us understand the inner workings of how one’s parents, grandparents, and other relatives who may have experienced some trauma can manifest in each person who continues to experience traumatic symptoms, and how we might be able to seek help from a psychotherapist who can accompany us in navigating the challenging journey of recovery.

The Importance of Erich Fromm: A Review of “The Lives of Erich Fromm” by Lawrence J. Friedman (2013)

On Multiple levels, Erich Fromm’s writings were prescient and as relevant currently (2021) as they were in the 1940s through the 1970s. Fromm was a psychoanalyst, social psychologist, political activist and public intellectual – perhaps the most influential one in the U.S. during the 1950s through the 1970s. Lawrence Friedman’s biography of Erich Fromm is a thoroughly engaging and balanced investigation into the many “lives” or areas of involvement of Fromm.

A key to Fromm’s impact is what Friedman states in his Prologue: “Fromm’s ‘life’ as a social critic and ‘public intellectual’ was facilitated by his remarkable capacity to convey complex thoughts in psychoanalysis, ethics, theology, political theory, social philosophy, cultural creations, and much more in simple, direct prose, that appealed to the latent ideals and fears of his time.” (p.xxi) I will not be commenting on most of Fromm’s books, but just to note here that his “Art of Loving” from 1956 has sold over twenty million copies, and “Escape from Freedom” (1941),according to Friedman, the “deepest and most important of Fromm’s books, which excavated the social psychology of authoritarianism during the age of Stalin and Hitler, has sold more than five million copies.” (p.xxii) And most of Fromm’s more than twenty books have sold in excess of a million copies.

Fromm was the rare social scientist/philosopher who influenced and was influenced by a number of disparate individuals and groups: Margaret Mead and her interdisciplinary circle of anthropologists and psychologists, often referred to as the culture and personality group; the Frankfurt Institute group, including, Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse and others; the sociologist David Reisman ; psychoanalysts Karen Horney and Freida Fromm-Reichmann, each of whom Fromm was married to; his twenty-three years in Mexico (1950-1973), where he established the Mexican Psychoanalytic Institute and prepared numerous Mexicans to become psychoanalysts; D.T. Suzuki, who mentored Fromm in his brand of Zen Buddhism; Martin Buber, who influenced Fromm and Freida Fromm-Reichmann in the 1920s to open a “therapeuticum’ for Jewish patients in Heidelberg; Fromm counted as friends, Adlai Stevenson, William Fulbright, Philip Hart, and Eugene McCarthy, all of whom sought his advice on world affairs.

Fromm remained committed to both Marx’s and Freud’s central ideas throughout his career. While he eventually distanced himself from Freud’s libido drive theory, he incorporated many other psychoanalytic insights into his own social character theory. Freidman states, “Fromm’s theoretical alternative to Freud was a vaguely outlined concept of ‘social character’ where external social structures recast inner impulses and provided a person his orientation in life.” (p. ) Fromm continued to wrestle with how to incorporate or discard Freud’s libido and instinct drive theory as he developed his own theory of social character. Freidman quotes Fromm: “Character can be defined as the form in which human energy is canalized in the process of assimilation and socialization… the character system can be considered the human substitute for the instinctive apparatus of the animal” (p.xxv) And: “Socially produced drives are specifically human and have to be explained as reactions toward a particular fit of social conditions and not as ‘sublimations’ of instincts” (p.xxvi) Freidman claims that Fromm continued to modify his concept of social character for the rest of his life, but when he first developed it, while he was still a connected scholar with the Frankfurt Institute in 1939, Fromm felt it was mandatory to pursue an alternative to the libidinal theory, and this led to his dismissal from the Institute. Freidman states, “Fromm’s colleagues at the Frankfurt Institute, clinging to the literal wording of Freud’s early texts even as Freud departed from them, felt betrayed and called for Fromm’s termination.”(p.xxi).

I have asked myself why I am so drawn to Fromm and his ideas. The conception and construction of this blog about psychotherapy and culture may provide evidence of my attempts to bridge individual psychology and social theory and my own experience as a practicing anthropologist and psychotherapist has led me to appreciate how Fromm spent his life (or lives?) writing about this very notion of the relationship between the individual and social human. I have written about Gregory Bateson being a kind of ‘bricoleur’ as he moved thorough a number of intellectual disciplines. I now regard Erich Fromm as a both an intellectual and activist ‘bricoleur’. He consistently applied theory to practice and he was able to reconceive and reconstruct his theories and practices based on new political and social conditions wherever he was living and working (Europe, Mexico, the U.S.). I am particularly interested in Fromm’s combining Marxian and Freudian concepts and in his formulations about authoritarian personalities and Fascism, though I will comment on of some of his other ideas as I continue posts.

Fromm wrote “Escape From Freedom” in 1940 and his prescience about the rise of fascism and authoritarianism is particularly potent currently as we are experiencing similar patterns throughout the world more than 80 years later. We might question whether Fromm’s interpretation of what causes authoritarianism fits the rise of Hitler and Musolini in the 1930s and 1940s or Bolsanaro, Trump, Putin, and Duterte in the 21st century, but his cultural, psychological character notions deserve close consideration. Fromm argued that since the enlightenment humans had been experiencing enhanced personal freedom, but that this freedom often set up unmanageable anxiety and uncertainty. Freidman says, “it was less burdensome to delegate new found freedoms to authority figures and to embrace the false securities they promised (i.e. simply conform to external social pressures) than to trust one’s own powers of rational decision making.” (p.66). Fromm also proposed that the dynamic of forfeiting one’s freedom to an authority figure or institution likely set up a neurotic strategy of sadomasochism as a way of coping. Large populations under authoritarian leaders and systems may experience powerlessness and may in turn displace their anger and frustration on those who are perceived as “other” (immigrants, women, socially/culturally different). Freidman says, “Freedom required that the individual summon the energy and courage to make spontaneous, productive, reasoned and life-affirming use of his autonomy, Fromm argued. One must not delegate choices to authority figures that offered sadomasochistic appeals and demanded social conformity.” p.83)

While Fromm was still involved with the Frankfurt Institute group, he and they were committed to Freud’s essential drive theory and to Marx’s early writing “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts” (1844). Fromm later (after he broke with the Frankfurt group and with Freud’s libido theory) wrote “Marx’s Concept of Man”(1961). Friedman says, “Fromm used ‘Marx’s Concept of Man’ to argue that the young Marx of the ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’ filled Freud’s conceptual gaps by offering a thoroughgoing critique of the capitalist society and values that orthodox Freudians had uncritically accepted. Fromm found Marx deeply sensitive to inner, and often unconscious, psychological motivation. Fromm’s Marx was essentially a socialist humanist and a formulator of what he called ‘productive social character’.” (p.223)

In further explaining Fromm’s embracing humanist ideas of Marx, Friedman states: “In characterizing the 1844 Marx, Fromm was essentially expounding his own prophetically tinged credo for the 1960s. Marx’s essential concept was to transform man from an alienated laborer who detested his routine work and consumed to fill a sense of inner emptiness. Estranged man worked simply to have goods and services, not to be a vibrant, loving, creative, and productive entity. For Marx, ‘true’ socialism represented ‘the emancipation from alienation, the return of man to himself, his self-realization’. Only through humanistic socialism would man cease to be miserable, cease being an estranged cog in the process to enhance productivity and profits for the few; he would transcend the chronic ‘antagonism between man and nature, and between man and man’.” (p. 223)

Fromm presented a paper, “Marx’s Contribution to the Knowledge of Man” in Paris in 1968, and published in his 1970 book, “The Crisis in Psychoanalysis”. In this paper/article, Fromm argues his case for Marx’s dynamic humanist depth psychology. There are hints in the paper/article about Fromm’s later reckoning of Freud’s and Marx’s approaches to psychology. Fromm says, “Marx saw, and in this respect more deeply than Freud, that consciousness is the product of the particular practice of life which characterizes a given society or class. It is ‘from the beginning a social product’, like language, it arises ‘from the need, the necessity for intercourse with other men, While man thinks he is determined and motivated by his own ideas, he is in reality motivated by forces behind his back and of which he is not aware.'” (p.74) Fromm further states, “Marx’s concept of consciousness and ideology led to one of the most essential parts of his theory of revolution. In a letter of September, 1843, he speaks of consciousness as ‘a thing which the world must appropriate, although it does not want to do so… our motto must be then: reform of consciousness not by dogmas but by the analysis of the mythical consciousness unclear to itself, be it religious or political’. The destruction of illusions and the analysis of consciousness – that is to say, awareness of the reality of which man is not conscious, are the conditions for social change.” (p.74)

Fromm followed this with: ” Awareness of reality as a key to change is for Marx one of the conditions for social progress and revolution, as it is for Freud the condition for the therapy for mental illness. Marx, not being interested in problems of individual therapy, did not speak about the awareness as a condition for individual change, but considering his whole psychological system, it is by no means a tour de force to make this connection.” (p.75)

Most of what Fromm draws from Marx’s 1844 paper is not widely known or understood, but Fromm makes a clear case that Marx , while focusing on social dynamics, had preceded Freud in his position regarding illusions and embracing reality. I subscribe to the same world view. Humanity has not changed significantly since either Marx or Freud established their theories. The world in 2021 is awash in illusions, fake news, scams, conspiracy theories, religious fundamentalism, and bold political lies. Alienated man is all around us. Inequality is rampant throughout the world. The confrontation with illusions and embracing of reality that both Marx and Freud argued for has not taken hold to any significant degree. My blog continues to engage individual behavioral issues and social cultural influences. A psychological, cultural, economic, social revolution awaits us.

A Few New Thoughts About Schizophrenia and Mental Health

After reading the January 14, 2021 New York Review of Books article by Gavin Francis -“Changing Psychiatry’s Mind”, a review of Anne Harrington’s “Mind Fixers” (which I reviewed earlier), and Nathan Filer’s “This Book Will Change Your Mind About Mental Health: A Journey into the Heartland of Psychiatry” (which I review here), I read Filer’s book and memoirs by Louise Gillett: “Surviving Schizophrenia” and “Surfacing” (both of which Filer reports on in his book). I also read Bethany Yeiser’s ” Mind Estranged: My Journey from Schizophrenia and Homelessness to Recovery.” While most of these sources cover what I have already brought forth in previous posts, there are a few ideas which these authors cover that I want to explore here.

What each of these sources explore is the essential question of diagnosis in mental illness. Particularly psychosis or schizophrenia. Both Filer and Gillett suggest that the diagnosis and labeling of schizophrenia may create a level of stigma which may be more harmful than the symptoms experienced from a mental illness itself. Filer is a psychiatric nurse in England and Gillett is a former psychiatric patient in England who details her experiences with being diagnosed and labelled as as having schizophrenia.

Another issue which is suggested by Gillett in her two memoirs is the possibility of “spontaneous recovery ” from a psychotic episode or series of episodes. I have previously discussed this with regard to “Percival’s Narrative” and Barbara O’Brien’s “Operators and Things”. Both John Percival and Barbara O’Brien claim to have recovered from their schizophrenic episodes without the influences and interventions from the psychiatric practitioners, medications and institutions. Both of them did however spend time in a psychiatric hospital and receive various treatments prior to their “recovery”. Louise Gillett also spent time in a psychiatric hospital and claims that the institution and psychiatric professionals did not “heal” her and may have even magnified her psychotic episodes by diagnosing her as having schizophrenia.

Because I have read and reviewed several other memoirs of people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, I found Gillett’s two books quite superficial in comparison. She does not provide much detail about her symptoms, medications, other treatments. She dwells on what she considers the principal source of her illness to be the stigma of having to bear the diagnosis of schizophrenia. It seems that the word itself carried extra weight for her. I have not found this to be true of others who have had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and written about it. Filer refers to Gillett’s books and discusses the conundrum of possibly needing some accurate diagnoses for mental illness, yet having to deal with the ongoing stigma associated with each serious diagnosis, and the fact that none of the DSM diagnoses are to be considered very accurate. Filer refers to schizophrenia as “so-called schizophrenia” and mental illness as “so-called mental illness.” Filer critiques the “enterprise” of psychiatry in the UK, particularly, though he also includes some significant material on the weaknesses of psychiatric medicine in the U.S. While he has pointed to some obvious gaps in the way psychiatric illnesses are diagnosed, he does not really offer viable alternatives. Without some well considered and monitored diagnostic system (and the history of the DSM should tell us how tenuous this is), there is little hope for a systematic series of treatment approaches.

An irony of Gillett’s almost obsessive focus on the impact of having the word “schizophrenia” as her diagnosis, is that it may further the stigma associated with the term. I have been working to de-stigmatize mental illnesses and some of that process may be to consider the current diagnostic labels as somewhat equivalent to those for most physical illnesses. Why should sharing with others that you have schizophrenia be different from sharing that you have diabetes? Both Wang and Saks, whose books I reviewed earlier, help to “normalize” the label “schizophrenia” and help us to understand how they have navigated their lives without the label or treatments defeating them. I also find Gillett’s claim of recovery without psychiatric help unconvincing. I continue to question the notion of “spontaneous recovery”, particularly without knowing the history and context of a person’s psychotic experiences from multiple perspectives – not simply from a self-report memoir.

Bethany Yeiser’s “Mind Estranged: My Journey from Schizophrenia and Homelessness to Recovery” is a more encouraging report of how determination and eventually finding the right psychiatric help and effective medications can overcome the debilitating symptoms of schizophrenia. This is a summary of her background from the “About The Author” section of her book:

“Bethany Yeiser hold’s a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology with honors from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to becoming homeless, she published three articles in biochemistry. She began full-time college at age fifteen and transferred to a well-known university on the West Coast at seventeen. Bethany spent three months living and volunteering in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria during the summer of 2002. On her return, in October, 2002, she incorporated a small nonprofit organization to channel money into indigenous African medical missions.It raised several thousand dollars to build a new clinic in Nairobi, Kenya in August of 2003.

“Bethany is an accomplished violinist. She has performed in orchestras, worked for recording studios, and taught violin. Bethany was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2007 after spending four years as a homeless person, including one year spent with only one change of clothes, and living in a churchyard. Today, she is an invited speaker at numerous conferences for physicians and health care providers who seek to learn more about schizophrenia. Bethany has studied ancient Hebrew and Mandarin Chinese.”

This is obviously a promotional piece, yet the message about her homelessness and mental illness is that it can be overcome and she can continue to have a rich and challenging life. After some years of receiving various treatments with psychotherapy and medications, Bethany was prescribed Clozaril and “by April 2008, my long-awaited miracle finally occurred and the voices were quieter. I was becoming free of the screaming chorus of children’s voices and other characters that lived in my mind for two and a half years. They have been with me nearly every minute I was awake. It was possible for me to go out in the community again and begin making friends. I went to social events with confidence, met new friends and spent time with them. I almost felt like my old self again, the way I felt during high school and during my first semester at the university. After a year on Clozaril, the voices were virtually gone. I was healthy and thin again. I had recovered.” She later states that she is not “healed” but “recovered”:

“I do not consider myself healed from schizophrenia, but I am fully recovered. I want to be a spokesperson for people desperately impaired by psychoses, and bring the good news that, today, mentally ill people can have happy and productive lives. I hope that someday, psychiatric patients will be treated with compassion like people with infections, cancer patients and people with all other diseases of the body.”

I still plan to post a separate piece on the DSM and what I might term the “diagnostic enterprise”, but I am aware of the need not to “throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater” – we need to continue to recalibrate our diagnostic processes and assumptions, while obviously excising patently wrong and harmful categories and terms. For now, schizophrenia – as fuzzy as it still seems – has no viable replacement term or diagnostic category. People have schizophrenia and we need to help them.

Responses to Queries and Comments about Addiction

I have received quite a few comments and queries about my two posts on addiction. These were sent to me directly. Because there are several important points which people have made, I would like to address them here.

  1. What is the relationship between drug addiction and depression? I answered this by indicating that I will have a series of posts later on depression, but that substance abuse is regularly a way of self-medicating for depression, bipolar illness or other mental illnesses.
  2. Could I elaborate on and clarify my thinking about the meaning of schizmogenesis? I will do so below.
  3. Why did I refer to the 6 principles about AA and not indicate the 12 steps? My response to this is indicated below.
  4. Why did I not discuss the “Higher Power” issue in AA? I answered this in conjunction with my answer to the 12 steps. Indicated below.
  5. How can we change an entire cultic group – not just individuals within a cult? My response to this is indicated below.
  6. What are the best ways to transform an individual who is addicted within a cult? My response is below.
  7. What are some examples of predispositional vulnerabilities? My suggestions are below.
  8. How does my theoretical framework account for non-drug, non-cultic addictions such as addictions to media screens – TV., Computers, smart phones? Lots of discussion about this among readers. My responses are indicated below.

I have used Gregory Bateson’s definition of schizmogenesis, because I have been building my theory based on his use of the term in his “Cybernetics of Self” article. I don’t believe anyone is certain about Bateson’s idea beyond his use in this article and a few other sources. I have referred to schizmogenesis in my own publications and I still find it useful in explaining an addiction process. Bateson said it meant ” progressive directional change”. Symmetrical schizmogenesis would be two parties, say alcoholics, matching each other drink for drink in a competitive progressive manner. It is symmetrical because they are matching each other with the same behavior. He also suggested that a drinker could be in a contest with a “symbolic other”, such as a bottle of alcohol. The alcoholic doing battle with the bottle. This is also symmetrical. And the bottle typically wins the contest. The drinker commits an epistemological error in assuming they can beat the bottle (or the other drinker). As the contest escalates (progressive directional split) the addictive process gets out of control. I take some license with Bateson’s notion of complementary schzmogenesis by applying it to the relationship between a cult leader (messiah, guru) and his followers, which he did not do. My thinking about this is that each “complements” the other in a progressive manner. The more the cult leader needs his followers and the more he acts like a messiah, the more they require him to be a messiah and the more they become part of the fantasy or delusion. They are each addicted to the other in a progressive split fashion. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, as Jim Jones, Shoko Asahara, and Donald Trump became more delusional, their followers also became more delusional.

I did not list the 12 steps, and instead referred to the 6 principles that Nan Robertson lists in her book, “Getting Better”, because I am developing a theory of addiction which goes beyond alcoholism or other drug addiction. The 12 Step programs are extremely effective for AA, NA, AlAnon, but may not appeal to those recovering from other addictions, such as former cult followers. Also, since God is mentioned six times in the 12 Steps, some recovering alcoholics/ drug addicts may not subscribe to a belief in God. Hence, the reference to “higher power” or “power greater than ourselves”, which opens the 12 steps to anyone , including non-religious people. The psychological potency of admitting that one does not have control of their addiction, is a willingness to break the cycle of schizmogenic dependency and epistemological error of pride or assumed ego control.

Can we somehow change an entire cultic group? Not likely, though the catastrophe of Jim Jones taking more than 100 people with him to death did end the People’s Temple as an organization. And there have been a number of other apocalyptic or millenarian cults which have dissolved once leaders have been deposed, imprisoned, or killed. In order to interrupt the symmetrical schizmogenesis, some sort of intervention needs to break the cycle of addiction between the leader and followers. It is also possible for the cult followers to continue to follow the symbol of a cult leader/ messiah/guru even after he or she is gone. The current hard-corps followers of former president Trump are still in an addictive pattern, as he is with them. The addictive process has been interrupted but not yet dissolved. Meanwhile, the best way to bring about a serious interruption with any cultic group is to work with individuals who are already questioning their attachment the the leader and group or those already disaffected. Particularly if the administrative leaders in an organization become disaffected and begin to leave, there is more likelihood of many others leaving.

This relates to the next item: what are the best ways to transform an individual who is addicted within a cult? I suggest that the individual must first be able to become aware of the epistemological error of believing that salvation or a new millennium is forthcoming if they maintain their attachment to the cult leader and the doctrines of the cult. If they are able to correct this error and retain their independent will and decision making, they will likely need to have some alternative and healthy replacement of a belief system and identity social group to the cult system and group. One of the hallmarks of AA groups is that they replace unhealthy attachments with attachments to AA members who can identify with and support those who are addicted and help them avoid relapsing. The same might be operable with the equivalent of reprogramming groups for former cultic followers. There have been some recent reports that people who had become swept up in the QAnon conspiracy cult have become disenchanted with the group because the prophesy of Trump winning his presidential bid and bringing about the changes promised by the delusional ideology, did not happen. This has also been an outcome of a number of other messianic or apocalyptic movements of the past, when prophesies have proven false.

In a recent National Public Radio interview, Audie Cornish interviewed Dannagal Young, a professor of communications at the University of Delaware, who said: ” If you think about somebody who is either addicted to heroin or you think about someone who has fallen into a cult, or you think about someone who has fallen into QAnon, they are all creating boundaries that divide them from their families. They’re all engaging in dysfunctional behaviors and holding dysfunctional attitudes that make their participation in regular life more difficult. And they all tend to need a similar kind of psychological pipeline and outreach to bring them back.” (January 15, 2021). My thinking about this is that the boundaries that Young refers to must be crossed by family members, friends, other helpers, and hands must be offered to pull the addicted members out of the addicted trap. This is easier said than done , as anyone who has been tasked with this effort can testify. Also, regarding the QAnon phenomenon, the social media platforms which likely exacerbated the growth of the conspiracies, were not interrupted soon enough to quell the addictive process. Earlier intervention – deplatforming – may have broken the cycle before the outcome of an insurrection on the Capitol.

The topic which received the most reaction was one being experienced by a number of parents with young children: possible addiction to various screens – phones, computers, television. This issue includes both time spent and types of content. The ramifications of this topic are beyond what I am covering in the post, but the potential for current and future addictions to our collective communication devices does follow the pattern of what I have suggested for addictions to various drugs, as well as the type of complementary schizmogenesis which occurs between a cult leader and cultic followers. Screen time alone for children can affect not just their mental and emotional life, but even their eye health. Some current studies are indicating that children need to be spending more time outside and away from media platforms indoors to protect their eyes from later weaknesses. The monitoring issue for parents is not just managing time spent, but types of content. This can also be a challenge for adults. During the current Covid 19 pandemic, more people are spending more time indoors and on various electronic devices, which contain content varying from relatively healthy educational material to levels of entertainment to downright harmful material. As I mentioned earlier, the QAnon conspiracy, with it’s essentially false and delusional material, gained a large following among people who were spending all their waking hours engaging with various online sties addicted to the conspiracy theory. Addiction to stimulation from electronic devices, may be somewhat similar to a gambling addiction. There is a need for stimulation, sometimes out of boredom, though not always. There is an expected reward. The reward can be positive enough to warrant seeking further reward, or it can be negative enough to want to seek a more positive reward. Either way, the addiction process may have begun. If there are any predispositional vulnerabilities, such as serious dependency needs or biopsychosocial weaknesses, the reward provided by the involved activity may become schizmogenic and interventions may become necessary. And , again, the earlier the interventions the better.

I welcome any comments or questions you might have about my responses.

Proposing an Addiction Recovery Theory

Building on the ideas explored in my previous post about the addicition process, schizmogenesis, and epistemological errors, I am proposing a possible way to think about recovery from the addiction process from a systems perspective. If we can acknowledge that there are different types of addiction, yet a similar dynamic pattern in the process, we might be able to identify a similar pattern in a recovery process. I suggest a possible framework which helps us think about breaking a schizmogenic process. The first step for interrupting the process is some type of intervention, followed by some type of deprogramming or detoxification, then proceeding to the beginning of a recovery journey. Using the three examples of types of addiction mentioned in my previous post, alcohol and other drug addiction, cultic addiction, and the arms race, each will require some type of intervention to interrupt the progressive addicting split before beginning the correction of an epistemological error. An intervention can take the form of a group of family and friends confronting a drug addict with the reality of their destructive path, a family , friends or even other authorities intervening to remove a cult follower from a cult setting, or a diplomatic settlement which creates a mechanism for de-escalating a competitive arms race. The next step would be some form of detoxifying (from drug addiction), deprogramming (from cultic addiction), de-escalation (diplomatic intervention). If an intervention has succeeded, and the process of detoxifying/deprogramming has begun, the beginning of recovery will include some type of re-programming or changed epistemology or mind set – possibly a reshaped or transformed self. Recovery is not a static point of achievement. The recovery journey or process is one of ongoing maintenance. Whatever the conditions of predispositional vulnerability and epistemological errors in thinking set up the initial addiction process may continue to present an ongoing threat for relapse or re-addiction.

The obvious critical first step in breaking the addiction process is some type of intervention. The earlier the process can be interrupted the more likely there will be a successful intervention. Detoxifying or de-programming cannot occur until there is a successful intervention. There are plenty of examples of failures to intervene with alcoholic addiction or other drug addiction and the person addicted dies. Likewise with cult leaders and followers. There were plenty of warnings about the deadly path Jim Jones was on when he rallied some of his most devoted followers in the People’s Temple to sell everything, cut off all family ties in the U. S. and follow him to Guyana. He eventually became so delusional that he believed, and convinced his followers, that by killing themselves they would gain heavenly graces in an afterlife. The complementary schizmogenesis combined with the epistemological error led to the death of 913 in Jonestown, plus 4 in nearby Georgetown, and 5 in congressman Leo Ryan’s group which had travelled to Jonestown to intervene (obviously too late). So the timing of the intervention is critical.

We are currently (during this recent week) in a serious crisis in the U.S. as a result of a U.S. president who has cultivated a cultic following during his four years in office and though there have been various attempts at interventions to interrupt the complementary schizmogenesis between him and his followers, none of them were robust enough to stop the eventual riot which he incited on January 6th, 2021. The riot was both destructive and deadly to others and property and deadly for some followers. The apocalyptic characterization from several strands the Trumpian cultists resembles that of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple followers, and other apocalyptic movements, such as Aum Shinrikyo in Japan. Robert Jay Lifton recounts the events of March 20, 1995 when sarin gas was released in a Tokyo subway, in his book, “Destroying the World To Save It” (2000): “On March 20,1995, Aum Shinrikyo, a fanatical Japanese religious cult, released sarin, a deadly nerve gas on five subway trains during Tokyo’s early morning rush hour. Eleven were killed and up to five thousand injured.”(p.3). Lifton compares the psychological makeup of Jim Jones and Shoko Asahara, the guru of Aum Shinrikyo:

“Like Asahara (and many others who show paranoid tendencies), he [Jones] became more grandiose the greater his anxiety and inner conflict. He also resembled Asahara in his increasing tendency toward megalomania and in episodes that were close to or actually psychotic. As with gurus in general, a pattern of decompensation and breakdown was greatly accentuated by faltering control over his disciples. Jones and Asahara, to fend off threats to their guruism, escalated their demand on their disciples, ultimately insisting that they be ready to die for their guru – in Jones’ case, through acceptance of a doctrine of revolutionary suicide as an ultimate expression of loyalty.” (p.284-285). This scenario played out in Washington, D.C. last week, with president Trump inciting his disciples to insurrection by storming the Capitol building. This has resulted in immediate repercussions with an unprecedented second impeachment of a U.S. president and immediate arrests of many of Trump’s disciples. In all three cases – Jones, Asahara, Trump – the significant intervention was too late to save lives, but the complementary schizmogenesis was interrupted. Asahara and his top disciples went to prison, Jones and most followers went to their death, and Trump and his followers are facing legal ramifications. A state institution intervened in all three cases.

The way in which an intervention may occur with someone who is addicted to drugs will differ according to variables such as age, class, gender, psychosocial context, relationship patterns, and timing. As mentioned above, the earlier the intervention the better. With regard to alcoholic addiction, we are perhaps most familiar with family and friends who confront an alcoholic in the form of a group support system, yet the founders of A.A. did not have such a support group intervention. Bill Willson (Bill W.) and Bob Smith (Dr. Bob) had each other. Each of them had multiple fits and starts with alcohol, but found that no external or personal attempts to break the addictive cycle worked. Bill W. was staying in a hotel in Akron, Ohio, in 1935. He called a friend, Henrietta Seiberling, to ask if she could put him in touch with another drunk to preserve his own shaky sobriety. She happened to be a close friend with Dr. Bob Smith, who she had wanted to help with his alcohol addiction. She arranged for them to meet at her house and they spent six hours sharing their life stories and struggles with alcohol addiction. This founders’ story is told in multiple A.A. and other publications. Nan Robertson’s account in “Getting Better: Inside Alcoholic Anonymous” (1988) is particularly engaging, since she was a pulitzer winning writer with the New York Times and she recounts her own alcoholism story as well. She makes an insightful and critical comment about why A.A. is particularly effective: “There could not have been just one founder of A.A. There had to be two, because the process is one person telling his story to another, as honestly as he knows how.”(p.34). Robertson quotes a comment Dr. Bob made in a letter, in which he explains why none of his previous reading, or encounters with professionals or others were as effective as possible interventions as his exchange with Bill Wilson: “‘Of far more importance was the fact that he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked , who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience. In other words he talked my language.'” (p.35). So the intervention for Bill W. and Dr. Bob was each other. Robertson says, “The essence of A.A. is conversation, dialogue, one alcoholic talking with another in a meeting or or over a cup of coffee elsewhere. The problem with the active alcoholic is that his life is a monologue- he connects with his addicted self, and that is all. Ninety percent of the recovery process is through peers talking with one another.”(p.126).

The recovery process from any addiction will move from an intervention to some type of detoxifying or deprogramming or reframing. For A.A., once an alcoholic had ceased drinking and his or her body is detoxified, the typical 12 Step Program provides a framework and support system for the ongoing process of recovery. I am not going to discuss the various interpretations and arguments around the 12 steps, such as what the meaning of “higher power” might be. Robertson says, “an A.A. pamphlet points out ‘ Newcomers are rarely helped by ponderous sermonizing about the Twelve Steps, or by complicated interpretations. The Twelve Steps speak plainly for themselves, and all newcomers are, of course , free to use them as they choose’. Members refer to the Twelve Steps not as musts or rules but a kind of road map to an enjoyable sober life.”(p.132) Robertson has boiled down the Twelve Steps to six principles, which I find address a fundamental approach to a recovery process:

  1. We admit we are licked and cannot get well on our own.
  2. We get honest with ourselves.
  3. We talk it out with somebody else.
  4. We try to make amends to people we have harmed.
  5. We pray to whatever greater power we think there is, even as an experiment, or to think of our A.A. group as our “Higher Power’.
  6. We try to give of ourselves for our own sake and without stint to other alcoholics, with no thought of reward. (p. 132).

The first three principles can break the symmetrical schizmogenesis of the alcoholic’s pride believing he can win the battle over the bottle (epistemological error). These three as well as the next three help ensure an ongoing scaffolding for recovery.

Recovery from drug addiction, cult addiction and the arms race, requires consistent maintenance, once an intervention and detoxifying/deprograming/reprograming process occurs. Commitments to reform need to be reiterated and reinforced by both internal (personal) and external (social, relational, economic, political, legal) mechanisms.

This and my previous post on the addiction process are frameworks for further theory development. I encourage readers to comment in this site or to contact me with any questions you might have. I intend to continue developing the theory and my thinking will be informed by your feedback.