The Saybrook Forum



The poet and the psychologist


Ask most poets who the biggest influences on them are, and you’ll usually get a list of other poets – Byron, Shelley, Keats, Frost, Whitman, Plath, or Ginsberg.

But when Tom Greening tries to think of the most important influences on his poetry, the two names he comes up with are psychologists.

“Rollo May was a big influence,” Greening remembers.  “And Jim Bugental, with whom I worked for many years.  Jim liked to play with words.  He sometimes made bad puns, which I don’t particularly like, but he certainly had a playful side."

Perhaps that’s appropriate, because though he’s been a poet in some fashion for most of his life, it’s humanistic psychology – a discipline which he’s done as much as anyone to help shape – that has dominated Greening’s life work.  May and Bugental were two of the pioneers in the field, and they saw a connection between art and scholarship that seems alien in the academic world of today.  

There’s now a separation between the humanities and the sciences – one so vast that it seems novel to suggest it could be any other way.  But it could:  perhaps especially in psychology.

As former APA president Frank Farley wrote:
The spiritual side, the poetic side, the giving and forgiving side, the generous and loving side, are humankind's finest features.  Hebb defined psychology many years ago as not being poetry.  Although Hebb was my scientific hero, I demur from defining psychology without poetry.

That, Greening says, is because the arts and humanities provide both insight into the human condition and a means of ennobling it – and what else is psychology for?

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Love is a many splendored ... chemical?


Of all the emotions, love is surely the most talked about – and the hardest to explain. 
Unless you’re a neurologist, that is:  January saw several publications claiming that love was entirely explainable by neurochemical reactions.

 “Love:  Neuroscience reveals all,” reads a headline in the journal Nature’s Jan. 8 issue.  You don’t need flowers:  the article promises to “reduce love to its component parts,” none of which is … well … “loving” somebody.

A New York Times science blog took the idea a step further, suggesting that an “anti-love drug” is around the corner – and that by inoculating teens and others against love during sensitive times of their lives, we can prevent a lot of bad decisions. 

“Such a vaccine,” it notes (with a straight face), “has already been demonstrated in prairie voles.”

Stanley Krippner doesn’t know much about prairie voles, but he does have considerable expertise in both neuropsychology and the psychology of human sexuality.  A psychology faculty member at Saybrook, he says the problem with these articles isn’t so much the research – which he thinks is great – but the broad claims made on its behalf.

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Saybrook graduates have the write stuff


Saybrook doesn’t have its own press – and it doesn’t need one.  Its graduates and faculty are busy publishing in everything from the mainstream press to academic journals. 

“During Alumni Homecoming at the June 2008 Residential Conference, no less than six, long cafeteria tables were required to display Saybrook’s Alumni publications,” says George Aiken, Saybrook’s Alumni Director, who keeps track of the ever expanding roster of books and articles by members of the Saybrook community.  “At this year’s Alumni Homecoming, during the 2009 June Residential Conference, the Alumni Book Display should be no less than 50% greater in size than last year.”

Highlights from 2008 include Alumnus and Faculty member Kirk Schneider’s guide to therapeutic practice, Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy, and Alumnus Father Brian Kolodiejchuck’s explication of the private writing’s of the Saint of Calcutta, Mother Teresa:  Come Be My Light, which received international attention and acclaim. 

For additional publications to come out of the Saybrook community in recent years follow the link below.  A full list of publications can be found on Saybrook’s Alumni home page

“If you’re a community member and you don’t see your works listed,” Aiken says, “please send me the information.  Include your name, degree, year of graduation;  the title(s) of your publication(s);  and the publisher and year published.”  It’s a Sisyphean task to keep track of everything the Saybrook community creates, Aiken says, but unlike Sisyphus, this is a labor of love. 

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"Transparency" only sounds easy when it's not your problem


Imagine you’re President Obama – just for a moment.  You’re about to be authorized to spend over $800 billion to stimulate the economy, and you’ve promised to make sure that everybody knows how the money is being spent as it happens.

How do you do that?

This is a time, after all, when people already have trouble keeping track of their loose change, email passwords, and Facebook “friends.”  What’s the best way to make sure everybody knows how $800 billion is working its way through the economy? 

To address this challenge, Obama (the real one)has announced that he’ll put updated details of stimulus spending on a website – an unprecedented display of openness, which he also hopes will “root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government.”

But will a website be enough?  According to Gary Metcalf, an Organizational Systems faculty member at Saybrook who teaches classes at the Federal Executive Institute, “pure transparency,” what Obama is suggesting, may cause almost as many problems as it solves.

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Seattle recruitment event to showcase Saybrook programs


Saybrook president Lorne Buchman will be available to meet and talk with prospective students at the recruitment event Saybrook will be hosting in Seattle this month.

Prospective students will have the opportunity to learn  more about Saybrook’s masters and doctoral programs;  our new PsyD, Jungian Studies, and Mind-Body Medicine programs; how they can tailor their degree program to meet their individual interests by pursuing a specialization or a concentration; scholarships and financial aid; and other advantages of Saybrook’s learning model for working professionals.

The event will be held:

Thursday, February 12, 2009
5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
The Westin Seattle Hotel
1900 5th Avenue Seattle WA 98101

RSVP to or call 1-800-825-4480

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Wounded, then ignored


Early this month the U.S. Department of Defense made a momentous decision: soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are not entitled to receive Purple Hearts.

That the DOD even reviewed the proposal shows how far acceptance of PTSD as a psychologically real – and devastating – condition has come.

Saybrook Psychology faculty member Stanley Krippner, author of “Haunted by Combat,” says that however good the idea, it was unrealistic to expect the military to extend the Purple Heart to PTSD victims.

“There is no question that PTSD victims can be as badly affected by enemy actions as personnel wounded by weapons or bombs. But that is not the issue,” Krippner said. To decide that a psychological wound meets a criterion set up for physical wounds is to think metaphorically. “But the military is not given to using metaphors when it comes to following regulations.”

Daniel Pitchford, a Saybrook student who works with veterans suffering from traumatic stress, still disagrees strongly with the decision.

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Wisconsin and Minnesota find "opportunity" in "crisis"


Sometimes history happens – and nobody notices.

Two weeks ago the governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota challenged 200 years of precedent by announcing that, to cope with the financial crisis, they are directing their states to look for ways to share and consolidate services with each other.

It is virtually unheard of in the American system for states to look for ways to share services without a federal mandate. Also extraordinary is the fact that Wisconsin’s governor, Jim Doyle, is a Democrat while Minnesota’s governor, Tim Pawlenty, is a Republican – meaning that the effort crosses party lines.

Some of the services they’re looking at sharing, like pooling prison food and road salt purchases, or consolidating, like call centers and licensing functions, are so simple as to be almost no-brainers … but no two states have ever attempted this before.

What’s so exciting, says Nancy Southern, director of Saybrook’s Organizational Systems program, is that this is more than just a way to help weather a national crisis: it’s a first step in thinking about how the entire country functions.

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Could Saybrook be "The Last University?"

In a time when outside pressure is pushing Saybrook to become more like everybody else, how does Saybrook push back by becoming more like itself?

Academia may not have a future, according to Stanley Fish.

Fish, a distinguished academic and New York Times blogger, wrote an article last week that landed like a bomb in every faculty lounge in America.

Soon, Fish said, there will no longer be a place for teachers who want to enliven their students’ minds rather than cramming them full of job-related skills.

We all know that American academia has become dominated by big money, big corporate partnerships, and an assembly-line mentality that treats students as “customers” rather than agents of learning. But we’ve all assumed this was an aberration – and that at some point we’d right this ship of fools.

But Fish, reviewing the book The Last Professor by Frank Donoghue, says those days are never coming back: the academy, as a place to nurture the mind, is dying out and won’t return.

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The collective unconscious of a violent protest


The scene shocked the world. On New Year’s day, a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer shot and killed an unarmed black man who was, according to videos, already on the ground and being restrained.

There was an outcry of outrage across the Bay Area: in Oakland, San Francisco, and other cities groups of protestors jammed the streets and destroyed businesses, cars, and property belonging to people who had nothing to do with the tragedy.

The officer has since been charged with murder, but the question still looms large for residents, often poor and black themselves, who suffered at the hands of demonstrators: why did they do that? And what, exactly, did they want?

Certainly they wanted Oscar Grant’s killer to be charged with murder, but there were a shopping list of other demands ranging from more training of BART police to the immediate end to racism and an Israeli pullout from Gaza.

How does that make sense, observers wondered? Even if people agreed with the protestors, how could they possibly give them what they wanted?

Saybrook faculty member Benina Gould, who has studied the causes of conflict around the world, suggests that the question arises because the protestors themselves don’t fully know – at least not on a conscious level.

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Saybrook and LIOS, step II

The synchronicity, and common purpose, of their affiliation will soon be a precedent for future institutions

As the first class of LIOS/Saybrook students – 41 in all – is getting to work learning how to change the world, the opportunities of each institution are now being presented to each other.

LIOS, which offers Master’s degrees, is reporting a strong interest among its students in Saybrook’s PhD programs, while Saybrook has now added LIOS’ degree in Systems Counseling to its roster of Psychology programs, and its degree in Organization to its Organizational Systems program.

There were any number of practical reasons for the two organizations to come together –LIOS needed a new accrediting affiliation, Saybrook had just begun planning a full university structure – but what really made the connection possible, and the implementation so smooth, are deeply held, deeply compatible, philosophical visions not shared by every graduate school. In fact, as LIOS president Shelly Drogin noted recently in Linkage, the LIOS newsletter, Saybrook was one of LIOS’ first choices for affiliation the last time it needed one, in the 1980s. The fact that this time, LIOS was looking for affiliation at the same time that Saybrook was expanding to a university was, as Drogin calls it, “synchronicity at play.”

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