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New Existentialists

Of Ladders, Crossed Fingers, and Socks on the Window

02/04/2014
Of Ladders, Crossed Fingers, and Socks on the Window
A few weeks ago, during one of the many snowstorms New York City has been hit with in this crazy winter, I turned into a school-age child, hoping against hope, that the snow would continue to fall hard enough overnight that school would be cancelled the next day. My teaching commitment for that day requires two buses and a train into areas I was sure were not going to be plowed yet, and the thought of two hours of commuting to and from that mess just drove me further and further under my blankets. So what did I do? Like any teenager, I posted about it on Facebook. And my best friend responded...

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Mind-Body Medicine

Dr. David Spiegel Speaks from Paris and Addresses SCEH Berkeley Meeting

02/03/2014
Dr. David Spiegel Addresses SCEH from Paris

 

David Spiegel, MD, Associate Chair of Psychiatry and Medical Director, Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, addressed the SCEH conference in October, 2013, from Paris where he was spending a three month sabbatical.  Hypnosis has a venerable tradition in France and in Paris, specifically. Once Anton Mesmer gained some recognition, for his work in animal magnetism, he moved from Vienna to Paris.   

Spiegel emphasized that hypnosis is the oldest Western model for psychotherapy.  Over 100 years before Freud, Mesmer established the principle that an interpersonal interaction with a patient can be therapeutic.  Freud himself began his professional work by studying hypnosis with Charcot in Paris. Only after he was frightened by a female patient expressing affection for him, did he abandon hypnosis as his therapeutic approach.  Ironically, at the end of his career, after his move to London, Freud placed a photograph of Charcot on the wall above his analytic couch.

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New Existentialists

Football Lessons

02/03/2014
Football Lessons
In the interest of “full disclosure,” I will be the first to admit I am a “football illiterate.” I know nothing about the game, have never been interested in it, and can count the number of football games I have seen on one hand. Growing up, my family was not sports-minded and the only interest we had in football concerned the Army/Navy game because my father graduated from The Naval Academy. In college, I went to several games—not because I wanted to but it was what my date wanted to do. I hated the cold and the spectacle of men plowing into one another. I am...

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New Existentialists

The Myth of Objectivity

01/31/2014
The Myth of Objectivity
Science: the place where we abandon our perspective and values, seeing problems from no point of view, studying problems as they come along with no special motivation other than pure knowledge. M.A.S.H.'s Col. Potter had a word for this sort of thing: horsepuckey. Here's the thing: we're humans. We are embodied humans, genetically and biologically disposed to be embodied in this bipedal form, with two eyes facing front, experiencing the world in sound and light and colors through symbols and language. Can we manage pure objectivity? Doubtful. Just try to imagine observing a...

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New Existentialists

Who Decides Death?

01/30/2014
Who Decides Death?
Each person thinks that he has the formula for triumph over life’s limitations and knows with authority what it means to be a man….”-- Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, p. 255 This is precisely the question right now in not one but two headline cases. One concerns 13-year-old Jahi McMath in Oakland, CA, who developed complications following surgery for sleep apnea. She lost a large amount of blood and doctors declared brain dead on December 12. Yet, her parents have fought to keep her connected to a ventilator. The other case, reappearing in the headlines during this past...

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New Existentialists

Waxing Existential: Eating Disorders and Meaning Making

01/29/2014
Waxing Existential: Eating Disorders and Meaning Making
Long ago in my practice, I worked with a woman who was struggling with bulimia. She would binge and purge daily, a struggle that she didn’t want, but couldn’t see how she could stop. She was ashamed and demoralized. One day, I put some clay in front of her and asked her to show me what her bulimia looked like. She began to model the clay, pulling it, smoothing it, hollowing it, transforming it into a binge, and then a purge. And then, she stopped. That was it. She had shown me what I had asked her to show me. I had witnessed her experience of a binge and purge in a sort of real...

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New Existentialists

The Pain of Creating

01/28/2014
The Pain of Creating
I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. My most romantic dream about writing is being like Ernest Hemingway living in the Florida Keys, sitting at a typewriter (okay, a computer), writing in the morning, and spending my afternoon and evenings at the pub down the street sharing drinks with locals and tourists. But in the process of contributing to this blog, I am learning that writing is not such an easy task. Drafting original, meaningful pieces is at best difficult and at its worst devastating. This experience has given me a new respect for those who are artists, whatever...

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New Existentialists

Joseph Campbell’s Myth of the Hero

01/27/2014
Joseph Campbell’s Myth of the Hero
In Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), he posits the existence of a Monomyth, a word he borrows from James Joyce referring to a pattern that is the essence of and universally common to, heroic tales in every culture. He outlines the archetypal episodes that subdivide three stages of the hero’s journey (separation, initiation, and return) using myths and fairytales from ethnic and religious iconographic sources such as Arabian Nights, Ancient Greece and Egypt, Arapaho and Navaho Indian, Buddhist, Old and New Testaments, South Indian, Celtic European, African,...

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New Existentialists

Floating Shards of Ice: Insights from a Frozen Urban River

01/24/2014
Floating Shards of Ice: Insights from a Frozen Urban River
During any active semester, my commuting routine every Monday through Thursday includes in part a brisk walk in the morning and again in the evening back and forth between Chicago’s Union Station and the Merchandise Mart, one of the buildings that houses The Chicago School of Professional Psychology where I teach. I cross over the Chicago River twice by way of the Madison Street Bridge and the Franklin Street Bridge. On very cold winter days, if I am lucky, I am able to catch the rare moments when fragile fragments of ice form like white mosaic puzzle pieces, floating downstream almost...

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New Existentialists

How To Change A Student's Life Forever

01/23/2014
How To Change A Student's Life Forever
These days we think of students as precious little orchids whose self-esteem must not be bruised by their education. The notion of a “teacher” as an authority figure is out of fashion. Have we got it all wrong? Writing recently in the Wall Street Journal, author Joanne Lipman made a case that an old-fashioned education is still the best education: that teachers who are strict, who are critical, who care about your performance more than your self-esteem, and who believe that “praise makes you weak … while stress makes you strong,” are the best at turning young...

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