Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

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Freud on Election Day

November 8, 2016


November 8th, 2016 is the 58th Presidential Election and regardless of whether you are voting for Hillary, Trump, Stein or Bernie, there is an overwhelming feeling of disappointment, anger, and frustration. This election is the antithesis of the 2008 President Obama election where HOPE truly seemed to personified, if not by a person, then by a collective action.

While Trump offers the possibility for either radical economic growth or meltdown, Hillary brings political experience and savvy that is fraught with insider concerns. Many people argue, or are simply resigned to the fact that they will vote for the lesser of two evils. As Julian Assange stated it is like choosing between Cholera and the Plague.

My voting record is relatively progressive, however I don’t believe, nor do I particularly care for, any politician. I am a staunch critic of the political process–from the unknown top down. And, I also believe that this type of criticism and analysis, along with voting, is essential to the continued existence of a democracy.

What I found interesting about this voting experience is that when I started to really think about my experiences voting, and what each candidate inspired within me, I realized that I was not being driven by Eros, or love. Rather, in having to choose between either Trump or Clinton my vote was being motivated by what Freud described as the death drive, or Thanatos. The death drive is typified as the movement toward self destruction, aggression, and risk taking. Decisions made by the Eros drive are done by a life instinct, which favors creation, productivity, and construction.

In thinking about how the death drive was present in this 58th election, I saw it in two parts. First, as a voter in my thirties, there is a frustration with the system that has been symbolized in the hypocrisy of the two main presidential candidates–the rule of big businesses and old families. With that came a compulsion to act out aggressively, to move the system toward destruction, rather than toward creativity. Secondly, as I was voting, it became really obvious that the main challenges that this next presidency is going to have to deal with is how to turn our country, if not the world, away from one long drive toward impending doom. Whether we are looking at the environment, welfare, racial tensions, refugees, and present/future wars, there is definitely a message that someone needs to forcefully change directions.

Perhaps we are suffering from a bit of deflation: if Obama couldn’t do it, than who will? Or, perhaps the constant barrage of negative current events has finally gotten us a bit road weary? What I felt voting had nothing to do with the possibilities or limitations of either candidate, it was a reflection of the fatigue, frustration and anger of our countries culture.

But, as Freud noted, the drive toward death is powerful and that may just be the inspiration needed for positive change to happen? This election could be synonymous with our country jumping out of an airplane–giving everyone a chance, regardless of affiliation, to feel some existential adrenalin and re-prioritize the important stuff. At the end of the day, regardless of who is president, or even if we have a president, we are still going be  forced to live with our neighbors, provide for our children, and strive toward a better future.

Proust.

[I am writing this before the election results are in…Regardless of the outcome, this is how the election felt and does not reflect my thoughts, or predictions of how any administration will function or lead this country.]

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Check out the Sutra Journal

January 20, 2016

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Here is a suggestion to check out the Sutra Journal. It is an online, curated journal on art, culture and dharma. They just published one of my articles: ALCHEMY AND THE HERMETIC TRADITION: Mircea Eliade and Carl Jung, and have many more interesting and diverse pieces to read. New editions are released monthly, so add it to your bookmarks!

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Days of Lightness, Days of Darkness

April 19, 2015

Ahhh voice, what do you have to say today? The months are passing so quickly now and I wonder what happened to all those old conversations. From November to February the days had only five hours of light. Cold. Short. Confined. But, now the sky has opened up again, extending infinite hospitality. Longer days, with light and warmth. And, yet the voice I wait for is silent. There is no rebirth. There is no resurrection. But, haunted by memories, I ask: Voice, what do you have to say today?

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Ushangi: The Sculptor in Silence

July 1, 2012

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Located between Museum Row and Melrose, up-the-way from Farmer’s Market, and across from CBS, you may find a very, very old rock. However, to describe it as an ordinary rock would be inaccurate. It is not mixed with tar and oil holding the streets of neighborhood together, and it is not what you would find walking in the local hills to peer across the ocean. Nor is it the ten million dollar rock being installed at LACMA. Rather, it is a unique rock, with its soul revealed, its song let loose, and its heart etched free from earthly bounds.

Standing beside this rock, you will find another stranger in this neighborhood, Ushangi, the sculptor. Born in the old Soviet Union, the story of Ushangi’s immigration to the United States for creative freedom is not nearly as interesting as what he has done with that achieved liberation. Unhindered by politics, set free from culture, and mixed with an immense amount of open American country, Ushangi has found a balance between the venerable earth and the yawning sky.

When you enter Ushangi’s new studio, paintings cover the walls and sculptures stand in attendance. Within these images, mythological stories, archetypal portraits, and personal narrative meet in conversation. Color and mood mix to create scenes set in open spaces. Key to Ushangi’s work is his use of voice and silence. In each piece, there is an important story, but there is also a place of silence, an abyss of reflection.

Whether Ushangi is carving the hidden figure free from stone, pulling a new dimension from blank canvas, or teaching a class of students how to see and create, the relationship between form and emotion is examined. Color, texture, shape, and shadow are key to Ushangi’s immense amount of work. Although his style, content, and material may be varied, the underlying questions remain true to his experience of the world as a sculptor; Ushangi’s goal is to reveal what is hidden within the rock of our own eyes.

While there are countless young artists co-habiting the studios, exhibitions, and museums within the same radius, Ushangi stands separate; partly because of his classical training and cultural roots, partly because of his mature age and international recognition, but mostly because of his humor and unabashed curiosity. Ushangi draws emotional breath from stone. He does not try to create an identity for himself or for others. Rather, he strives to reveal the authentic soul, song and heart that are already there.

www.ushangi.com

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Emotional Intelligence: A Psychopath’s Resource

June 12, 2011

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There are two primary types of Emotional Intelligence (EI). The first is the “Innate Potential Model” and is defined as the “innate potential to feel, use, communicate, recognize, remember, describe, identify, learn from, manage, understand and explain emotions” (Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey, 2007).  Each individual is born with an emotional potential, how that potential is developed or stunted may be related to traumatic experiences, culture, family dynamics, etc.

The second type of EI may be learned or developed throughout the lifespan. Developed EI was also defined by Mayer (1990) and states that “EI is a subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

In both, the innate and learned forms of EI there are four different branches that may be explored.

  1. Perception, Appraisal and Expression of Emotion
  2. Emotional Facilitation of Thinking
  3. Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge
  4. Reflecting Regulation of Emotion to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

While many people unconsciously have the ability to navigate these categories effortlessly, other people find themselves unbalanced or disconnected from emotional content. This may be evident in the ability to read an audience, develop intimate relationships, inability to regulate emotions in relationship to goals, and the lack of feeling differentiation, amongst others.

Interestingly, a critical diagnostic symptoms of a psychopathy is a lack of empathy. In 2011 article by NPR, “ A Psychopath Walks Into A Room. Can You Tell?” it was postulated by “Robert Hare, the eminent Canadian psychologist who invented the psychopath checklist, ….that you’re four times more likely to find a psychopath at the top of the corporate ladder than you are walking around in the janitor’s office.”  Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist is divided into two main factors.

    Factor 1: Personality “Aggressive narcissim”

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/ manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow effect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Factor 2: Case history “Socially deviant lifestyle”

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behavior problems

As we review the list, it is easy to identify behavior characteristics that may be found in many of our acquaintances (family non-exempt). However, this does not mean that they may be immediately categorized as psychopaths. Rather, it is the evaluation of all of these factors that may lead to a diagnosis.

By looking at the extreme absence of EI, we may better understand our own areas of emotional lack, and also better understand our interactions with others. One of the reasons that more psychopaths are found at the higher end of the corporate ladder is that they have learned to manipulate and engage emotional responses of other people. However, this engagement is not reciprocal and allows the psychopath to maneuver without scruples. A contemporary example of this is explored through the TV series Dexter (Look for future posts on this series and EI).

So, if you are a psychopath looking for guidelines to fit into society better, or if you are just an average ranking empathizer, here is a list of suggestions for how to increase your EI sensibility:

1.   Become emotionally literate. Label your feelings, rather than labeling people or situations.

2.   Distinguish between thoughts and feelings.

3.   Take more responsibility for your feelings.

4.   Use your feelings to help make decisions.

5.   Use feelings to set and achieve goals.

6.   Feel energized, not angry.

7.   Validate other people’s feelings.

8.   Use feelings to help show respect for others.

9.   Don’t advise, command, control, criticize, judge or lecture to others.

10.  Avoid people who invalidate you

Below you will find links to the referenced NPR article and an online source where EI is explored in greater depth. Remember that these terms are most often fluid and diagnostic definitions and criteria do change (Check out the DSM-V for more information). In this article these criteria are being used to establish definitions to explore cultural content and behavior depicted in the media, it is not intended for clinical determination.

http://eqi.org/eitoc.htm

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/21/136462824/a-psychopath-walks-into-a-room-can-you-tell 

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Postcultural Identity and the Fashion Photography of Lillian Bassman

June 10, 2011

Born in 1917, Lillian Bassman is most celebrated for her grainy, black and white photographic work. Featured in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine between 1950-1965, her work with models focused on high contrasts and form. Her creative objective focused on pure form. However, when popular tastes in fashion photography changed, Bassman discarded 40 years of negatives and prints. One misplaced bag of 100 images survived. Today, Bassman is recognized as one of the great women fashion photographers and is still working.

Throughout the 20th century, the world of fashion has had a contentious evolution. Both celebrated for it’s aesthetics and criticized for its bourgeoisie decadence, fashion remains one of the most popular and common forms of cultural representation. In this instance, culture is defined as the attitude and behavior characteristics of a particular social group. While it is easy to comment that the attitude reflected in fashion is the starvation of culture, this reduction is a bit too easy.

Existentialism rose from the ruins of two world wars and set the stage for surrealism, deconstruction, and post-modernism. Through the knowledge of mass destruction and global culpability, the question of meaning was desperately explored within the realms of art, religion, philosophy, and other representations of cultural identity. Deconstruction destabilized meaning, but also provided an almost religious assuredness that the center is never stable. As if this instability assured a conceptualization of existence beyond the ability of humans—the religious function of the psyche found an outlet through the labors of theory.

However, while existentialism, or the quest for meaning, has been simultaneously nihilistic and the origin of great creativity, there is another factor that has shaped the last 100 years—globalization. The great American experiment has now passed the two hundred year mark and cultures have now been, not only blended, but forgotten. The fusion of races, traditions, and languages have created a clean palate to adopt and discard the trappings of culture. Americans can be everything or nothing in a simple change of the wardrobe.

In this example, we are going to be looking at Postculturalism as a theory directly related to globalization. In a community set in a densely cultural environment the traditions, expectations, and socio-economic positions have been established over hundreds (if not thousands of years). An individual is not introduced as someone who has existed within one lifetime, rather they are recognized as the son, or daughter, of thus and thus person, who is in turn related to another individual. Everyone is family, the community dictates behavior, and history is remembered.

In Postculturalism, the socio-economic boundaries are broken enabling more opportunity. The lack of a genealogical introduction enables quick movement between economic classes. However, it also means the deterioration of expectations and lifestyle. The concept of the lifespan as shared within a community follows set rituals. Whether that knowing the time to eat during the day, the season to eat ice cream, or the rites of passage into different epochs, the expectations are clearly available. This availability serves a psychological objective in providing a known framework, a system of initiation, and a guide for interactions. In contrast, a Postcultural society must either cull customs from a variety of backgrounds, or, more like, is left to find a framework from a system unrelated to culture—which is usually nestled closely to capitalism.

Leading us back into the phenomenon of fashion photography. Photography has served many functions since it’s invention. Ranging from a bureaucratic tool to high art, photography is both a method and a form of expressionism. In the case of fashion photography, the line between commercialism and art is often blended. The goal of fashion is to sell clothes. To sell clothes, there must be a reason to buy clothes. Fashion is not utilitarian and is fueled by desire. Clothes are a traditional expression of culture and personal identity. Our industry within a community is recognized by what we wear (butcher, baker, candlestick maker), and likewise an individual with the finest clothes is more important than an individual with poorer accessories. We all desire quality in life, and clothes are symbolic of our goals and achievements.

However, in a Postcultural society identity is not established through a cultural history. Which makes fashion an extremely necessary outlet for defining individual identity. A person who is in fashion, has more economic resources, and is therefore identified as being more significant within the social hierarchy. However, fashion is not just branding, it is the artistic development of “looks.” Here is where photography becomes more than a tool for communicating merchandise. The creative aspects of fashion photography create a scene that the viewer desires to identify with. The reenactment, or interaction, with changing fashions is one method to create a persona where prior content does not limit possibilities.

In looking at the photography of Lillian Bassman, we must question the appeal, but also the challenges of her images. Her photography is intensely interested in form, geometry, and high-grainy contrast. When we look at her images, we are looking through a window into another world. The world is attractive, but deeply psychological. The narrative is complex and not always neat. The extreme black and white contrast does not compromise in communicating emotion, tension, and intrIgue. The content that Bassman conveys works within the forum of fashion photography, but the physical identities that she designs convey more about our interior landscapes. Her emphasis on form took her into creative realms that the fashion content was unable to follow. Leading her to find other forums of expression outside of the industry, but also establishing her legacy as a fashion photographer who had much to say to an audience unprepared to listen.

This is a link to Lillian Bassman’s photography as featured in the New York Times.

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My Half Orange is Kind of Blue

June 9, 2011

What can’t be said about this album? Iconic and brilliant it has single handedly made generations of musicians and listeners fall in love—to fall in love with music, with Miles, Jazz, each other, it is all unavoidable. While the musicology of the album, the history of the musicians, and the it’s evolution within the genre are fascinating topics, what this article is going to focus on is the question: why the love?

This review is not going to have anything to do with chords, improvisation, technique or rifts. Rather, it is just a look and a listen of one song “So What,” simply as if it were a person. It is THE person; the half orange; the blue heart; the love and the life.

All music exists in and out of time. We’re either together, or a part. Wanting more or wanting less. Longing, holding, leaving, and silence. So much of love takes place in the silent, lonely moments apart. Even when things are close, intimate, and continuous, the silence works it’s clever way into conversations, mornings, and late nights.

And that is just it, the silence and space that defines “So What” mirrors the rhythms of love. The times when you need to listen, when themes over lap and octaves rise in response. They are all there: the breath that comes from listening, the synchronization that comes from nearness, the familiarity of the notes is shared.

But it isn’t just the sharing, it is the perfection that comes from listening. The rewards of looking at a person, not as a reflection of yourself, but as a being who is sharing a grand experience simply because that is what they want. The being-ness of life, not the spontaneity, but the depths and long moments all packed together.

How incredible it is to wake up in the morning and know that the person there has made that choice. Not for how you look. Not for how you feel or what you do. But because of all of it, and nothing. Because there is space and time to listen. That is the choice that Kind of Blue makes. There is pain, sadness, and longing. But there is love and there is choice. Kind of Blue wants you, and only you. It calls to you for love, and love knows how to listen.