CapitalismEssaysMedia/PublicsPsyche

Pizza Rat, a Totem of Our Time

Humans, animals, and life in 2015

For a brief moment in late September, New York City had a new celebrity: Pizza Rat. This furry character — either endearingly repulsive, or repulsively endearing, depending on your sensibility — appeared in most of our social media feeds after a quick-fingered commuter snapped the rodent dragging a large pizza slice down the stairs of a typical, filthy subway station. …

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EssaysPsyche

On Leaving

A meditation on the price of opportunity

Today I felt it when I saw the snow.

I hadn’t left the apartment in two days and had been watching television and aimlessly browsing the Internet, procrastinating and avoiding the cold. I turns out that I avoided it so well that for a couple of moments I forgot about how cold it is out there. And I forgot about the snow. But then I looked out the window and saw that “landscape” of pure concrete and white and I felt it… my phantom pain. My new life companion. …

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EssaysPsyche

Growing up under Different Skies

Reflections at the Einstein Forum

I stand before you with more questions and contradictions than answers. I have chosen to speak of growing up “under different skies” because that was my destiny. What I don’t know is whether such a biographical accident sheds a very different light on growing up or whether it is more of the same with just greater geographical movement than in most young lives.

When I wrote a quarter of a century ago my intellectual autobiography …

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CapitalismEssaysPsyche

Economic Globalization and Mental Health

Individual suffering in social context

Economic globalization is much in the news these days, most recently as Congress debated President Obama’s proposal for a “free trade” agreement with the nations of the Pacific Rim. My impression is that few mental health professionals keep up with the details of economic globalization and its impact on culture and mental health. In this article I will briefly present two ways in which economic globalization has a huge and largely unrecognized impact on …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

Clinical Psychology, Psychological Science, and Neo-liberal Times

Clinical psychology first emerged as a formal subdiscipline within psychology in the aftermath of World War II. During the war, psychologists were initially hired by the military to play a role assessing recruits for psychological stability, combat readiness, and potential for officer training. They were also charged with the task of evaluating whether soldiers exhibiting symptoms of psychological trauma were experiencing bonafide psychological problems or malingering. Over time as the massive prevalence of psychological trauma became apparent, the demand for professionals capable of providing psychological treatment far exceeded the supply of available psychiatrists, and psychologists increasingly came to play a role as treatment providers as well. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 6

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Embodying the third

Returning to the beginning of this essay, I have tried to suggest how we might view the embodied rather than dissociated self state as part of the reconstruction of the third in the wake of trauma. In her discussion of the Gugaleto Seven case Gobodo-Madikizela (2013) described the interactions between the perpetrator and the victims’ mothers as becoming very intimate. Thus the mother of the slain sons spoke of feeling the pain in her womb — the women and the perpetrator spoke of being parents and son. In expressing his remorse to them, the perpetrator addressed them as his mothers. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Parts 4 and 5

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Witnessing as repair of the moral third

To imagine a way out of the binary of deserving and discarded requires envisioning a world governed by the third, in which our attachment to all beings as part of the whole is honored as real. That vision of social attachment is a condition of the ethical position of the third, and it is central to Ubuntu, the South African tradition that so deeply informed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As defined by Desmond Tutu, Ubuntu means: “A person is a person through other persons… ‘my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in yours.’…a person with ubuntu …has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed” (Tutu, 1999, p. 31). Our humanity depends on reciprocal recognition of each other and of our ineluctable attachment. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 3

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Failed witnessing: The Drowned and the Saved

The pivotal function of the moral third in relation to collective trauma is constituted by the acknowledgment of violation by the others who serve as witness. At a social level this role is played by the eyes and voice of the world that watches and upholds what is lawful by expressing, at the least, condemnation and indignation over injustice and injury, trauma and agony endured by the victims. The suffering or death of the victims is thus dignified, their lives given value. Their lives are worthy of being mourned, as Butler (2004) termed it, they are grievable lives. In other words, they are not simply objects to be discarded. Given the state of media proliferation, victims the world over know whether their suffering is seen and regarded; they can ask in despair, Why is no one paying attention as we die here? …

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